Ticket Prices

You’d think we were selling Mercedes-Benzes. Better yet, Lamborghinis.

Lambo doesn’t have to worry about the little guy. The Italian carmaker caters to a rich elite. Chevy-owners can only lust after the company’s sleekmobiles. They’re never going to be able to afford one. And Lambo doesn’t care, because they’re selling all they can produce.

But that’s not the concert business. Hell, we tried that in the concert business, with Social@Ross, and it didn’t work! Turns out the ultra-rich don’t want to party by themselves, there are no bragging rights. They want to go to your show and squeeze you out of the front row, so they can tell everybody what big swinging dicks they are for being able to attend.

I’m getting multiple e-mails from people complaining about the $250 tickets for Clapton and Winwood at the Garden. And you know what, I agree with them. It’s not like these two guys have been absent from the scene, it’s not like they’re even Cream. Hell, they’re not even billing it as Blind Faith, probably because they don’t want to share the money with Ginger Baker. And from everything I hear, the New York Cream shows didn’t hold a candle to those in London. Because they were no longer special, because they’d happened before. It was a one time event repeated.

I’m not saying I would have turned down Cream tickets. But I saw them twice, when they were Cream. Once before "Sunshine Of Your Love" hit and another time right before the final farewell tour. I don’t want my memories fucked with. Of the band going through the motions the first time, and blistering through a set that’s still indelibly baked into my mind the second.

As for Blind Faith, I saw them too. Pretty amazing to have been there, but the sound sucked. And as good as "Can’t Find My Way Home" was, as good as the first side of the album was, was there any excuse for "Do What You Like"? No wonder the band broke up.

But now they’re back together.

What’s next? Reunions of bands that didn’t exist in the first place? Is Eric Clapton going to go out with David Gilmour? Is Ozzy going to tour with Alice Cooper as part of the same band? We are really scraping the barrel here.

But that’s rock history for you. Everybody’s cleaned up. And now cleaning up. That old soul, that’s gone, been long eviscerated, and the only people who won’t admit this is those on the take.

Even the Stones don’t sell out anymore. Why should they? Each tour is never the last, and they positively suck most of the time.

So you take your kids, so they can be exposed. Not telling them as you stand in the crowd in your leather jacket that the band was too dangerous for you the first time around, that your mother wouldn’t let you go, that you preferred the Starland Vocal Band. And the people at this "historic" Clapton/Winwood show at the Garden will be just as bad. It will be about being there more than the music.

How do I know? Because of Winwood’s regular business. This guy’s available. Furthermore, he put out a new album light years better than anything Clapton’s done in eons, "About Time". With Jose Nieto. You can listen to it forever and go see Steve in a small hall, with no trappings, and have your jaw drop as he rips off "Dear Mr. Fantasy" on his guitar.

But that’s rock and roll.

Hell, nothing in an arena is rock and roll.

And soon there won’t be any arena shows. Not many anyway. Because we’ve got no stars. Everybody’s so whored out to the man that you can’t believe in them. There may be mania once, but then you’re over it, you don’t have to go.

But the dinosaurs? They’re still alive?

Why do they even play. Just put them in a museum.

But really, what irks me here is the price.

I get e-mail from people who are sitting out Neil Young and Bon Jovi this time. Because they just can’t afford it. And we need these people for a healthy business! We just can’t depend on the rich fucks… They’re only interested in what everybody else is. Hell, they’re not showing up for Winwood at a theatre.

So the concert business is like America itself. The haves and the have-nots. But nobody in the concert food chain cares. As long as someone lines up and pays, they don’t make any changes.

I used to believe in charging what the public would bear, but that was before there were people to whom money was no object and the rest of the people were counting pennies on their way to dinner at McDonald’s.

We can’t have a concert business catering to the haves. It doesn’t scale. We need a big tent. We’ve got to let the little people in.

I’m not sure the secondary market is even the problem. At this point, there are a zillion speculators, buying tickets in Oregon for gigs in New Jersey. Trying to make an extra buck. Bottom line? If you can wait until showtime, you get good seats for BELOW printed price.

I don’t think it’s about capturing the markup of the secondary market so much as getting the tickets into the hands of fans at a reasonable price.

I know, this is much more complicated. It’s easier to just charge what the market will bear. But what happens when no one wants to go anymore? You’ve got to nurture the concertgoing audience, you’ve got to keep them in the habit. We need people to go again and again and again. Concerts are not like Broadway plays, something you attend once every few years when you’re in New York, when you don’t care about the price. Music is not an elite art form, but it looks like only the elite can afford to attend, we’re leaving the little guy out.

Who’s going to recognize that what’s happening in American isn’t good for the concert business. The Iraq war is good for Blackwater, but not good for the soldiers in the armed forces. The concertgoing public is those soldiers in the armed forces. They can’t be abused forever, they need to be treated right. And the concert business hasn’t treated them right for eons.

How come Dave Matthews can get good tickets into the hands of his fans for a reasonable price and no one else can? Huh? No one else wants to put in the money, time and effort?

Who’s going to save the concert business?

Seemingly not AEG, taking the cream off the top.

Not Michael Rapino and Live Nation, assembling a catalog of assets so they can lay the company off once again.

Certainly not the superstar acts, who live lives that they used to rail against.

God, is everything phony?

We used to be able to believe in the music and the people who made it.

It’s hard to believe in Clapton and Winwood when they authorize ticket prices like these. Sheer greed, that’s the only explanation. It’s business. Whereas it used to be about the music.

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