The Wall Street Journal Scalping Article

Was I surprised?


Was I shocked?


My inbox has been filling up with people wondering why I haven’t written about this.  I’m not a retweeting service. Ethan Smith did such a good job, I felt there was nothing left to say.

But so many said I needed to spread the word, that most people were not aware of the article.  So, I am now putting fingers to keyboard.

I don’t care which side of the health care debate you’re on, but I read a fantastic statistical analysis which stated that people are extremely reluctant to change position, to be enlightened.  When confronted with the new, they’re afraid to give up the old.

That’s exactly the same situation we’ve got in the live touring business.

People are still hanging on to the old days, when music drove the culture, when acts played the Fillmore and tickets weren’t even five dollars.

Those days are through.

It’s a business, plain and simple.  And everybody wants to make money.  And the way they do this is making you continue to believe that the acts of yore, the ones truly selling tickets, are speaking directly from their hearts to yours, that they’re lone bohemians reflecting on the world.

What a bunch of hogwash.

The acts are smarter than you.

Do you really think Def Leppard believes it can have another hit?

How about Aerosmith?

How about any of the arena acts of the seventies and eighties?  Especially in an era where NO ONE can have a hit that big.  And the new acts dash for cash because they know their fifteen minutes of fame starts expiring as soon as the public learns their name.

In other words, I’d love to blame Ticketmaster, I’d love to say if we eliminate Irving Azoff, the problem will go away.  But the problem is the ACTS!

It’s kind of like politics…  People believe they elect representatives who are beholden to them.  No, these ultimately elected officials are beholden to special interests known as corporations, who give them the money to get them elected.  Did you see Bill Moyers on Bill Maher where he stated that Rahm Emanuel is afraid of pissing off the health insurers and bankers because he needs their money to get Obama elected in 2012?

Did you really think that Obama was going to get into office and do the right thing, what was in his heart, like Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"?  Do you really think those Senators railing against health care reform are not taking money from the health insurers?  So why do you think the problem in the concert industry is Ticketmaster or Live Nation?  Or even Irving Azoff?

Is Irving trustworthy?  Does he never double-cross?  Can you count on his word?  Don’t make me laugh.  But Irving Azoff is the most successful manager of the modern era because his acts love him.  How often do you hear of an act leaving Irving?  I can’t remember one.  I can remember a couple HE fired.  But no one leaves, because Irving protects them and makes them a fuck of a lot of money.  And if you think Irving acts alone, forces his charges to do what he wants, how come the Eagles have no sponsorships?  Do you think the Fortune 500 isn’t lining up, salivating at the prospect of going into business with the band?  It’s the BAND’S call!

The original Van Halen hasn’t made a new album in twenty five years.  And, albums today don’t sell squat.  People only want to hear the oldies.  And after they’ve heard them once, how many times do they need to hear them live again?  So better to take all the money now, while demand is hot.  But, if you charge $1000 a ticket, you’re going to get bad press. So what are your options?

The ticket with perks.  Backstage access, a laminate, photos with a few roadies.  But that money isn’t guaranteed, people have to actually fork over five hundred bucks.

What if you get a kickback from Ticketmaster?  Then Ticketmaster will take the heat!  Ticketmaster never made an album, Ticketmaster has got exclusive deals with buildings who are getting kickbacks.  Like defense contractors, they don’t care how they look to the public, most people don’t even see what’s going on.  And, in the end, a faceless corporation takes the heat.

Do you get it yet?

The acts know what’s going on!  They want the money.  Which pales in comparison to what Wall Street bankers make. And they assuage their guilt with the knowledge that their fans would take the gig at the evil hedge fund if only they could get it!

The public remembers a golden era.  With a social contract between band and fan.  For a few bucks, you’d escape into an alternative universe where teachers and bosses don’t matter.  But look at Jon Bon Jovi, isn’t he constantly hobnobbing with politicians and celebrities?  He doesn’t care about you.  He just wants your money.

The future’s got nothing to do with Ticketmaster, Live Nation or Irving Azoff.  It’s got to do with the music.  Tech is twenty times more interesting than music.  It’s a wild west where after a ton of hard work young entrepreneurs can leave their mark and suddenly make millions.  Like music was decades ago.  Now, with record companies AND Live Nation publicly owned, do you really think they give a shit about the music?

As for the old acts…  They’ll sing the hit one more time, but you’ve got to pay for it.  Do you think all these bands that hate each other get back together for the music???

Change is possible.  New acts and new managers who are about music first could break through.  But it’s harder than ever to break through, and you’ve got to be BETTER than Van Halen, and that’s tough.  Are you willing to practice every day for hours?  Give up your regular life?  John Mayer did, and he’s successful.  How many others?

Metallica gets tickets in the hands of fans.  It is possible.

But there are so many institutionalized problems.  We’ve got multiple layers of pre-sales, fan clubs, AmEx, promoter, venue…the odds of a regular person getting a good ticket are almost nil.  It’s not a good situation.  Which is why concertgoing is an occasional event, no longer a once a week, never mind once a month or multiple times per year, event.  The average Live Nation patron goes to a show fewer than twice a year!

So I’m not shocked.  This business jumped the shark years ago.  Don’t be outraged.  Either work for change, which can only come from great music, not great business ideas, or overpay to get a good ticket to the one show you want to see per year.

The merger isn’t the problem…  Acts LOVE Live Nation and Ticketmaster!  Who else is going to pay them all that money?  And take the heat for their being greedy bastards to boot!

As for new and developing acts…  There is no problem.  Tickets are cheap and plentiful.  Furthermore, we’re building few stars.  Because the public doesn’t perceive music to be as culturally important as their iPhone.

We’re never going back to the past.  We can go to paperless ticketing, we can eliminate service charges, but both are not happening, certainly not the latter, BECAUSE THE ACTS DON’T WANT THEM!

Think about that.

Mick Jagger doesn’t want to play your sterile baseball stadium.  He just wants you to think that this is your final chance to see the Stones, so he can get your money.  Cold, but true.

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