01 January 2010

Why Piracy Actually Does Affect Concert Prices...

"so if you want ticket prices to go down stop stealing music."
@irvingazoff, Aug 3rd.

Skip the Twitter fireworks and ridiculousness for one second. And there's plenty ahead. But Irving's opening Twitter salvo makes a good point. Because the concert industry is suffering partly because of piracy and its resulting havoc on recording sales.

Turns out that the seemingly-separate subdivisions of the music industry are actually quite interrelated. Often scarily so, and the sinkhole happening in recordings is actually dragging areas like publishing and even touring with it. This is a body with highly interconnected organs and appendages.

Once upon a time, the thinking was that artists would simply make their money on the road, by delivering a unique and controllable experience. Forget about the recording, that was so easily duplicated, stolen, and devalued. But the live performance! That's where the unique, one-of-a-kind experience happens, the memory of a lifetime. So artists were urged to simply give away the recording, jump in the van, and enjoy the fruits of a tweaked model.

Except, every artist embraced this advice. And, artists started leaning disproportionately on touring to generate more and more revenue. This is partly why they demand such a huge cut from the ticket price!

Oh, and then the Great Recession put the accelerator on the entire mess. Artists needed more cash, but fans suddenly had much, much less. Get the picture?

And this is not just about the biggest touring artists, Irving's roster. Labels used to give developing artists touring support, to work the chops and stimulate local followings. And, smaller independent or unsigned acts could stuff themselves into a van and struggle from gig to gig.

Actually, that of course still happens, but a critical moneymaker is now subtracted from the equation. Namely, the CD. Yes, it turns out that the album freefall has had a huge impact on merch table revenues. Once a small-but-meaningful purse for otherwise starving artists, the decimation of in-venue CD sales has switched the touring math considerably.

So, is piracy responsible for higher ticket prices? Like most things in this industry, the answer is quite complicated. But the devaluation of recordings is factoring into the current concert crisis more than it would seem.

But outside of a time machine, the solutions are limited. The file-swapping kitty has been out of the bag since 1999, and its milk long since spilled. This is not an issue Live Nation can solve, but ticket prices (and service fees) must be adjusted nonetheless. That's the market today, and that's what Irving and Live Nation can actually control.

Paul Resnikoff, Publisher, DigitalMusicNews.com

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More