The Concert Industry Debate Continues

Bob Lefsetz's recent editorial article, The Concert Industry has sparked a strong reaction from our colleagues in many different parts of the industry.

Do you have an opinion? Feel free to contribute to the debate.

Here's a sampling from the latest responses:

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Bob,

I have been following the debate on concerts with great amusement.

It seems that finally it's all coming out.

The perspective is as follows:

Fans are voting with their feet and not moving.

Most of the big artists are overcharging with absolutely no regard for their audience.

We must be the only industry that has scant regard for our audience assuming that because an artist wants to go on the road they will pay regardless of price.

We seem to go out of our way to screw our audience both with live, recording and merchandise.

To some extent promoters are taking the rap for the artists that are demanding more and more.

The problem is that promoters are too stupid to say PASS, so consequently there is always someone who will take the deal and pay more.

Then there is the distribution mechanism….. IT SUCKS.

We have allowed third parties to take over and become the power in the business.

They are there ONLY to make money. They don't care what the public pays and are constantly testing the public with higher and to some extent INVENTED charges.

In the UK TicketMaster have increased charges twice in as many months… WHY?

The potential shift in power, if the merger takes place, is absolutely not in the public interest.

The venues also have a duty of care in the debate and are equally fuelling increased charges.

At some point this has to STOP.

Equally we have to move on and develop new talent, allow it to breathe and ensure that our beloved public have some change after seeing the old heroes to try the new acts.

We have to widen distribution at a much cheaper price.

This can be done easily providing the venues will allow it and the control is not all in one place.

I have seen at least two manifest systems that are more efficient and a third of the cost of the current methods available.

However in order for change we need the business to open up not close.

We need new promoters working as we did with newer acts at an affordable ticket price for the audience to take a risk in seeing them.

However that can only take place if the disparity between the bigger acts and the new ones is not too great, which it currently is.

Every facet of our business is responsible for the apparent mess we are in and the public senses it.

Once tickets are given away the game is up.

If an artist has overcharged let the venues be EMPTY… it's the only way they will learn.

Promoters pay through the nose and then feel they have some duty to fill a venue when the tickets don't sell because they are overpriced.

We have the best business in the world and we are destroying ourselves for pure greed and stupidity.

I take my share of responsibility for all this but Lord knows I have tried to explain to everyone what we are doing to ourselves.

So start with the Artists

Then the agents

Then allow promoters to earn profits for the risk they take but legitimately and on the table.

That way they have change to invest and stick with new talent.

Lets stop playing games with auctions, secondary markets,ebays, etc.

Then the venues must stop with their new and invented charges.

Our public are our lifeline.

Let's treat them with the deference they deserve.

Then we will all win.

Harvey Goldsmith

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Re-Ryan Downey/Warped/Fletcher

What a douchebag. Couldn't be farther from the truth, told like a true, dumb fuck failed musician critic….ps, pls remind him "I am a rock star" and to suck on that…..my reputation threw this biz speaks for itself, ask around. (Still love them vans shoes) actually like lyman, but thought I'd have some fun and speak my heart in the heat of the moment.

Kid Rock

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he's gr8 …what the fuc r talk'n about these guys can barley play their instruments … getting everybody in a field in the hot sun drink'n ..smoke'n etc …is not about the music its a cultural happening …….music 4 music sake was never meant 2 b on the jumbo screen …'house of blues" size venues…smaller theaters is about as big as it gets 4 real enjoyment 4 the listener …& who wants 2 hear madonna sing? … guess what that shit ain't music …. theater/dance troupe/circus…uhh vaudville may-b … real music w/ real musicians will survive …it just may b that that the spectacle is in trouble ….cool/pete anderson

Pete Anderson

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From many:

Madonna Cancels Slovenia Gig, Media Cite Sales

Slovenian media reported the concert had to be canceled as promoters had sold only 7,000 of a planned 63,000 tickets in a city with a population of 250,000.

According to Madonna's website www.madonna.com, of 12 remaining concerts on her Europe tour which ends in Israel, only Sunday's upcoming concert in Gothenburg, Sweden, is sold out.

