What happens when the presale lays an egg? And when did the presale stop mattering and lose its exclusivity?

The live concert business is a mess, and we could spend hours pointing fingers and laying blame on everyone that contributes to it:

The promoters for overpaying with ridiculous guarantees years back that started this cycle

The government for allowing unrestricted resale of tickets with no cap on the multiple

The artists for their greed

The unions for making some buildings ridiculously expensive to play in

The consumer for supporting all or any of the above

But let’s concentrate right now on the presale and the shortly thereafter resale. Awhile back some artists did a cool thing, they offered advance tickets to their core fans. These were thank yous and if you were in that band’s fanclub, you got access. And that access was a great seat that would never see the public light. That access also came with a responsibility, you had to show up at the venue with your id and credit card and then enter the building. If you somehow were able to resell that ticket and were caught you would lose all future privileges. That model worked and still does; you never see the prime fan club seats for Pearl Jam or Dave Matthews on the open market, the risk of losing future access is not worth the risk.

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Can an Artist release too much music?

I started thinking about this when Social Distortion’s spectacular new album, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” came out, it’s Social D’s 7th album in close to 30 years, which is not a lot of product across 3 decades.

In comparison here’s some of the major rock artists and their output of albums and the span of years:

Beatles 12 studio albums in 8 years, plus endless compilations
Bob Dylan 34 studio albums in 49 years, and countless live albums and outtake albums
Rolling Stones 24 Studio albums in 41 years and countless complilations and live albums
Led Zeppelin 9 studio albums in 13 years plus some compilations and live albums
Pink Floyd 14 studio albums in 27 years
Bruce Springsteen 17 studio albums in 38 years plus a handful of live and outtake albums
Tom Petty 15 studio albums in 34 years plus an outtake box set and a few live albums
John Mellencamp 21 studio albums in 34 years
U2 12 albums in 30 years, plus a handful of live albums
REM 16 studio albums in 28 years plus a handful of live and compilation albums
Smiths 4 studio albums in 3 years
Replacements 7 studio albums in 9 years
Pearl Jam 9 studio albums in 20 years and hundreds of live albums
Green Day 8 studio albums in 20 years, a few live ones, and some side projects

If you notice on this list, with the exception of 5 of these acts that are no longer together for various reasons (beatles, zep, floyd, smiths, replacements) The remaining acts are on the touring circuit; but do we as fans of these artists really get representation of the artists full catalog? Or due to sheer volume of material, coupled with setlists that may not vary that much show to show or tour to tour, are we not getting our money’s worth if we support a band on each tour?

It becomes an interesting question as record sales continue to slide and the live concert business takes a hit. Take someone like Bob Dylan, he plays 100 shows a year every year and has well over 500 songs, yet he plays 20 or so a night, but in most cases half are the same as the last tour…or the Stones, as great as Exile is as an album, are there always going to be tracks that will never be heard live?

And are the endless releases and rereleases ultimately the thing that are killing sales? Does each rerelease take away from a sale of a new artist or even that artist’s new material? And does there become a point where you just stop buying? I mean it’s almost impossible to collect Bob Dylan at this point, and don’t get me started on Elvis Costello, there’s like 8 different releases with different bonus tracks of his best albums. Does anyone have any time to absorb and enjoy all of it. And does that come into play when artists do their set lists?

Pearl Jam and Springsteen and sometimes U2 always pretty much play the new album complete within that album’s tour and then sprinkle tracks from it on later tours…other acts not so much, and there’s a few ways to look at that, while people that see Bruce and Pearl Jam might not care about the setlists in terms of hits or popular songs, (I once brought a girl to a Bruce show and afterwards she said she knew 2 songs of the 30 he played and still thought it was the best show she had ever seen) fans of other bands may want to hear the hits over and over again, or at least the artists believe that…

Could Green Day do a show without “Longview”? Based on their rabid fanbase, i believe so, but they play close to 3 hours and do 30 songs so its tough to complain if a song is always on a setlist. Can the Stones get by without “Jumpin Jack Flash”? Yes, I believe they can, but when you charge $400 a ticket, I guess they feel they need to do that every night. Petty without “Running Down a Dream”? Definitely, but Petty has become lazy, despite the wealth of material he has, he’s fallen into a predictable trap and seems like he’s going through the motions on tour. If there was ever an artist at this point to build a show around a complete album, Petty is a top candidate.

I’m not sure there’s a correct answer, but as the traditional music industry is continuing to slide, first the sales crashed down, now the concert business is struggling, can any of it be saved? Is it worth saving? And how does it get saved? Maybe next week’s blog will discuss that. Remember to listen to Anything Anything Sunday nights 9pm at www.1019rxp.com

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