Greedy Artists Hide Behind Their “Fans”

screwedI’ve long suspected that musicians were profiting from the so-called secondary concert ticket market.  How else to explain the availability of premium seats on Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange site literally seconds after they go on sale?  The site is advertised as a “fan-to-fan” source for the best ducats, which is a joke.  These people are speculators , not fans.

But it turns out that the speculators are the artists themselves, according to a story in the WSJ.  After discussing how Neil Diamond and Celine Dion profited from the practice, writer Ethan Smith added:

Selling premium-priced tickets on TicketExchange, priced and presented as resales by fans, is a practice used by many other top performers, according to people in the industry. Joseph Freeman, Ticketmaster’s senior vice president for legal affairs, says that the company’s “Marketplace” pages only rarely list tickets offered by fans.

The vast majority of tickets are sold by the artists and their promoters with the cooperation of Ticketmaster.

That’s not the sleaziest part.  These greedy rock stars – the article named Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and the upcoming Elton John/Billy Joel tour, but no doubt there are many more – masquerade as fans:

The ticket listings are offered in small batches, each at a price, such as $1,164.01, that mimics prices set via online auctions. After inquiries from The Wall Street Journal, the “tickets posted by fans” message was removed from the TicketExchange Web site. Prices also fell, narrowing the gap between Ticketmaster and TicketExchange Marketplace.

Yeah, big surprise.  Here’s another non-shocker:

Spokesmen for Bon Jovi and Ms. Dion had no comment. A spokesman for Van Halen said that the band could not be reached. A booking agent for Messrs. Joel and John did not respond to requests for comment.

For years, groupies tried to screw rock stars.  Now the rock stars are screwing the fans.

Local Rhythms – Stretching Your Music Dollar

motvbbk08It costs over 150 bucks for an open-air seat at this summer’s (rain or shine) Jimmy Buffett show.  Tickets for the Elton John/Billy Joel double bill at Gillette Stadium in July run north of $200, after fees and parking are counted.  Britney Spears wants $250 for her trainwreck tour stop next month at Mohegan Sun.

Before you blow your vacation fund on a night with a diva or a dinosaur, answer this – what else could all that money buy?

I’ll do the math for you.

If you skip Fleetwood Mac ($175), you can see Chris O’Brien/Jenee Halstead (2/28), Seth Glier (3/13), Richard Shindell 3/25) and Mary Gauthier (4/19) at Boccelli’s.  You’ll still have enough left over for a four-day Roots on the River pass (6/11-14).

All cheaper than Sir Elton and Billy.

Rosanne Cash will play songs from her new album (“The List”) at the lovely Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine on July 16. Blow off Britney, spend the night with a mature woman, and get a “getaway package” including dinner and Inn at Crystal Lake accommodations, transportation to the show, primo seats and breakfast in the morning.

Or how about four consecutive nights of great music in Burlington?  On Thursday, April 11, catch Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Americana chanteuse Tift Merritt Friday and the tuneful Felice Brothers on Saturday.

Wrap up the long weekend with headbanging from Sevendust on Sunday.

That’s four Higher Ground shows, at around 20 bucks each, leaving enough for a hotel room, all for less than the cost of a Motley Crüe “Diamond” ticket at the Verizon Wireless Center ($334.00, 3/17).

Phish twilight zone victims (thousands of fans got dumped from queues by Live Nation computers before they could buy seats for the upcoming reunion tour) now face scalper prices in the hundreds of dollars.

Bummer, dude.

How about a NoHo jam band trifecta instead? See Max Creek at Pearl Street (3/13, $15), then moe (3/29, $26) and Umphrey’s McGee (4/8, $25) at the Calvin Theatre.  Buy a bootlegger’s recording machine with the money you save.

Great shows are coming to area opera houses, any combination of which is a better deal than seeing Jimmy Buffett in the rain.  In May, Natalie MacMaster performs in Claremont, while the Dublin City Ramblers (3/10), bluesman Joe Bonamassa (4/5) and the Indigo Girls (4/11) are slated to visit Lebanon.

Times are tough – stretch that dollar.  Here are some additional entertainment bargains:

Thursday: Open Mike With Tad Davis, Jesse’s – A new venue jumps into the open mike game.  Singer/songwriter Davis is an excellent choice for ringmaster.  He emcees at Skunk Hollow, and entertains at a range of area nightspots, including Firestones and Casa del Sol.  He even plays on his nights off – I saw Davis step away from his dinner to play a few tunes at Sophie & Zeke’s a few nights ago.

Friday: Jen Crowell & The Woods Vehicle, Brattleboro Museum and Art Center – Crowell opened last June’s “Concert for the Cause” at the Lebanon Opera House and got a great response.  This is a CD release party for “Cold Front,” a record that has a little bit of country (“Hey Dixon”) and a whole lot of soul, a quality that her old band (Grace Potter & the Nocturnals) lost in spades when Jen left.

Saturday: Red Hot Juba, Salt hill Pub – These guys exude Dixieland, blues and a maple-flavored hybrid they call “Green Mountain Swing.”  It’s a unique sound that earned them the title of “fastest rising band” in their hometown of Burlington. With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching (the Pub is co-sponsor of the aforementioned Dublin City Ramblers show), things are heating up on the Green.

