Tag Archives: music industry

Happy Record Store Day!

Can’t say it better than Jack White:

I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people that look up to them to a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties…”

It’s National Record Store Day – good things are happening all over. Hell, the event is so grand that it even has an Official Ambassador.

The Smithereens have a new album!

The Grip Weeds released a hi-def version of Strange Change Machine!

The dBs have a new single and an album on the way!

And check out this list of special releases – many with limited availability.

You can find your local participating record store here. Now get your ass to a record store…and bring someone along with you!

National Record Store Day!

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Ticketbastard

“Greed…is good!”

Uh…no. Actually, it sucks. But some of the greedy people in the entertainment business are so clueless – and think we are so stupid – that they continue to gouge us and defend their actions with the worst logic since the single bullet theory.

In their latest effort to gain street cred, Ticketmaster launched a blog. Yes, you read that correctly. And of course, their first main topic was explaining how those gargantuan fees they collect are really complex (you know – too complex for stupid people like customers to understand) and it’s not really all their fault since other people participate in the money grabbing as well.

I have no problem believing that a corporation under fire would throw its business partners under the (tour) bus – that’s just consistent with their lack of accountability. But just how does that justify what’s going on? How is that supposed to make me feel better? I should feel better because I’m being fucked by multiple companies instead of one? Since when is gang rape a better option than rape?

I spent years working in the industry and remember when automated ticket processing began. I have no problem with the concept – the same seats available everywhere, instead of hard copy tickets where the first row can only be at one box office or outlet at a time. It gives anyone the opportunity to get the best seats – we’ll shelve the scalping and illegal handling practices for now – and a service like that should come at a price. But at a reasonable price.

Here’s an excerpt from their blog post:

But the reality of the live entertainment business is that service fees have become an extension of the ticket price.  Most of the parties in the live event value chain participate in these service fees either directly or indirectly – promoters, venues, teams, artists, and yes, ticketing companies – and service fee rebates are our largest annual expense at Ticketmaster.”

The simple logic is this – if there were no fees, no one would be participating in them.

The article is written as if these fees are necessary because this is where the participants make their money. If that’s true…what about the base cost of the ticket itself? The ticket price is what it is because all the expenses of a show have been built-in. At least that’s the way honest people used to do business.

The venue gets a rental fee. The artist gets a guarantee. The teams (unions, advertisers, staff, etc.) get paid. The promoter either gets a fee because he’s being hired to produce the show, or he bankrolls the show in return for a percentage of the profits. Way back when, not too many people were sharing the pie, but over time – and especially in the lucrative rock’n’roll business – people saw fistfuls of money passed around and wanted their share. So now, pretty much everybody negotiates a percentage along with the fee.

But that’s the cost of the show – the nut – and ticketing is supposed to be just another part of the plan, like advertising and catering. Hell, they’ve got a sweet deal compared to most since everyone needs a ticket. But when artists and promoters see all these “extra dollars” being generated as a byproduct of a show being put on, why wouldn’t they want their cut? The simple fact is there is no need for all those fees in the first place. When a $15 ticket could cost you $33, something is wrong with the system.

The only reason Ticketmaster gets away with it is their dominance in the market – you can’t work around them. Especially since the concert promotion and venue segments of the industry are also combined into dominant presences, and now they are all under one roof at Live Nation. They are not an altruistic organization looking to spread the arts to the far corners of the world. They are Wal-Mart. They are Exxon/Mobil.

Trust me, I could lay out dozens of ways that people in the industry rip each other off, from dummy companies and duplicate tickets to “VIP seating” and scalped comps. I had to learn every trick in the book to protect my own artists from getting screwed, and like most businesses with that much cash changing hands, there’s a thief on every corner. I don’t blame those involved in the industry trying to protect themselves and get their fair share.

And I know the industry is different now, and times have changed, and it’s all business. But some of these fees range from double dipping to outright highway robbery:

  • Why am I paying a percentage of the ticket fee to the artist, who already has a guarantee and a percentage of ticket sales?
  • Why am I paying a percentage to the promoter, who already has his deal?
  • Why on earth am I paying crews or unions or teams above and beyond their lucrative hourly rate and guarantees that they’re already charging to be there?
  • Just what is so convenient about paying a convenience charge, since I can’t get a ticket without one?
  • And the most ludicrous of all – why am I paying a home convenience fee to print out an electronic ticket using my ink and my paper and my labor? I’ve removed the overhead from the equation, yet I’m paying more? Where is my cut?

Ticketmaster just thinks the anger is the delay in declaring the final charges rather than the charges themselves. News flash, geniuses – it’s bothIrving Azoff’s solution is that pricing will be fixed from the beginning with no extra charges getting tacked on. Sounds like the fees are still there – just buried in the mix again.

The sad fact is the days of ten-dollar t-shirts and reasonable ticket prices and the ability to see dozens of shows a year has vanished forever. I pity the generations who have had to grow up with these obscene price structures. Maybe you’re as mad as hell, and you’re just not going to take it anymore.

But I do have a very simple solution if you are fed up with the monopoly.

Don’t go. Don’t pay.

There are thousands of great artists playing clubs and pubs at a fraction of the cost. Your door money might go to the band’s gas tank and breakfast tab. That guy selling the t-shirts isn’t some local union guy taking a 45% cut, he’s probably the road manager. You’re not subsidizing a Chinese Wall of bullshit with your wallet.

