Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Coming soon to a venue or field near you

You know it’s MIDEM weekend when the newswires are full of Paul McGuinness giving out yards about the internet. Yesterday, McGuinness used the annual gathering of record label big-wigs in Cannes to do some fuming and feather-spitting about Google. We …

Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 08:56


You know it’s MIDEM weekend when the newswires are full of Paul McGuinness giving out yards about the internet. Yesterday, McGuinness used the annual gathering of record label big-wigs in Cannes to do some fuming and feather-spitting about Google. We have been here before, so there’s little new to see or hear. It would be far more interesting if McGuinness talked about U2′s future plans on the back of their ker-ching tour.

But if the MIDEM-going sector of the record industry has long since ceased to be a relevant cog in the wheel, you also have to wonder about the current state of the live music beast, U2′s performance aside. Remember that old chestnut from a half-decade or so ago about how the live industry would take up the slack and replenish the lost profits from the record side? While there’s some spotty gloom and doom around the festival sector – the decision to cancel The Big Chill in the UK, for instance (though Big Chill’s change in direction probably contributed to that state of affairs), or Oxegen sitting out 2012 at home – such a downcast forecast has to be seen in the greater context. And that ain’t a pretty picture.

Let’s start with something you may already have noticed: it’s damn quiet out there in venues at the moment, isn’t it? Sure, there’s lots of action at entry-level as bands attempt to squeeze through and make a splash, but go up a few levels and it’s tumbleweed time. Acts just aren’t breaking through in the same numbers as before which is causing a shortage further up the line. I’ve never seen a gig calendar as quiet at the one on offer from the various promoters at present. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark and we don’t just mean the O2 sitting largely dark down on the docks.

When you delve a little deeper, you can cop some reasons for the malaise. Promoters are worried. Promoters are looking at the changing trends in gig-going habits and don’t like what they see. As punters leave it later and later in the day to get their tickets (bar for those event gigs which sell out in the blink of an eye – pace Azealia Banks at Whelan’s in Dublin), promoters are beginning to wonder how much distressed ticketing inventory they’re going to have left with on their hands when the doors open on the night.

They’re setting mounting costs – costs which include many acts now seeking payment in sterling or dollars rather than the euro – against the fanbase’s shrinking disposable income (even a shrinking fanbase, as emigration continues) and are deciding to sit some shows out. You may wonder why Ireland is missing out on many touring acts at present and it comes down to the promoters deciding that the audience just isn’t willing any more to take a chance on some acts at those ticket prices. The fact that the acts are still demanding fees which have not descreased significantly since the good old days is not helping matters either. The days of promoters pushing fees up by wildly and blindly bidding against each other are well and truly over (for now). No-one has the spare cash for that aul’ rubbish any more.

And yet, there are still some gigs on the calendar which have you scratching your head wondering what is going on. Guns N’Roses may once have had a dedicated rural-metal fanbase, but are they really going to see the Axl Rose pantomine after what happened the last time? Does anyone out there really think Roxette are worth (or were ever worth) a night at the O2? And while Aslan playing Tallaght Stadium has all the makings of an event show in this, the Dublin band’s 30th year of operations, it’s still a bit of a stretch (though the band don’t seem to have as many hometown shows booked between now and then as is usually the case).

There are also, of course, some gaps on the calendar which require filling. There’s been a surprising lack of annoucements for MCD’s Phoenix Park jamboree but we’re still hearing Florence & The Machine, Rihanna and Lady Gaga as possibilities. There will be – you may need to sit down for this – a Coldplay show in Ireland this summer, though the venue for this yoyos between the Aviva Stadium (the band’s crew have ran the rule over the old Lansdowne Road), Phoenix Park and Slane. There is also mention of Foo Fighters for the latter gaff. And, as we wrote last week, you’ll have The Cure heading to Stradbally and Wilco taking a stand in Kilmainham. Plus, of course, the huge number of Irish fests which have become firm favourites in the last few years like Sea Sessions, Castlepalooza, Indiependence, Vantastival, Body & Soul, Knockanstockan, Dublin City Soul Festival, Belsonic et al will be returning in 2012 (one early change to note is that Cork X Southwest is moving to the August Bank Holiday weekend).

There will be plenty of events to go round this summer, yet there’s anecdotal evidence that even more Irish fans will be heading abroad for their festival kicks in 2012. Sources at the Benicassim and EXIT festivals have noted a marked increase in Irish ticket sales and we know what that’s down to. With no Oxegen on the agenda for 2012, those who want to go to a multi-day, multi-stage festival with camping in July are heading to Spain and Serbia. While no doubt some of that post-Oxegen audience will hang around for the Electric Picnic, most want to go to a festival with their mates in the weeks after they finish their exams and, as there’s no Oxegen, they’ve decided to decamp abroad. Live music business nerds will note a sweet irony in all of this as Dinny Desmond’s decision to shutter Oxegen means a bump in sales for his longtime rival Vince Power’s Spanish hop.