They Should Pay Full Price

If music is free, should concerts be too?

How the hell are you going to build a devoted fan base if you’re ripping off your audience?

Apple doesn’t discount and neither should you.

1. Play an appropriately-sized building.

You look like a star when people can’t get in, that inspires them to buy tickets early next time.  You are in the career business, right?  You are interested in next time, right?

In other words, when in doubt, underplay.

2. Scale the house accordingly.

Better to leave money on the table than to offer discounts.  Consider it an investment in your future.

3. The promoter is not on your side.

You take that big guarantee, forcing the promoter to make his money on parking and refreshments and his percentage of merch.

If you want to succeed, make the promoter your friend, not your adversary.  That’s what Don Fox does, he invests in bands, he builds acts, that’s what he’s done from ZZ Top to Michael Buble.

Don’t expect the corporation to invest in you, to build you, to take a loss on your way up, they’re not on your side.  It’s only when it’s your money, your upside, that you care.

This is what killed the major labels and is killing Live Nation.  No one involved has got a vested interest.  Whether your show sells out or tanks doesn’t really matter at Live Nation.  Kind of like a major label…it doesn’t care which act hits, so long as ONE act hits.

Live Nation wants profitable shows.

Build a partnership with an indie and stay loyal.

Live Nation is for established acts and TV stars.

4.  The label is not on your side.

The label makes money off recordings.  And even if it’s got a piece of road revenue, it doesn’t understand that.  And everyone at the label is an employee, and if you don’t think there’s short term thinking at America’s corporations read "The Wall Street Journal", it’s all about quarterly profits.  Long term is almost irrelevant.  But it’s all that’s relevant if you’re an act.

5. The agent and the manager work for you!

The agent gets 10%.  And can be fired essentially at will.  It’s hard for him to take a smaller advance, to invest in the future. Good ones do, but not all.  But never forget, the agent works for you, tell the agent what to do.

The manager tends to have a contract, however its enforceability is always in question, still the manager only gets his 15-20% if you make money.  Many managers are loath to forgo a payday.  But if you take that money in the short term, do that endorsement deal, does it ultimately hurt you?

There are great agents and great managers.  Just remember, they’re below you, not above.  Without you, they’ve got nothing.

6. Your goal is to get the fan to return.

This involves many elements.  A great show.  With fair prices.  With the fan being treated properly.

If the venue screws up don’t blame the promoter, take responsibility yourself, try to make it right.

Don’t play so frequently at such a high price that a fan can’t come to every show.

7. Discounts hurt YOU.

There’s no one else to take the blame.  One can argue that when GM blows out Saturns it doesn’t hurt Corvettes.  But give discounts on Corvettes at the end of every quarter and try getting someone to pay full price.  It’d be very difficult.

8. Schnorrers are schnorrers.

There’s an illusion that if you just get someone to try your product, by enticing them with a deal, they’ll become a fan.

This is untrue.  Just read the reams of hype on Groupon.  People sniffing for discounts are all about the deal, about their wallet, the odds of them becoming long term full price fans is very low.  In other words, if BMW started blowing out the 7-Series for $25k they’d have a big audience.  But how many who finally got behind the wheel of the Ultimate Driving Machine would pay 70+ grand to replace it?  Almost nobody.

The discount deal benefits everybody but the act.  The concertgoer and the promoter, but not who’s up on stage.

In a perfect world, we’d go back to percentage deals with low guarantees.  This would help make concerts a partnership between act and promoter.  With each sharing in the upside and the losses.  But with high guarantees, the cancer of unsold seats is eating at our business.  Who’s going to buy early at full price in the future?  With Groupon ads zinging around the Net as soon as they go live?

Exhibit A:

Now the Nashville Municipal Auditorium can be scaled anywhere from 3,000 to 9,654.  A small arena at best.  Media tells us Ke$ha is a star, but she can’t even go clean in her own hometown?  Meanwhile, the ticket purchase limit is 8 and only 239 tickets have been sold so far.

How much longer does Ke$ha have?  If she doesn’t have another hit, she’s Vanilla Ice, she’s toast.

Exhibit B:

Capacity ranges to 16,000 at this venue.  Still, only 424 people have taken up this offer at this time.  Does it pay to fill up the lawn with wankers consuming high-priced wine, talking through the show, or do you only want the people who care?

Lambert’s got a long career in soft ticket shows, but once again the vaunted hype machine is just that, hype, she’s not that big.

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