Fear and loathing in the fields and aisles
A day doesn’t go by at the moment without a few calls, emails or texts about some other under-performing show around the city and country. “You thought last year was bad?”, said one veteran observer of the Irish live scene …
A day doesn’t go by at the moment without a few calls, emails or texts about some other under-performing show around the city and country. “You thought last year was bad?”, said one veteran observer of the Irish live scene the other day. “This summer is going to be a horror show”. I don’t think he was talking about the weather
In the last few days, we’ve seen Ry Cooder cancel one of his three shows at the Olympia (no reason given but I’m sure people can read between the lines given the price of the tickets), Kasabian yank their show in a 5,000 capacity tent in Cork (“promotional commitments” – as in they need to do some more promotion to get ticket sales into four figures) and lots of freebies in circulation for The Breeders in Vicar Street and Chairlift in The Academy last night. Oxegen’s innovative ticket deposit scheme has now been extended to June 19 and it goes without saying that tickets will be selling for the Punchestown event and the Electric Picnic right up to the time the gates open and the acts come onstage. As things stand, both festivals have sold considerably less tickets this year compared to where they were at last year.
Timing is everything and you have to wonder if the Oasis at Slane gig would have sold out if it had went on sale the other side of Christmas. Meanwhile, the promoters had better have something very special in the pipeline in terms of support acts to shift those Coldplay tickets (yes, they’re playing the Phoenix Park in September, a gig everyone seems to have forgotten about). Maybe everyone thinks the free Coldplay album will do the trick.
Add in earlier cancellations (this may be the year that Ireland finally says “no thanks” to contributing to The Eagles’ pension fund) and it’s tough out there at the moment for live music bandits. The days of just putting a show on sale and getting an instant sell-out are over. Promoters are going to have to do some spadework now and actually promote the show. Ticketmaster sources and tallies will show that May’s sales volumes are very low as people take stock of their incomings and outgoings and decide to pass on buying a ticket.
It will be interesting to see what festivals do manage to buck this malaise. Perhaps a well-regarded and burgeoning indie boutique fest like Castle Palooza (Charleville Castle, Co Offaly, August bank holiday weekend) will benefit from its policy of astute bookings and smart cost management? It will be telling to guage how dance events like Life (Ballinlough Castle, Co Meath over the May Bank Holiday weekend), Planetlove (Fairyhouse Racecourse, Co Meath, June 6) and Live in the Park (Newcastle, Co Down, June 19) perform in the current climate. In years past, there has always been a market for these events, but will the credit crunch also KO some of that audience?
Yes, there are some shows which are selling – look at the extra gigs which have been put on sale for both Dan Deacon and Wilco in Dublin – but they’re on the smaller scale of things and it’s the bigger picture which is more telling. There are definitely less outdoor shows on the agenda for summer 2009 and that’s not just because the 02 is open for business to take up the slack. For instance, look at the Marlay Park line-up. Last year, you’d Muse, Lenny Kravitz, The Killers, Metallica and Lovebox playing in the south Dublin park. This year? You’ve Metallica (yet again) and Fatboy Slim (someone obviously thinks we’re back in 1996 with that one). Promoters have become careful and, unless there is a sponsor to underwrite the event, they’re hanging back.
What we’re probably seeing, to borrow a phrase from those much maligned estate agents, is a correction in the market. Now that there’s less money in pockets, price has become the sensitive issue and the sheer quantity of shows which were the norm for the last couple of summers has proven to be an aberration. Will we see promoters reducing prices to patch that one up? Or will we simply see less attended big ticket shows as acts try to hold onto their inflated fees?