Local Rhythms – Greed Bites Babs

ticketbastard.jpgAdapted from an earlier post, from the September 21 2006 Claremont Eagle Times

Ticketmaster, king of the concert cartel and ruiner of live music worldwide, is now in the innocuously named “secondary” market. Meaning that they’ve started carving off their best seats and marking them up ahead of ticket Mafia rackets like StubHub.

They even host a web site for customers to re-sell tickets. Now, instead of fans waiting on line for a chance to see their favorite performers, or cheer on the home team, speculators compete for a chance to hit the lottery. Ticketmaster keeps a percentage of every sale, what Tony Soprano might call a “vigorish,” if he were less cultured.

But apart from big dogs like Streisand, Madonna, Clapton and their ilk, the concert market is actually tanking. Oh, there’s a Dane Cook or two every year, but nothing lasts for long. Ask John Mayer, whose double bill tour with Sheryl Crow this summer played to half-full houses.

You wouldn’t know it from Ticketmaster’s bottom line, but most musicians are learning a hard truth. Ticket sales are falling while total revenue is climbing. There are big shows, but fewer of them, and going to see live music has turned into a trip to Disney World for most people. Sadly, that experience now has about as much to with music as Jack Sparrow does with naval history.

Barbra Streisand invented this kind of gouging back in 1994, when tickets to her MGM Grand shows passed a then-unprecedented 100 dollars. It seems like most shows have cost north of that forever, but Babs opened the floodgates.

Conservatives hate Streisand for her politics; I despise her for that.

Now she’s out on tour, for one last cash grab before her pipes sag along with everything else. But it’s not 1994. Her die-hard fans are, to put it as gently as possible, dying.

Worse yet, it seems that Barbra’s also losing her money mojo. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that with $750 face prices, “sales have been slow, with excellent seats going unsold in Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio and other cities. This, in turn, has undercut Ticketmaster and Ms. Streisand’s efforts to sell some of those seats at auctions for even higher prices.”

Streisand and Ticketmaster passed the century threshold by rationalizing that if scalpers were getting big money, they were entitled to some too. Now they’re marking up marked-up tickets, and whining when no one wants to buy them. Meanwhile, some performers have a hard time selling seats at any price.

Tom Petty was right. Thank god for the clubs, where real music, not money, is still king:

Thursday: Richard King & Friends, Sunapee Coffeehouse – Still in their temporary quarters at the Knowlton House, this area resource is putting the call out for community support. Without it, their last show will be November 9. Tonight, it’s a mix of oldies and folk, with a few originals as well. Cosy Sheridan, a well-known and talented folksinger, is due October 12. Interested supporters should call 603-763-2668.

Friday: Spiral Farm Band, Sophie & Zeke’s – Named after their Putney, Vermont farm, this group deftly channels “O Brother Where Art Thou.” They’ve become so popular at this downtown Claremont restaurant that the third Friday of the month is now theirs for the playing. The music starts at eight, and it’s such a hit that reservations are recommended if you want to sit close to the band.

Saturday: Stonewall, Heritage Tavern – Former Ingrid’s Ruse drummer (and famous organ donor) Shamus Martin has been working with Stonewall on a new album, as well as putting the finishing touches on his former band’s first and last CD. There’s a Ruse release party scheduled at Heritage October 21. Tonight, it’s straight up rock from a great three piece band.

Sunday: Chris Smither, Higher Ground – This should be a special show. Opener Ollabelle worked with Smither on his latest CD, so the chemistry should be right. But the best reason to see this show is Smither, who’s making the best music of his career right now. The man’s living proof that there’s life after 60.

Tuesday: Aerosmith/Motley Crüe, Tweeter Center – A major double bill like this is a certain sellout, right? Nope. There’s still tickets left, even though each of these bands once had the star appeal to fill larger buildings all by themselves. Steven Tyler had some health scares earlier this year, but his singing at the Hatch Shell last Fourth of July was entertaining, though a bit surreal.

Wednesday: Thomas Dolby, Iron Horse – Here’s a fun fact: “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first clip aired on MTV, was originally recorded by Bruce Wooley & the Camera Club, Dolby’s first band. Later, Thomas managed to get his own stuff on MTV, and be a mystery keyboard guest on Def Lepperd’s “Pyromania.”

One thought on “Local Rhythms – Greed Bites Babs

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