Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bad News on Touring

No. Not Bad News on Tour. (That'd be cool). Bad news on touring. According to Billboard (the american Musicweek) the people involved in staging tours in the USA are gloomy about the prospects for ticket sales this coming Autumn. They reckon the fuel price rises and the credit crunch mean that less people will be going to gigs. And of course, cost rises will impact on tour profits, and the credit crunch upon promoters ability raise capital. This creates a bit of a problem for the music business. Since we've stopped buying CDs, they've been pushing the idea that live music is where the real money is hiding. That may well be true for the handful of mega-artists that earn big from their stadium tours (The Stones, Madonna etc), but for many artists, touring costs money - in particular for new artists. Record companies have always provided 'tour support' - effectively, they've paid for you to listen to and see their artists play live.

So the last thing the record companies need now is for the live sector to start having a hard time. The buzz words in the last few years has been 'the 360 degree' deal. Basically, it means taking a share of all the artists rights - recording rights, publishing rights, live rights, and merchandise rights. Record company execs will have to find a new story to tell the banks - that might be quite tricky, because there's more bad news.

The billboard article reckons that agencies like William Morris are starting their own record companies. Well, I say record companies - they already perform the most important record company functions (promoting the artist, for example) and I guess it'd be easy enough to contract their artists for recording rights. Manufacturing has been outsourced for years. If starbucks can do it then William Morris surely can. Plus - cue a plug for an earlier post - record companies are actually record agencies, anyway.

In other news.... according to Musicweek the live scene in the UK has a different problem - a skills shortage. Thankfully, a government agency has come to the rescue and is going to run some sort of apprenticeship scheme at some point in the future. Phew. I bet every international arena-filling artists has heaved a huge sigh of relief. The show can go on. Except that it might not be earning as much money as before. Live Nation have put a very positive spin on quite a drastic fall in profits. And my own impression is that things for smaller promoters aren't looking too good either. I took this picture from the main stage of a 'boutique' festival I was working this summer - it wasn't at dawn. It was mid-evening on the Friday. Even the great Glastonbury seemed a just tad less than impregnable this year with tickets still on sale right up to the festival.

Things are generally looking a bit gloomy, then. The live sector is down due to the wider economic downturn. Merchandise will fall because of this. The record industry is completely knackered anyway. That leaves the artists just waiting for their publishing cheques. Still every cloud has a silver lining. The gossip is that GUT records are going bust - so no more the crazy frog! On discussing this news with a colleague I was told that GUT's boss, was also responsible for Tom Jones's comeback - obviously a good thing which does go some way to make up for unleashing that fucking frog. My commiserations to GUT employees and owners alike.

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