7/21: THE TOURING BUSINESS IN 2015 & THE FUTURE?
Really interesting reading some of Kerry King’s comments about the current Mayhem tour (now in the news section) which features Slayer and King Diamond as headliners. The owner of the festival had made some comments about how difficult it is to keep viable metal acts that draw on a bill while also keeping costs down. He also made some comments about metal and the fans saying some of the artists have gotten “fat and bald and scared off girls” (not like girls were ever the driving force in this genre of metal!). Kerry is one of the most unfiltered people I have ever known in this business. He simply speaks his mind and always did. The tour is clearly struggling to draw and Kerry’s latest comments were basically saying it was not booked correctly. Was really interesting to see the leader of the headlining band on a Summer package tour being this honest. This all speaks to a bigger disturbing trend I can’t quite figure out. MANY bands at all levels being booked in venues they shouldn’t be in. I don’t know if it’s a by product of too many venues, too many bands on the road, or just too many bands over touring (a huge issue I think and a by product of no money from record sales), but every day I am scratching my head about concert bills I am hearing about at all levels in venues they should not be in. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Slayer (now half original) and King wouldn’t be a big amphitheater draw. It’s not a knock on any act, it’s just common sense. But promoters are in a tough spot. They need these festivals and branded tours to go out, but they also can’t got to the next level of talent booking because it would destroy the tickets being affordable. I get that. What I don’t get is club acts in theaters, theater acts in arenas, etc. I would much rather see a band in a setting with a vibe and packed house full of energy than an arena curtained in half or half empty. Or a show that is “papered”, the industry term for giving away a ton of tickets just to make money on beer sales and get bodies in the room. You have no idea how many shows I am asked to help “paper” all the time because they are stiffing. It’s not the artists fault for the most part. It really falls on the agents and promoters to know what they are buying and know if people will care. There is no amount of marketing anyone can do if people don’t want to see a band or have seen them too often. And although a largely papered show may give the appearance of people in the building, it is also easy to feel in the room since most are indifferent because they got in for free. It’s a catch 22 in some ways. Bands need to tour because tickets and merch are pretty much their primary income, but too many tour too much and as a result their draw has been shot. You’re seeing it at the festival level as well. There are a ton of them now, many with very similar bills. Something the organizers of Download in the UK (a huge yearly event) recently discussed as an emerging issue in the business. The idea of a festival was to be a special destination gig. Now they are everywhere. A rock themed cruise used to be unique, now there are many of all genres. It’s just massive over saturation and will impact the little guys more, because the big super acts will for the most part always be able to sell.
Which leads to the next question; what happens when the super acts are done? AC/DC, likely the last tour I would think. As it is there was no real tour, more special scattered stadium dates. Brian is 68? Aerosmith? Tyler as great as he is is 68 and now looking toward country. Sabbath, likely done as far as touring but maybe another run? Van Halen? Anything can happen and it was surprising to read in a recent Billboard article the current tour has been a bit soft in some places selling tickets (apparently ticket prices an issue here as well). Rush? Pretty much done touring. Kiss? Believe what you want but they haven’t been a headline arena act in the US since 2000. Which is why they have co-headlined sheds (and a huge difference between sheds and arenas by the way) for the most part here. Regardless they are likely near the end for what’s left of the original band. Motley? Done in a few months. And they got a huge pop playing the Farewell card and wisely had a name legend opening all the dates. Priest? Said they were done, pulled a reverse, and are hanging in a bit more. But they have not been a full arena headline in a long time here. Maiden? Maybe the biggest global metal act along with Metallica. New album coming and dates in 2016, but these guys are not getting younger and Bruce already had a major health scare and we don’t know yet how he will recover from it. Bon Jovi? Like them or not a massive global stadium act even with just 3 original members. How much more does Jon want to work in his early 50s and with other interests? Where are the next true headliners?
Metallica is erratic as far as how much they play and making new music. But that actually may work to their favor since they far from over tour. You have to hope bands like A7X, FFDP, etc, continue to grow. Foo Fighters are clearly the biggest rock act out there right now and cross over to many genres appealing to rock and metal fans. But outside of Foos, and what Metallica has left in the tank, we really need to hope some of these emerging guys warming up in the bullpen can graduate to the big big leagues. Which leads to an even bigger question. Is that even possible now the way the music is and the way it’s consumed? For a while it was trying to sell downloads. Now that seems to be abandon in favor of just hoping people LISTEN to the music. That’s what streaming is. Don’t even own it, give us nothing, just listen to it! So music has become so devalued today that I wonder if that translates and stagnates an artists potential to even become huge again? This is all just out loud thinking and I welcome your comments and thoughts here. But one thing that does bother me (besides the lack of regard for physical ownership of music) is seeing artists booked in venues they have no business being in, and people saying; “look, I told you rock was dead”. Nobody’s rooting for this stuff more than me. But we have to hope there is a new generation to carry the flag and people embrace new artists they are hearing that they like so the next generation of rock and metal fans has something to celebrate. We are at the tail end of what’s left of the golden era of rock and metal from the 70’s and the 80’s. As for 90’s guys? Foos rule that pack and Pearl Jam are certainly alive and more than well. Soundgarden still viable, but not that consistent as far as playing. AIC? Same deal. Pumpkins and Manson? Currently co headlining sheds. Foos and Pearl Jam the biggest from that era. So where are we at 10 years from now? I wonder and curious what you guys think? Let’s hope there is a kid in his garage somewhere right now with a guitar that has the answer..