My Thoughts On Music (continued)

Steve Jobs isn’t the only one pointing out what’s wrong with the music business. Bob Lefsetz nailed the live music problem yesterday at the end of his End Of Innocence post.

Ever since I was in high school, concerts would be announced, tickets would go on sale, and the ones I wanted to go to would be sold out within minutes. This is the most frustrating experience and it continues to this day. Andrew and I were shut out of the Arcade Fire/Judson shows even though we were at our computers at 9am the day and minute the tickets went on sale.

So no big deal, go to StubHub or eBay and get them in the secondary market, right? Well that’s not so easy because they’ve made the Judson tickets non-transferable. DRM for tickets now. Fuckheads.

So back to Bob who calls out this issue in the post I linked to at the top:

The LEGITIMATE ticket sales are DWARFED by the secondary market.  So
now the agents are declaring war.  They want ALL the money, EVERYBODY’S
money.  How dare these interlopers in the secondary market come and
steal what’s theirs (and it’s a thuggish business, read this with all
the wild west overtones you can.)

The reason that the legitimate tickets sales are dwarfed by the secondary market is you have to be in the ticket business for a living to get a legitimate ticket to the best shows these days. The average fan like me doesn’t have a chance. So we go to StubHub and participate in an auction. This screws the artist who is like the company in the 90s that sold stock in the IPO at $10/share only to watch it trade instantly to $50/share, just because the bankers were in cahoots with their hedge fund clients.

It’s time to make all concert tickets priced with an auction mechanism so that the artists get the benefit of market rate ticket prices and fans can buy the tickets directly. It’s time to take the margin out of the secondary market by pricing tickets correctly at the initial sale.

Here’s how Bob finishes his thought on the ticket problem:

While the concert business was arguing over guarantees, it lost touch
with the true value of a ticket.  When shows became events instead of
habitual activities, when superstars, mostly old and gray, ruled, when
that’s all people wanted to see, those comprising the infrastructure
didn’t realize the price of the ticket was secondary to access.  That a
fan would pay WHATEVER IT TAKES to be inside the building, UP CLOSE AND
PERSONAL!  Two thousand bucks to sit in the front row?  A blue collar
employee called my radio show to say he’d paid $2500 apiece for Paul
McCartney seats, to be within feet of the stage.  He didn’t own a home,
he was still paying for his car, but he had to BE THERE!  Whereas
whenever anybody sits in the way back, in the rafters, paying fifty
bucks, they’re happy they’re there, but they’re PISSED OFF!  In other
words, tickets need to be auctioned.  But this isn’t politically
correct in the industry.  So, StubHub comes in to bridge the gap,
giving people what they want.  The concert business hasn’t specialized
in giving people what they want for years, is it any wonder that
someone else swooped down and did?

The music business is so screwed up. They overcharge for music and undercharge for tickets. They handicap the sale of online music (the future) to protect the CD (the past). Thank god some artists have rejected the whole music business and are going it alone. That’s our way out of this mess for sure.

Here’s some hate mail to Bob Lefsetz from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah that shows the way forward:

Hi Bob,

As usual, I’m shocked by your attitude towards Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.  I’m convinced you haven’t listened to their new record, and I’m saddened that the model created with this band isn’t given more recognition by the one person who has called for all the changes we’ve actually put into practice.  To call what we’re doing "IRRELEVANT" undermines every single email you send out.

"There’s no buzz here, nobody cares."

I don’t know what world you’re living in, but I think selling 19,000 records in a week means lots of people care.  Maybe you’re talking about that traditional buzz you’re used to, the barrage of radio and video, snipes and singles, playing the game.  This is a band that’s never made a video, never played with Nickelback at a radio show, never done all those things every other band is forced to do. The marketing/publicity/radio/video budget for this record is under $15,000.  They made a record, they put it out.  And they live much better than 95% of all bands I’ve worked with, including the vast majority of acts I worked with during my time at a major – all this while owning their masters and publishing, touring in a bus, and not being forced to do anything they don’t want to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUIsP23LTk0

You’re so fond of using Pollstar numbers to prove people don’t care about bands – go check out ours, from around the world.  You’ll see the band has been headlining shows for a year now, and maybe 5 or so haven’t sold out.  Check the numbers from last time they were in LA, two sold out nights at the Fonda.  Check out the numbers in Tokyo, London, Paris, Hamburg, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Seattle….go look Bob, you’ll see that people do actually care ALOT about this band.

Last year you made some list of 25 things that band’s should or shouldn’t do.  CYHSY had followed 24 of them, the one exception being that they played Letterman.  I can never fault a band for wanting to play that show.  It’s fun playing on the same stage the Beatles played on.  But seeing as how we’re pretty much your poster children, I’m amazed you don’t show us more respect.

And go listen to their music.  You might actually like it.

Nick Stern
Manager, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

I hope CYHSY starts auctioning off tickets to their shows. That would be great.