Sunday: Kris Kristofferson, Colonial Theatre – Rhodes scholar, actor, veteran – he turned down a professorship at West Point to try songwriting.  “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Loving Her Was Easier,” “Me & Bobby McGee” – guess that worked out OK.  The 72-year old Kristofferson is still at it, releasing albums (2006’s excellent “This Old Road”) and acting, most recently playing Jennifer Aniston’s dad in “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Monday: Parliament/Funkadelic, Higher Ground – If James Brown was the Godfather of Soul, then George Clinton is the Sultan of Funk.  So what’s he doing on a CMT reality show, for goodness’ sake?  He released an album last year with guests Carlos Santana, Sly Stone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his 1993 single, “Paint the White House Black,” is quite prescient now. He doesn’t need to go country.

Wednesday: Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Briggs Opera House – Nathan Lane channeled Sid Caeser in the Broadway (and later television movie) version of this Neil Simon memoir of his early days as a writer on “Your Show of Shows.”  There’s a serious undercurrent of creeping McCarthyism in this humorous play, which opens tonight.

Local Rhythms – The New Gilded Age

A little over 100 years ago, Thorstein Veblen published “A Theory of the Leisure Class,” and introduced a new term to the popular lexicon. “Conspicuous consumption,” wrote Veblen, happens when rich people spend their money simply to get attention.

That pretty much sums up the big concert market, where idiots routinely drop 500 bucks on tickets, and then spend most of the show sending cell phone videos to their friends who couldn’t get in.

Then there are the foie gras-gutted hedge fund managers attending the London/Liverpool Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, jamming at Abbey Road with Jack Bruce and Bill Wyman – for a mere 16 grand.

Travel’s not included, but of course the souvenir DVD is.

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, along comes Social@Ross, a series of five concerts set for this summer in East Hampton, New York

“Everyone’s a VIP here,” coos the ad. Seats are limited to 1,000 for each performance by Billy Joel, James Taylor, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty and Prince, and sold only one way – in blocks of five, at an unheard-of $15,000 each.

Talk about staying one step ahead of StubHub.

The web site talks vaguely of “social consciousness,” but with a background of Porsche grilles and polo players clad in bicep garters, it’s hard to believe such charity is anything more than bringing the leftover hors d’oeuvres to the local soup kitchen after the party.

The promoter has made it clear that he’s in it to raise money for himself. One only hopes that the musicians believe their payday is worth the price of their integrity. That a guy like Petty is participating is nothing short of appalling. He once refused to let MCA release “Damn the Torpedoes” because they wanted to raise the list price by a dollar. Now this?

Of course, the rest of the hoi polloi will pay prices that are a little closer to earth when these artists come to the football stadium – if we want to. I sure don’t.

$15,000 only buys proof that you’re stupid (or rich) enough to waste that kind of money, not intimacy or credibility.

You want to get up close and personal with rock and roll? Jump into a Hexerei mosh pit sometime, or hit the dance floor when the Gully Boys start to jam. That’s real- as is this:

Thursday: Battle of the Bands Finals, Shenanigans – I took a bit of heat for supporting this club’s decision to switch up their live music, but still stand by my words. Tonight three bands compete for a cash prize and a bigger payday as Saturday’s headliner. Word is that there’s another competition planned for June. More local music – that’s my priority. You can read what the people who disagree with me think on my blog. It is, after all, a free country.

Friday: Blue Monday, Salt Hill Pub – To inject a little heat into the cold winter, the Tuohy brothers began offering a Monday night blues jam last January. The chemistry of those eveninigs led to the formation of this band, which includes members of other area groups. Next Thursday, the weekly sessions begin anew at Salt Hill. Here’s a taste for those who can’t wait.

Saturday: Joe Stacey & Ezra Veitch, Boccelli’s – A founding member of Ingrid’s Ruse and a permanent fixture at the Windham when it was open, Ezra tried to leave town last year. Fortunately for area music fans, Arkansas didn’t agree with him, and after nursing a hand injury that sidelined him for a bit, he’s back playing local stages. Stacey’s a fine songwriter who has performed with Ezra going back to 2001, so they should click nicely.

Sunday: Memorial Day Picnic, Heritage – Ten dollars buys some great barbeque and performances from three of the area’s best bands. Stonewall (who may be a bit winded if they win the Shenanigans battle mentioned above), Sun King and erstwhile local champs the Highball Heroes all play. Hopefully, the sun will shine, as it’s an outdoor affair. The Charlestown restaurant will raffle off prizes, and probably hand out a few free beer cozies.

Monday: Strange Creek Campout, Greenfield – Big fun for the tie-dyed. This three-day event begins Saturday, with an array of talented jam bands like Max Creek, Strangefolk and the Ryan Montbleau Band. 42 performers for 85 bucks – take that, Tom Petty. There’s a little bit of everything for everybody.

Wednesday: Colin McCaffrey, Canoe Club – His band, the Stone Cold Roosters, just celebrated a CD release party at Skunk Hollow last Friday, and Colin kicks out the jams with his Zydeco combo at Middle Earth in a couple of weeks. But tonight, the KUA grad strips things down their essence, playing songs from his solo efforts. Fans of Tom Rush and James Taylor won’t be disappointed.