Reuters article

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I book the Glass House Concert Hall located in Pomona, CA. The venue is 800 cap, all ages, no booze…we opened a bar next door last December, but many people aren't even aware it is there. We are 100% independent, despite being co owned by the Tollet brothers.

Kids are definately coming out to shows. Granted, our average ticket price is around $15, quite a bit less than than the examples you mentioned.

My theory is this…we are situated in Los Angeles County, but close to Riverside County and Orange County. Riverside County was hit very hard by the housing market/economy. As a result, families did not take vacations this year. Kids had some cash to spend (as a result of their parents wanting to get them out of the house so they don't have to see the stress of whats going on? Or for some respite?). With our ticket prices between $10-20, it is the same as going to the movies or miniature golfing, but five hours of entertainment rather than two. We have cheap pizza and water, so kids can eat the the show for under $5.

I believe the "stay-cation" has given us larger audiences than in 2007 or 2008. Bands who did not sell out their shows in 2008 are selling out in 2009, even when they are between records. I am booking double the amount of shows that i did the past two years (obviously more bands are touring, but the fact that they are willing to book shows in a secondary market like Pomona is my point).

We are getting some ingenious booking/marketing tools to sell shows. We recently had the "10 bands for $10" tour which sold out. Our upcoming Trivium show will give each kid a free live download that evening of the entire show they just attended.

Not necessarily writing you to publish this (I don't mind if you wanted to
though) or promote the venue, as much as to just make you aware that all is not bleak.

Thanks for your honest opinion on what is going on globally with the music industry.

Jon Halperin
The Glass House

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just saw Tool in Toronto. Tix were very reasonable and the crowd and fans were spectacular. The Molson Ampitheatre is the worst sound biggest hunk of shit (next to the Skydome Rogers Centre) but I guess that's where Live Nation does its stuff. I realized at one point that @ $40 a t shirt and $9.50 a beer maybe Molson/Coors should buy a label give the music away for free, do the tour for $20 a ticket and then get a captive crowd to pay $9.50 a beer and $40 a t-shirt both with profits margins in the 95% range. Its much better then owning a stupid ass hockey team.

Todd Lewis

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I love condensing this asshole's email down to the following:

"Arthur Fogel lies…
…Fuck him and fuck them all the stupid greedy people (artists included) in the music biz… …Please don't put my name if you publish this."

Haha sheer entertainment.

I don't know Arthur Fogel, but you can bet if I'm calling him a liar and saying "fuck him" to an audience then I'm going to sign my name.

As far as K. Lyman goes, the praises being sung of him are warranted based on my experience with VWT. My band has done dates on Warped in 2002, 2006 and 2007. Had the time of our lives, played some of our most memorable shows on the tour, and ate like sultans! Great comraderie between the bands and staff as well. Still blows my mind how they make a 50+ date, 70 band show
function.

Dave Peters

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Re Kevin Lyman 'A true punk rocker, and a savvy businessman' ??

I'm sure Kevin's a great guy and the festival is wonderful, I don't know him, or 50% of the bands, but for John Boyle to describe him in that way… Well isn't that a contradiction in terms and sublime irony ?

I'm sorry, but as someone who used to roadie at the Vortex, went on tour with punks finest not pale throwbacks, I've never read such complete bollocks in my life.

I don't think I need to explain my thinking here do I ?

Stephen Budd
Stephen Budd Management & SuperVision Management

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Bob,

Like many other people, I had to comment about Kevin Lyman….

I called his office at Immortal Entertainment on a whim in 2002 trying to get my band, The Gelheads, on the bill in any shape or form. I had gone to the festival from its inception in '95 in Chicago & was a huge fan of it. I told him my recollection of the first show & while he had gotten my band's emails, but most likely hadn't listened to our mp3s…he booked us on the Chicago date on the "kevin says so" stage simply by me telling him my love of the first show. We kept all our merch money & really had a bigger turnout at our next several shows after that. We plastered the fest w/flyers & free music. We met his assistant and practically molested him (aka thanking him) for putting us on the bill. He continues to deliver the goods year in & out. We need more Lymans in this business!

