Mailbag

Tina Suca:

The big rock hero’s I loved so dearly can kiss my big ass. The ticket prices are outrageous BUT more often than not, it’s really the audience who wreck the experience.
 
I have tried too often to enjoy a mega rock show. I’ll pay the big bucks.  I’d spend my last dime to see a really good show.  I flew to NY to spend the night on a sidewalk to have a CHANCE to see Paul McCartney in a club. I’ve got the passion.  I’ve got the love. I am old enough now to afford a pricey ticket or two. HOWEVER,  I can’t rock out because I am surrounded by baby boomers who constantly yell at me to sit down.  BUT they will get up from their seats repeatedly during a show to get pretzels, hot dogs and go to the bathroom. OR, they talk through the entire show.  They call friends on their cell phones to tell them who they’re seeing, what songs are being played and just generally gloat.  I often wonder if they remember ANY of the show.
 
Today’s rock concert audiences are mostly people who have the big bucks to say they were there. They get their tickets through Stub Hub, ticket auctions or some other fucked up form of scalping. Their attendance has got nothing to do with the love of music.  It’s a status symbol.  These geriatric monsters have killed my love of the live experience in an arena or amphitheatre.  YES, the promoters, labels, agents, managers and venues have also killed the experience. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, the fucking old fucks who can’t enjoy anything in life anymore have decided that no on else should either.
 
Nothing will ever top the club experience.  You’ll have to wait in line, stand for the entire show and put up with a drunk person or two. It’s not for sissies.  You have to really WANT to be there.  It’s how all bands start…with the passion still in them.  They are just appreciative to have the audience whether you paid $20 or got in on the guest list.
 
Hope I die before I get old.
 
Thanks for letting me rant.

 
________________________________________

Hello there —
               
I thought I’d drop you a line – I just read your post about Straight No Chaser…my group.    I’m "mikado95" on YouTube….in the videos, the bass, on the end, on the far left.  Of all the blogs people have been sending me links to, yours certainly caught my attention the most.  Also, you were just in Aspen?   I was there December 6th-11th, skiing Snowmass, along with Dan Ponce (musical director and founder of Straight No Chaser, currently a reporter for ABC7 in Chicago).
       
I’ll try and give you a simple low-down on the group:  we formed in 1996, sang together through 1999, then auditioned new guys for the group, graduated, left IU.   Six of us moved to Atlanta, signed a deal with RCA Records, got half-way through recording an album, when 9-11-2001 occurred.  Like most other new artists, we got dropped…we tried to stick it out in music, but eventually got "real jobs."    However, Jerome Collins (lead on This Is How We Do It) is in Hong Kong now as Simba in Lion King (he’s coming back to the US in March), and Steve Morgan (solo on Lion Sleeps Tonight) is in Momma Mia on Broadway in NYC.
           
In April 2006, Indiana University hosted a ten-year-reunion concert for us, so we all flew back to Bloomington, IN, and sang four songs at the current group’s concert.   It felt good, and we had a standing ovation from an audience who had no idea who we were (they only knew the current guys).   In honor of the reunion, I dug up videotapes from a 1998 concert, originally just to make a DVD (or 10) for all the original guys.   Well, I couldn’t press less than 1000 if I wanted a dual-layer DVD, so I shelled out my own $2000 to make the DVDs.   I was teased by the guys that I’d be tiling my kitchen with the leftovers…   I posted 12 Days on YouTube to promote the DVD….for a full 18 months, I had only about 100,000 views.
           
Cut to December 2007…while skiing in Aspen, my iPhone is buzzing constantly with mail from YouTube, saying "new comment on 12 Days."    Sure enough, our views doubled, tripled, and then were hitting 300,000 views daily…all the way to now, 5.3 million views.   This YouTube thing has been incredible.   The 1000 DVDs I made?  Gone?   I pressed 2500 more, which won’t be ready until January 21st….they’ve all sold-out already too.   So I ordered another 1000….half of those are already pre-ordered too.   We’ve been on WGN-TV and WTTW here in Chicago.  Made the news in Atlanta, Indianapolis, and I’m told (from YouTubers) that we’ve had radio play in California, Texas, Florida, DC, and even over in London.   I want to get the songs on iTunes, but I want to make sure the royalities are set-up properly and that the current group will get the proceeds.  Sure, we’d all like the cash ourselves, but then, we wouldn’t be very good role-models for the current guys…  I just haven’t had the time to set-it-up yet.
 
Anyway, it’s 2am Christmas morning, and I’m rambling, but I thought you might be interested in some of that…   I won’t lie, several of us read your column and said, "wouldn’t it be nice to be singing again, and getting paid for it?"   Let me know if you want a DVD and I’ll mail one out to you from my personal stash.   Also, if you want any MP3s or anything, let me know.   Our CDs (original group’s) are sold out, and I don’t even have any to send you!
 
