Photo by Nunez/Wire Images of Lil Wayne Grammy Winner
At the Grammy’s last night, new acts collaborated with old across the board as well as genres mixing it up in attempts among the music industry to make things more relevant, especially to potential new audiences, i.e. the Jonas Brothers with Steve Wonder, Coldplay with Jay-Z, Al Green with Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney and David Grohl, Adele and Sugarland, and Myley Cyrus with Taylor Swift. Bands such as U2 and solo acts from Katy Perry, Jennifer Hudson, and Allison Krauss and Robert Plant were also highlights. The re-invention of rap/Hip-hop is also on the rise, and top performers such as Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and M.I.A. encouraged a new genre of listeners.
Even though the Grammy Awards tend to promote new sales of music via new fans, many still wonder if this will this help ticket sales in the near future and the break-out of new bands for fans who have to make economic choices now in where they spend their money. In addition, the poorly timed ticket sales snafu to Bruce Springsteen concerts last week have put Ticketmaster, currently in talks to merge with Live Nation, in a terrible position, forcing even The Boss to officially apologize to fans for Ticketmaster not being able to handle the onslaught of ticket sales and getting re-directed to the second tier ticketer TicketsNow and forced to pay high fees for tickets.
As we mentioned in last week’s story, “Music Festival Season Kicks-off with Coachella, the First of Summer, Announcing Line-up and Lay-Away Ticket Plan,” concert promoters are figuring out ways to keep tickets selling in manageable formats for fans such as Coachella’s lay-away ticket plans. Tours such as the Vans Warped Tour at $25-$30 a pop are still attracting scores of new music fans, especially young people ages 15-19, which gets you into an 8-hour all day festival and the chance to see some 50 bands, if you can run from stage to stage fast enough.
Interestingly, the news that Ticketmaster is merging with Live Nation has caused a ripple effect across the industry. What’s this mean for fans? And what’s this mean for competitors and concert promoters and new bands trying to break? When Live Nation and Ticketmaster merge to form Live Nation Entertainment, as is predicted at the time of this writing, this would mean that Ticketmaster would become a competitor of promoters and venue owners and operators such as AEG Live, which grossed over $1 billion dollars last year based in large part on ticket sales, sold via Ticketmaster, for shows ranging from the Jonas Brothers to old-school rock acts such as Bon Jovi. AEG Worldwide, the parent company, is also the venue owner of the Staples Center where the 51st Grammy Awards took place last night.
The news of the Ticketmaster problems have caused concern for other concert promoters and especially fans. Kevin Lyman, the director and founder of the top youth culture tours known for breaking new bands such as the Vans Warped Tour, Rockstar Taste of Chaos (which launches in Los Angeles on February 14th), and the Rockstar Mayhem Fest sent out an official press release last week with his statements on the state of concert ticket sales:
“As many of you are aware, the media has been reporting the problems concert-goers are encountering buying tickets for Bruce Springsteen and other superstar acts, however I thought fans of our projects should know that until these large companies get their act together, the place to buy tickets will be through the official websites of the tours.”
Photo by Label Networks of Kevin Lyman in front of top acts from his Vans Warped Tour 2008
Ticket sales are a major source of the revenue concert promoters, record labels, and musicians generate, and why touring has become even more essential for the industry. However who controls the sales of tickets is a major part of the problem. As well as who controls and owns the venues, which is how AEG and Live Nation, in effect, have morphed into part real estate companies -a good idea in the light of things.
AEG Live’s Director Randy Phillips told Yahoo! Music that he believes the real challenge in this economy is “where are the headliners of tomorrow going to come from?” Spending resources on breaking new bands isn’t a top priority right now. According to Phillips, AEG’s festivals such as Coachella, Bumbershoot, Rothbury, and others are what AEG uses to promote new artists, but when the big hitters stop like U2 (which is signed in a 12-year-touring agreement with Live Nation), then it could be a serious problem for the music industry. Other than the big bands of the last 5 years including also the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Radiohead, and Coldplay, he thinks newer acts including Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas Brothers are on the radar for the future.
Photo by The Smell of The Smell
But those are still big acts. Where are the new baby-band break-outs going to come from? In a recent LA Weekly article, the underground subculture of youth music fans was highlighted in a story about the authenticity and need of the underage club in downtown Los Angeles called The Smell. They’re known for breaking new bands, albeit under the mainstream music media radar of bands such as No Age (who was nominated for a Grammy for their CD art packaging), Abe Vigoda, Lucky Dragons, and Mika Miko. The Smell is probably the world leader right now permeating the back-alley DIY spirit of music clubs for fans with complicated angled haircuts, braces, and cell phones. With its no-hierarchy, no-booze, no VIP area, and mostly volunteer run business model, it somehow manages to break new bands -similar to the Vans Warped Tour that tends to play parking lots outside of arenas rather than in arenas themselves.
For young music fans, there are plenty of sources of new break-out band performances and music on the horizon. Look at the upcoming line-ups this summer from the Vans Warped Tour, Rockstar Taste of Chaos, Rockstar Mayhem, AP Tour, Rock the Bells, Paid Dues, the secondary stages at Coachella, and all-ages clubs like The Smell. These are the locations where the punk rock attitude of hope and promise permeate a new generation of listeners who don’t care who owns the venue and are OK with back-alley, dumpster-graffitied spaces. They probably got their tickets from the tour websites or on-site, paid in cash, saved-up from part-time jobs anyway.