Attending the Big Sound Summit recently, I was mesmerised by the sage advice from one Mr Glenn Wheatley, particularly on the issue of gig pricing. He said that promoters have to be really careful about pricing out bands by charging ridiculously exhorbitant ticket prices, as it's a very dumb way to alienate fans. I agreed wholeheartedly.
And I agree 100% particularly on this lovely morning after persevering the banal and seemingly never-ending marketing campaign for Them Crooked Vultures, the latest supergroup comprising Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters and various other collaborations), Josh Homme (QOTSA et al), and John Paul Jones (Led Zep). I logged into Ticketmaster to buy my tickets on pre-sale and discovered that Frontier Touring is charging $104.50 plus booking fees for the Brisbane gig.
This comes on the tail of paying over $40 PER TICKET more (over $150 per ticket) to attend the 2010 Soundwave Festival, compared to 2009 prices. And the only reason I'm doing that is because I have never seen Faith No More and they're headlining it. One of those "blink and you'll miss it" moments. I also have the utmost respect for Mike Patton as a musician and individual; he's always been someone who gives his best and creates constantly interesting and unusual music. He appears to me to have something called artistic integrity.
But I will not pay $104.50 to see a band purely because one person from Led Zeppelin is in it. That's the reason they think they can get away with this, right? Because I think the last time I saw QOTSA, comparatively, it cost me $50. Promoters charge these prices because they know Australians will pay them, because we're grateful we've been remembered at all. That makes us suckers. What I wonder is if similar prices are charged in Japan...which isn't very far away, if you think about it.
Them Crooked Vultures was only created this year. We've only seen small snippets of their songs on YouTube and the most we've heard about them is about Frontier's marketing of their forthcoming tour, with all the vulture posters hanging around and the constant tweets and emails. Getting we Australians all excited about the mere fact that a "supergroup" would be blessing our strange and far away shoreline when these days, many bands consider us too far away to bother. Just like the '80s all over again...
But is it right that, for being somewhat geographically isolated, we the fans deserve to be taken advantage of financially, especially considering many of us (yours truly included) have recently found ourselves unemployed and ineligible for Centrelink payments (ah, if only they measured the TRUE unemployment numbers). In other words, we're living off our savings and when they run out, we're screwed...or maybe THEN the government will consider helping out...god bless 'em.
For me, Soundwave tickets were a major expense and a gamble that I will be gainfully employed soon...as in, by next year. Otherwise, my money tends to be spent on such frivolous excesses as ridiculously high rent, electricity, gas, food...you know, those silly little things we unemployed really should learn to live without.
So why would Frontier and Them Crooked Vultures - consisting of band members who USED to be anti-corporate, angry young men who would've flipped the bird at the prospect of spending this much money on one band - think that $104.50 to see a band which hasn't released an album yet is even viable? I mean, who would do such a crazy thing? Well, their UK tour sold out in around 12 minutes. I'm sure this tour will sell out in record time too. Why, I ask?
Sure, there's the potential their music, from what I've seen, rocks out. But to be honest with you all, I'd much rather pay $10 to see a local, unsigned band do something innovative and real for the love of the craft, instead of the desire to get rich quick.
In my opinion, some bands and practically ALL promoters have become exceedingly greedy and I believe soon, the fan revolution will begin. People will begin to wisen up and realise they're being taken advantage of. I hope. And maybe then, musicians will realise there is a balancing act to be perfected here, if they wish to have any fans at all.