Randy Stine
Chicago, IL

P.S. Oh, and one other thing you might find interesting…Ken Kreisel, the man behind M&K speakers loves "our sound" so much that he has offered to re-mix our DVD in 7.1 surround….for free.    Mark Cuban (IU grad, billionaire) wrote me an e-mail and said if we shoot a new concert in HD 1080i, he’ll broadcast it nationally on HDnet.  Now to figure out how to fund a live concert HD video shoot…any ideas?

________________________________________

Talley Griffith:

Bob? Ever hear of Kenny Chesney or Nickel Creek?
They all got their starts from the East Tennessee State University group (which slaughters every competition they enter).  My roomate and I both auditioned when I was a 17y.o. Freshman, and was invited back for round Two (out of three) but we overslept from a BAD hangover after a "Welcome Party" by my new bros at Sig Ep. Thus, we didn’t make it.
 
But THIS college group is DIFFERENT.  WHY? Because not only do they do the classic a capellas – but they also do it with bluegrass and folk instruments.  They wail on Laster Flatt & Bill Monroe classics, then break into the official ETSU anthem: SEVEN BRIDGES ROAD by Eagles.  Yep – THAT one!
 
I swear.  Ask ANYBODY who ever went to ETSU (at least from 87-94) and they’ll smile that warm smile thinking of the yelling and hollerin they did when this group took the stage to sing that song.  AMAZING.  If you ever see Chesney ask him, and he’ll tell you himself that this was where he learned to sing and harmonize.  Guess it paid off for him huh?

________________________________________

Bob:
 
Anonymous please if you use any of this mini-rant.
 
The only thing that Live Nation is doing that resembles Bill Graham is naming venues Fillmore.  I’ve worked with and for them and while a lot of people there are great, the majority of them are not in it for the love of anything but money.
 
I think the overall problem though is production.  It’s unfortunate that most music fans are shut out because XYZ artist needs to take multi-million dollar video screens and huge custom stages and pyro and backup singers and dancers and…out because they don’t have a stage presence and need to hide among all of that.  Granted, a lot of these shows are amazing (this Keith Urban tour was one of the most visually beautiful shows I’ve ever seen), but I would gladly give up seeing the bells and whistles to pay less than $50 and hear and experience the MUSIC.  I know a lot of other fans who would as well.  Get rid of the bullshit, reign in some of these costs, and watch sell outs (and the tour bottom lines) slowly increase.
 
Another unfortunate effect of the Live Nation phenomenon is that the local guys who know how to build a band in any given market and promote and sell the show have been pushed out.  How can a huge company hundreds of miles away keep it’s eyes and ears open in a market and know how to bring people in?  Slap an ad in the paper 3 days before the on-sale and cross your fingers?  Ticketmaster email blasts?  It’s not working.  Mostly gone are the days when a band plays the club, then the theatre, then the small shitty arena and then the nice new arena.  It’s all about making a quick buck, and as the numbers coming out now show, it ain’t gonna last.  Show your most loyal customers that you don’t really care about them, and they’ll (we’ll) spend that precious money somewhere else…

 
________________________________________

Hey Bob –

Your rants are interesting but I think the demise of the music industry is the blame of BIG BUSINESS and now the crippling effects of the Internet. You know big business. I am very impressed with your knowledge of how it all works. And you know exactly why the music industry was ruined by Sony and Columbia (wait… are they now the same company? I dunno.)

Anyway, I have a computer consulting business. And my business was the 1st to feel the full impact of the Internet. All of the distribution changed and everything became a commodity on the Internet. So, my hardware sales are about 10% of what they were 10 years ago. You can buy anything you want on the Internet. Before the Internet, you could buy some things at a superstore but the other 96% of the products were only available by special order from a distributor by superstores, small computer stores and consulting companies like mine. Now, even the technicians have become a commodity! You can go on-line with www.computerrepair.com and post a problem and a price and get a technician to your business. I’ve been totally cut out of the computer business. Don’t even get me started on the BIG BUSINESS impact of Microsoft. They have totally ruined the computer industry. No more innovation. It’s gone. It disappeared 10 years ago.

So, now the music industry is beginning to see it. You can’t stop it. Distribution will be direct from the musician to the listener. The middlemen will disappear. More bands will make real good money and the big corporate stars will get a lot less (and still more than most of them deserve). The Internet can’t be stopped. The RIAA can try to put Internet Radio out of business but they will ultimately fail because the increased availability of music by ALL ARTISTS to EVERYONE and the efficiencies of the Internet… well.. the RIAA will lose. It’s over. Capitalism will win out and the market will get what it wants and TPTB will mostly go on to do other things like make stereo equipment and iPods.

I have seen the future.

Regards,

Stuart Kushner

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.