Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Innovation and the live music fan

We write a lot about innovation here. At a time when the music industry is chopping and changing like never before, there are a lot of new ideas, plans, schemes and notions around the place. Many of them, naturally, will …

Mon, Feb 13, 2012, 09:26


We write a lot about innovation here. At a time when the music industry is chopping and changing like never before, there are a lot of new ideas, plans, schemes and notions around the place. Many of them, naturally, will never amount to anything because the notions don’t stand up to real scrutiny. Some will stick for the short-term, while a few will become real game-changers. You could argue that we’ve already seen some of the latter with the likes of streaming services replacing physical and digital sales, crowd-funding allowing acts to plug financial gaps and a general move to self-sufficiency by bands who would never have considered the DIY approach or independent route a decade ago. There are also other forms of innovation which are currently in the pipeline who may well, one day, get out of that pipeline and cause some havoc.

All such ideas are good because it shows that people are still considering how the music business can work. It’s the application of such innovations which changes the game and shakes things up. We’ve seen time and time how established businesses and business models have been disrupted by the internet and technology. Yet there are often many other times where the solutions to a particular issue are hiding in plain sight and it’s a case of joining up the dots.

I’ve been thinking about one such solution for the last week ever since Nialler9 tweeted a question about the bands who haven’t played Ireland before that music fans would like to see. He got a ton of replies, with acts like Sharon Von Etten (who subsequently announced a show for Dublin’s Whelan’s on May 18), Tanlines, Vivian Girls, Steely Dan, Portishead, M83 and many more figuring. For a booker at one of the main promotions company, this was free market research. I’m not suggesting for a second that the bookers can’t make up their own mind about acts, yet such a smattering of positivity bodes well for selling the show down the road.

However, there will be many of the acts mentioned who won’t get here this year due to promoter wariness based around the recession and general market instability, not to mention turmpil in the capital city’s live infrastructure with the pending changing-of-the-guard on Harcourt Street, a change which doesn’t impact on promoter POD’s interests in festivals like Body & Soul and the Electric Picnic or other ventures like the Button Factory. Yet, the responses to Nialler’s tweet, general online chatter and the knowledge that buzz acts do sell here if you grab ‘em when they’re hot (see Azealia Banks) do indicate a demand of some sort.

The solution? Crowd-sourced promotion. Why wait for one of the promoters to get the finger out if there’s a couple of dozen like-minded souls who think (selecting one of the above acts at random) the Vivian Girls should play here? Of course, there are many barriers to entry and possible SNAFUs with this. The band’s agent, who will be the first hurdle you’ll face unless you bypass him/her and get directly to the band, will have an existing relationship with one of the promoters here and they’ll be unwilling to mess with that. There’s the small question of reliability (a barrier to entry which scuppers most competition in this market) and the fee. There’s also the nagging issue of trying to transform online wows into real life cash at the door on a Tuesday night.

There’s not an app for that, but there are solutions using online tools which already exist. You can use FundIt not just to raise the cash needed to pay the act’s fee and costs, but to demonstrate an actual, real demand. You can use the fact that there’s market demand to persuade the act that they’ll get to play a decent show here to a dedicated, merch-buying, supportive audience. The agent, if he or she knows what they’re doing (and is not one of those agents who works on a different floor to everyone else in the building), will quickly click that they’re going to get their commission because of the FundIt money. Many venues are struggling to get any sort of business at the moment and those who are not already promoter-tied will be very keen to talk and do a deal if they have bills to pay.

It’s not about becoming a promoter in the traditional way – after all, you will already have quickly guaged the demand for Vivian Girls from your FundIt campaign so there’s no need to annoy the hell out of ordinary decent hacks like this one – but rather a bunch of like-minded people combining their talents to bring in an act that no-one else is bothering with. It may also show many ordinary decent music fans what promoters really do and how it’s the act who set the ticket price and fees (and are not prepared to budge an inch on those fees), but that’s a handy life lesson anyway. Rather than sit and bitch about why an act is passing this country by, perhaps it’s time for live music fans to show some initiative and prove that even live music promotion can benefit from some outside-the-box thinking. The tools are there so all it now requires is the will and some hard work. Or do we just leave it all to the venture capitalists to do?