17 September 2009

Why I'm flipping Them Crooked Vultures the bird.

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.


Laura said...

Is it just me or has the fan culture changed in the past few decades?
I've recently been leafing through some music magazines from the early 90's and it just seems so different - all the musicians come across a bit arrogant and rebellious in the interviews. Today it's about being politically correct and if not, all your actions must still be planned if you're in a (popular) band.

My Aural Fixation said...

Laura, in the '80s bands were outrageous and we adored them that way (at the time) because they were living the life we couldn't have. It was only decades later when the true stories about their drug and alcohol addictions surfaced - and other dangerous behaviour - that we realised these people couldn't handle instant fame. In the '90s, we had the Trent Reznors and Kurt Cobains who always treated the media particularly with disrespect - in the '80s, musicians really had been the media's whores. When this new seemingly rebellious breed performed, although they abused the crowd or seemed abusive by nature, the crowd loved it, because it was anti-establishment behaviour and rock stars were meant to be rebels. These days, I think many bands have become so obsessed with perfecting their marketing plans and public images they forget it's the chips in the armour that sometimes garners fans because people can identify with it. A lot of bands I see now are too smooth, there's no personality showing, and it's almost more about the merchandise and image than the music. Maybe it's media training, maybe it's their PR machines? Whatever, it's homogenising bands and when you have homogenisation and you don't stand out...what is there to fall in love with? I used to see it at work all the time with a certain age group (I don't buy into the Gen Y hype/anti-hype generally, but this was 100% relevant in my particular field of employment): they looked fantastic, could talk themselves up in interviews etc, really came across as knowing their stuff. Get them in the job, and they were as dumb as pigshit. This may explain the situation you described as some younger musicians place more emphasis on their branding instead of creating quality music because the substance isn't there in the first place so they're banking on their looks and image getting them by. Let's hope this superficiality goes out of fashion very soon, although I am still waiting with breath that is baited...