Here’s the link to the article in the LA Times that started my blood boiling.

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Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music

Broken Records

Church

I started to type this in response to a few posts about the music industry on Audities, one of the oldest music discussion sites on Al Gore’s Interwebthing, but it got too verbose for a bulletin board reply. (Oh, you lucky blog fans, you and your hand-me-down thoughts…) 

The set-up is this: in their latest stab of brilliance, the major labels are trying to call back the horses into the barn with their new strategy – lower the price of CDs at retail. Of course, this doesn’t mean your mom and pop stores, mind you. Why would the industry support anyone who invested in a business to help move their product to the street in atmosphere that would attract the ideal customer? No, please take care of those big box stores, who are probably only a decade away from making you irrelevant by making you produce product on consignment, since you will have killed off the very competition that was your last remaining negotiating tool. 

But I digress. You can take Marketing 101 on your own time. 

So the Big Three (or four or two – I’m not checking my watch as I’m typing) think they can save themselves and the way that it was, simply by selling a ten-dollar CD. Great idea, pencil geeks…and about twenty years too late. Why they’ll even put the price right there on the spine of the CD so that you can see just how charitable they are. 

Two problems: The box stores don’t want to be told what to charge and they’ll mark it up anyway. And the indie stores can’t make a profit when the margin is now razor-thin and meant for national sales volumes. 

Nice move, dumbass!

So we were kicking this idea around on a list that’s populated by musicians, writers, label people and music fans where the age of the members probably ranges from late teens to Social Security. Some could give a rat’s ass about CDs, others don’t like downloads; although most do realize how hard it is for an artist to survive in this business. So needless to say, we see the pros and cons to the collapse of the industry. My thoughts… 

It’s hard to be objective as I grew up buying singles then albums then (skipped cassettes and 8-tracks) CDs and DVDs. I only reluctantly buy digital downloads, as I am sadly conditioned to think that it’s even less that what I was getting as a CD, which was less than what I got on an album.   

But I must also realize that I live in a world where the vast majority of the target market for most releases is used to getting whatever they want whenever they want for free.   Ironically, most of these people with large digital storage probably amassed a hundred times the amount of music I own in a fraction of the time and an incalculable amount less expense. It’s all there at the click of a button or two or three. 

It travels with them constantly, and if they were to lose it the smart ones have two or three backup copies at different locations – or they could just spend a short bit of time doing it again. I’m amazed, but I’m not jealous.  Even though they never had to turn down an apartment or a house saying “but there is no room for my albums“. 

Three dimensional and tactile

But they never had the pure joy of sifting through racks and racks of albums during thousands of days spent perusing record stores, poring over liner notes, cracking that shrink-wrap, seeing your murky reflection in the black vinyl grooves. And god knows how many gazillions of hours holding and reading the paper 45 sleeve or the album liner notes or (god bless us every one) the gatefold album’s multiple uses if you know what I mean and I think you do. It’s the same reason I would never buy a Kindle. I want to hold a book in my hands, whether I’m reading on the beach, on the train, or in…um…the room in my house with the best echo

I remember vividly when CDs were coming out and the promise was that they would be cheaper to manufacture, distribute, store and sell than vinyl. Yet they initially cost more than the albums and never dropped – even when the cost of blank CDs dropped sixty to seventy percent at retail stores. Yet the prices of CDs went up! You dug your grave with a round plastic spoon, major labels, and you still don’t get it.   

(And wouldn’t this be a great time to remind them that the Miles Davises and the Johnny Cashes and the Van Morrisons of the world who they dropped – because they weren’t selling to the new hip demographic – might have been providing them with an annuity stream all this time? It won’t be too long before the old guard is the highest seller in the physical market simply because the young market moved completely to downloads and the remaining audience is too old to adopt to yet another format.)

The Bird is the Word

So while major labels scramble to survive standing on the shoulders (and corpses) of their artists, maybe they should wake up if they still want to survive for a short time until the last of the tactile people like me die. 

Sell me a CD/DVD package for $10-12.  Put some videos, interviews, demos, documentaries, live cuts whatever on the DVD. Yes, I know I will probably be able to YouTube it. Yes, some zeroid will probably have it on a torrent site before you can say “oops”. But you can certainly put all that together and offer it to enough people like me who will say “that’s a great deal”, and not as many people are going to pirate the DVD as you think. And there are still a lot of us who would prefer to hang on, however futile that cling to the past might be. 

I will DVR my favorite TV shows, but I also wind up buying many on DVD because of the commentaries, the deleted scenes, the documentaries – the stuff above and beyond.   Make it special. It will work with CDs if you do it right. I have the tools to burn my own music and I could go steal it if I wanted to. But I’m right here offering you money to dress it up for me. To paraphrase a great line from Glengarry Glen Rossare you man enough to take it

There are a lot of people rooting for the death of the industry who gloss over the fact that a distribution model is still needed. Sure, I can find your band on MySpace or YouTube if I am purposefully looking for it; maybe  I’ve seen you play or you sent me a link. But with hundreds of thousands of bands now just faceless files in the ether, you’ll never be able to capture me with inventive cover art or the good fortune to be alphabetically racked near someone more famous. I will never find you by accident. You will be just another grain of sand on an endless beach. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

Stores gone. Radio dead. Hey - good luck!

National Record Store Day is April 17, 2010.

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