Tim Lydon

The Gelheads

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Okay…Coming to Kevin Lyman's defense a bit late here. I've only known Kevin personally for the past 7-8 years. I'm one of those "corporate guys" who bring clients in to help sponsor and underwrite his tours. Kevin (and his sponsorship director Sarah Baer) is incredibly great to work with and there's NO ONE who has a better understanding of the evolving youth demographic. Walk around with Kevin at Warped and he's a star himself.

Here's a guy who has been incredibly successful the past 15 years in the punk/alternative scene with Warped (and developed countless bands that are playing sheds currently). It took him 2 years to own the hard rock/metal scene with Mayhem. In 2010, he'll do more for the country music industry than any artist, manager or label today. Who has developed more acts than Kevin?

After all he's accomplished (not mentioning his work with Lollapalooza, Coachella, Down From The Mountain, Watcha, movie producing, etc.), you would think the guy would have a tremendous ego, but he doesn't break even after a bunch of beers and a few Jager shots. His goal in life is to have his family live comfortably and create tours that help develop artists. One doesn't lack ego to be as successful as he's been, but he certainly doesn't wear a chip on his shoulder.

Guess that leads into Kid Rock? I've worked with him. No signed contract until he's done playing, limited meet and greet attendees and autographs only made out to individuals, painful negotiations with his camp over meaningless dealpoints, CAA throwing up their hands and say deal with management, etc. Much of the blame likely falls at Punch's lap (hopefully Vector will be easier to work with). I still don't comprehend his stance on iTunes, but recognize that he delivers a great live performance. If he had an issue with Kevin or someone else on the tour, he definitely had it coming.

Guess Kellie Pickler won't be playing on Kevin's country tour next year. I find it funny that she and Ritchie have been dating for more than a year. Not sure who is ashamed of who to keep this romance secret!

Thanks, Bob.

Name withheld like a "punk ass" because I do (did) business with all parties mentioned.

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Re-Kevin Lyman

True gentleman that guy.

Kia Kamran
Attorney at Law

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Hi Bob,

i manage Indy acts.. for years Kevin Lyman has been very open and accessible to me and my questions regarding the Warped Tour and the music industry. he gave me time and knowledge when other industry folk gave me ego and attitude..

i think Kevin could teach a thing or two to some of these other so called Industry Professionals.. the guy is a class act..

Roger Bussell

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Because I know half the people who responded I feel left out and want to get my two cents in about Kevin Lyman and The Vans Warped Tour. Kevin was good enough to sit down with me the year after Vans came on as the crown sponsor of the tour and because of him I have an extremely successful firm and do Brand Partnerships daily for independent bands who Brands give a chance to when others in our industry will not. He is passionate about artists and he caters to fans unlike other rip off concerts I have had to endure in my seventeen years in this business. It's a lifestyle event. If you don't live it you wont get it. It's about the fan and also about giving talented emerging acts a break when others will not.

Jennifer Lyneis
President
UE3 Promotions

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As an audience member, I started going to Warped Tour in 1996 and haven't missed a year since. We used make it a pilgrimage to see the Vancouver show when it was the only Western Canadian date. That's the proof of what a unique/specialized experience Lyman put together – a dozen of us, barely old enough to drive at all, would load into a van and drive 12 hours from our homes in Calgary for this event.

In a week, I get to experience it from the production side. Kevin reserves a stage (referred to as the Kevin Says Stage) to ensure that unknown "baby" bands are a part of the Warped Tour experience.

I get to play on that stage on August 12 – A surreal opportunity from an artist's perspective in today's "big show" market where the tours are packaged and sealed up to minimize risk and maximize return. So to add to the list of kudos for Lyman, I'll offer up the notion that he's got the balls and/or the intellect to appeal to concert goers looking to discover something new – and dig deep enough to find emerging artists that might be worth a listen.

In the 15 years of the tour, this approach has built and sustained a culture of its own. Loved or hated, it exists in a large enough realm to be "talked about" and to sustain itself. In the 14 Warped dates I've seen, through the cynicism of growing up and the ups and downs of the industry, the momentum built on the communal nature of that production remains irrefutable.

Please pass along my thanks to him, if you can.

Dean Rudd // The Evidence // Meter Records

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Hi Bob,

I just wanted to share a quick story about Kevin, I run a music company up in canada one of our artists named SHAD was playing a Canadian showcase at CMJ last year and Kevin randomly walked in from the street caught the set and 3 days later offered us the entire warped tour.

