Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Gig announcements and sussed fans

In the age of the sussed music fan, the reaction to The Script’s 2015 date in Croke Park was always going to be underwhelming

Buy the fecking tickets, I've a dentist's bill to pay. Photo: Patrick O'Leary

Mon, Nov 3, 2014, 09:56


The opening salvo for 2015′s outdoor season has been fired. It’s fair to say last week’s announcement that The Script are set to play Croke Park next summer was met with less than whole-hearted acclaim. Sure, The Script’s fans were probably ecstatic and cock-a-hoop about the upcoming gig by their fave band, but the vast majority of music fans shrugged their shoulders and went ‘whatever’. The pre-match hype had been ratcheted up to such an effect that everyone expected some class of superstar act like U2, AC/DC or One Direction were heading for Jones Road rather than Danny O’Donoghue and The Other Two. The reality couldn’t live up to the expectation.

It’s highly unlikely that The Script will trouble Ticketmaster’s machines to the extent of causing a sell-out when tickets go on sale on Thursday morning. The last time they played Dublin, they sold around 50,000 tickets for the Aviva Stadium, which leaves 30,000 or so to go. The addition of Pharrell Williams to the bill for the Kanye West show in Marlay Park last summer didn’t help to shift thousands of tickets for that one, so it’s unlikely to have that much of an effect here either.

There will probably be other additions to the bill in time – Kodaline were mentioned last week, so they may end up in Croker after they do their mooted big Dublin show in the middle of the city on New Year’s Eve, as was Hozier, who may well put in a shift in the 3Arena before Croker – but you can expect a big promotional push for this one.

Your ordinary decent music fan was already way ahead of the pack on this score on Friday morning and the jokes about radio ads were already coming thick and fast on social media before O’Donoghue or one of The Other Two had said it was always their dream to play Croker at the press conference (they had better have said that, as every act is contractually supposed to say it). Music fans have become incredibly savvy about the big live hooplas and announcements – much more, in fact, than many of the journalists who cover music and the music business who’re often afraid to voice their real opinions for annoying promoters and PRs.

The sussed fans can see through the hype and bluster a mile away. They know that some gigs are instant sellers and you need to get your tickets fast for them (you can bet that tickets for the inevitable return of Future Islands to Dublin next year will go fast after their Vicar Street shows). They know that other shows won’t be as much in demand so they can hold back a while before commiting to those. They know there will be a Ticketmaster van outside Croker next June flogging Script tickets if the mood takes them to trundle along for the show.

All of which means a sea-change for promoters, especially those promoters who spend more time listening to the artist and their agents, rather than the audience. Promoting gigs is a tough, dog eat dog business. While there’s definitely some class of upswing in advance ticket sales again, this doesn’t mean it will lift all boats. There is still work to be done to shift that inventory.

The huge growth of social media in recent years gives promoters a brilliant, efficient, cheap communications channel to push their shows. On social media, everything is “awesome” and “best gig ever” so you don’t have to deal with pesky, annoying, cynical, questioning hacks. But when things go wrong, that “best gig ever” becomes “the worst thing ever” and the criticisms and denouncements come with a venom which can be nigh on impossible to stop, as the Samhain festival promoters found out last week. Even their latest effort to assuage unhappy punters, a process of working out what went wrong with an “external reviewer”, has attracted criticism. When social media bites back, you can’t win.

Welcome, then, to the age of the sussed music fan. They’ve heard and distilled all the commentary about a changing music industry and have come to their own conclusion about the state of the business. They can see and scythe through most of the hype which surrounds a big gig or release and wrap things up in 140 characters or less. Sure, you still have a sizeable number of “best gig ever” merchants out there, giddy just at the idea of paying €42.05 to see a band go through the motions for an hour, but the coterie of fans who have become quite knowledgable about how this industry really works is growing and noticeable.

How promoters will react to this will be interesting to see. Some will stick to their guns and continue to make sure the acts are happy because they reckon that this will trump all. Punters will still pay to see their faves like AC/DC and Foo Fighters when they arrive in Ireland next summer.

But it’s the promoters who recognise the fact that it’s the audience who pay the bills week in and week out and who pay them some respect on the back of that who will also gain a win from this. Of course, you can’t have the audience without the act in the first place, but acts looking for a long-term run will realise that you can’t – and shouldn’t try to – fool all the fans all the time.