Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The lesser-spotted sold-out gig

What do Stevie Wonder, Gorillaz, Green Day, Paul MacCartney, Rage Against the Machine and Bob Dylan have in common? All of these marquee acts are visiting Ireland in the coming weeks and, at the time of posting, you can still …

Tue, May 25, 2010, 09:50

   

What do Stevie Wonder, Gorillaz, Green Day, Paul MacCartney, Rage Against the Machine and Bob Dylan have in common? All of these marquee acts are visiting Ireland in the coming weeks and, at the time of posting, you can still buy tickets for all of their shows at your local friendly ticket outlet if you are so inclined. It would appear, however, that many people are not so inclined.

Not so long ago, tickets for all of the above would have been sold out faster than you can say “is this a recession I see before me?” But in 2010, it seems that sold-outs gigs are the exception, rather than the norm.

Yes, there are a few caveats to the above. The promoters will point to the fact that a lot of the cheap seats are already gone and that there are still a few weeks of hard selling to go. There are also, the promoters will say, gigs which sell out right away (Peppa Pig, Pearl Jam and Michael Buble). The fact remains, though, that there are several high profile gigs which were probably expected to fly out the door which are still open on the Ticketmaster system – and this is without factoring in the big festivals like Oxegen and Electric Picnic.

To most observers, there is only one reason for this slowdown. People just don’t have the cash right now for gig tickets, especially as such tickets are now a relatively expensive entertainment option. Any arguments that these gigs are “once in a lifetime” opportunities are rendered null and void by the fact that all of the first list (bar Stevie Wonder) are fairly regular visitors to Ireland at this stage. And we’re sure that Peppa Pig will also be visiting again really soon given the success of that booking.

It’s not just Irish audiences who are thinking twice before going through the Ticketmaster process. Noted industry curmudgeon Bob Lefsetz has been digging through Stateside data about soft gigs of late and coming up with a lot of under-performing shows. Lefsetz pins the blame on how shed owners and promoters are pushing expensive “packages” at the fans, a habit which thankfully hasn’t become the norm over here. Yet.

If price resistance is the only factor in the slowdown, though, surely promoters will seek to address this by lowering ticket prices? After all, the cheap seats are snapped up right away, so wouldn’t it be better to have a full room of happy punters than a half-full venue? But bringing those ticket prices down will require acts to take a reduced fee and that’s unlikely to wash for many reasons (one being greed and another being the fact that acts ain’t getting paid elsewhere in the same way as before).

In big picture terms, this raises some questions about the received wisdom that the live side of the house was going to save the music business. As we have pointed out here again and again and again, the live business was never in the business of breaking new acts, something which was always left to the record companies to do. Instead, the live business was where established acts with audiences (audiences they’d built up thanks to the patience and largesse of record labels) would have another few days in the sun. Now, though, it seems even that doesn’t hold true anymore.

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