This is Canadian artist with zero tour history in the US. When is the last time a major concert promoter gave a new artist that kind of break. I think it speaks loudly about the kind of synergy that has made the warped tour what it is and why bands and kids want to come back year after year.

Jason Murray
Black Box Music

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Bob,

I apologize in advance for the length of this e-mail.

Regardless of what people say about Kevin Lyman, he knows what shit is hot in the music business, whether people think it's good or not. I attended Warped Tour this year and had the "pleasure" of watching a handful of bands that would fall under the category of "crunk-core," an emerging genre that combines punk-rock screams and mentalities with hip-hop and electronic beats For example, bands such as BrokeNCYDE, Attack Attack!, Millionaires, Jeffree Starr, and 30h!3.

30h!3, as you know, had the number-one song in America a few weeks ago (Don't Trust Me), and the date I went to Warped (July 12) was when they were at the top of their game. I did respect them though because they didn't play big shot, they didn't call out other bands and they didn't put themselves up on a pedestal for having the number one song. Even though it was relatively early in the day, time basically stopped and everyone went over to the main stage because of the two white parody rappers from Boulder were getting 75 percent of the people who came there today, no matter if they were a scenester, an up-the-punx kid, a neon child, or whatever. Hell, I even missed the set I came there for in the midst of everyone around me screaming along to the songs.

Now, I had heard lots of hype about Millionaires, two sisters and a friend who sing about getting paid and getting laid, or whatever, they're on Pete Wentz's label. So of course, I walk in just as two of the girls (who are not attractive in the first place) are on stage, simulating sex. Not even a DJ or anything around in the background, so it was like watching Britney Spears, but, like, as an anime porn soundtrack.

You can go and search the pure mess that is brokeNCYDE and Attack Attack!, but, let me tell you, lots more bands were up there giving their all and putting 100 percent: Bayside, Streetlight Manifesto, A Day To Remember, Instrument, TAT, The Scenic, and P.O.S, who regardless of being the only rap act on there, did his entire show surrounded by fans who were screaming along to every verse, as he was doing his entire show in the pit.

What's my point?

Kevin Lyman knows what will bring kids there and what will make money. Which explains his success with Taste of Chaos and Get a Life, and, of course, Warped.

So we probably shouldn't be throwing hate on him.

Thanks for reading.

Jack Tomascak

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Bob,

"And the idiot who said something abt U2's new album having long term effects on there ticket sales is not giving U2 enough credit. This band has enough hits that they will sell out arenas for the legnth their careers without putting out another record. Most people going want to hear the classics they grew up listening to anyway." Jarred Arfa

I can only assume I'm the 'idiot' referenced above, since I did rip on U2's new album, and do hold that you can't just ride the same tunes you wrote decades ago on tour after tour while trying to fill larger and larger venues. To me, it just doesn't add up. You don't create new demand for your music and your shows by putting out new albums that disappoint – I don't care who you are. It doesn't seem like I'm alone either in this thought. There's too much other stuff out there that is CURRENT, that is just as original and moving as U2's earlier work was. If you know where to find it, it's easier on the pocketbook too.

I'm pretty sure I kept my dig on U2 to their latest album; I'll give credit where it's due – It takes a great deal of talent and a few planets aligning to produce the success that U2 has enjoyed. But you proved my point in your own rebuttal: "This band has enough hits that they will sell out arenas for the legnth (sic) their careers without putting out another record." Ok, then why do they continue the exercise of putting out a new album every other year? They could spend the next decade playing a couple three gigs a year in the most massive stadiums you could find and fill them to the brim, no problem – supply and demand. There's no demand to hear 'Get On Your Boots' or whatever the next equivalent tune will be off their next album, but they seem pretty content to keep stockpiling that supply…at the very least it can't be helping ticket sales.

-Schetter

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Interesting that this thread / debate / dialogue is essentially focused around two very different examples of today's concert business:

Warped Tour – an outlet that, without current-based Alternative Radio and an audience that cares, can no longer offer its artists a payday at the end of the tunnel

U2 – Aged, tired, poorly-disguised glam rock that still can't carry a tour without a hit single

Dan Fullick

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