As I mentioned in the beginning of my editorial this week I have noticed a number of small and some not so small venues closing in the last couple of weeks, plus a number of festivals cancelling due to lack of ticket sales. Now some festivals that don’t have the huge marketing budget of a corporation, and venues that are ran by one man and his loyal team will always be first in line for a kicking when it comes to lean periods. And let’s face it; if it’s not a full blown recession we are in, then it is still affecting consumer luxury spending.
But is it more than just the cyclical nature of the economy catching a few unwary entrepreneurs out? Brighton Barfly shut this week – a chain that is now part of a PLC merging the fast expanding Barfly group with the remains of Meanfiddler venues that were not sold off to Clear Channel; so one would suppose that they would have financial analysts in place to account for down turns in spending. Roadkill in Liverpool – although not part of a massive chain –was owned by the same people who own Satans Hollow in Manchester and the burgeoning brand of Fab Cafes across the North. Blissfield’s is a small family run festival, but they have business nouse and have been running the festival for a number of years – they are no naive newcomers.
So has the credit crunch caught all these people out? I don’t think so – it has hardly been a secret that the banks were going to tighten their belts, and squeeze the lender hard. It has been on the cards to the public for the last six months and to those in the know for the last 18 months.
So was the live music business all rosy before these warnings and eventual public response? Well according to the standard industry policy line it’s the best it has ever been. Ticket sales were rising, the number of performances rising, the number of venues opening rising. There was a real interest in live music again. Great.
Never mind that record sales are plummeting. Records are dead, long live live performance. So, pressure is exerted. Artists are demanding higher fee’s to sub the lower record sales, major labels set up all encompassing deals as they move into the live sphere acting as an acts management, live agent, merchandiser… surely it won’t be long before they begin to act as promoter?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not just pointing fingers at big fat cat corporations. Artists now joyfully embrace the internet generation by giving away their hard earned recordings for free – “we’ll make it back on live fee’s and merchandise” is the mantra they chant as they gleefully watch the downloads ebbing off into the ether world.
Yes well that is conducive on enough people, who downloaded your music for nothing, ‘choosing’ to see you play in an age when choice is unlimited and where ticket prices are rising (but not at the same rate as inflation no no no). Where smoking bans mean you can’t comfortably watch a band you ‘may’ be interested in seeing, and after paying your weekly luxury money for tickets, you have enough left over for half a pint of over priced lager.
Big established bands giving their music away for free or on a trust basis. Yes they have the audience willing to spend higher ticket money’s on seeing them play live to compensate for free downloads but the new band, who have slaved over their first album, worked 60 hour weeks to pay for the studio time, juggled several jobs to go on tour a couple of times a year to play half empty venues for £50 and a packet of crisps, they are the ones who will suffer. Traditionally a band goes through all this with the knowledge that they may be able to earn it back and make a living for themselves after all this hardship when their music starts to sell. Not any more. How can they compete with Coldplay giving away their latest album? Who would buy their unknown effort when they are getting everything for free; and if this becomes the norm then a time will come when eyebrows will be raised at the mere suggesting of having to pay for your music.
Don’t forget tomorrow’s stadium fillers are today’s toilet tour band.
So what is my point? Leave off us in the live business; we are not a crux for the entire industry. Publishing and syncopation is so go and harass them haha 😉