Remember ‘Home Taping is Killing Music’? The old cassette and cross-bones on your record sleeve? Well we’ve moved on since then.
I think it’s fair to say that downloading has pretty much killed music – ok, well almost.
Thanks to the internet, the music industry has been thrown into a state of flux and now musicians and bands from the top to the bottom rely on money from live shows to pay the bills. Yes – we have mundane bills to pay too, from the mortgage to beans on toast!
There’s only one problem. Unless you are lucky enough to be ‘loved’ enough to be playing the local ‘enormodome’ with tickets selling at £60 a pop, you will probably find yourself – like me and many of my peers – playing smaller music clubs across the country.
It’s a great circuit. I love it. But now ‘Not Buying Tickets in Advance’ is killing music.
Walking up and paying on the door is par for the course for many fans of live acts that can attract good numbers, but probably won’t sell out. So come the night, if it’s raining or the punter just can’t get off the sofa, its easy not to bother.
The problem is that small promoters get nervous, chew their nails and cancel the gig if they don’t sell enough in advance. It’s understandable for small venues that operate on very tight margins. If a small 200 capacity venue does only about 50 tickets, you can see why they get twitchy when they are thinking about paying barstaff, turning the lights on and providing power for a couple of Marshall stacks, bass rig, lights and lots of energy sapping racks of stuff on stage that people wonder what the hell they do.
Ok I hear you. Why not just be better and you won’t have that problem as fans will flock to hear you? Well in any artistic pursuit, you have to take criticism on the chin and I can take it – ouch! But this is a problem I hear from bands and solo performers across the country, who like me are growing old with their audience. I won’t name them but you will have heard of plenty of them.
The economic crash and tightening of the purse strings has taken its toll too of course, but the hangover from this is that gig fans are being a bit more choosy and not buying tickets is the negative result.
The other casualty is full band shows. It’s no surprise that more artists are performing solo rather than with a full band. Fees have gone down in the last few years so it is easier to take less risk with booking a solo performer. Fine for someone like me who plays and sings, but not so good for some artists with one string to their bow. Ultimately the audience suffers. While I love the intimacy of the solo gigs, you can’t beat rocking out with the full band.
It’s not just the small venues that tread a fine line. I’m playing the Willowman Festival this summer in North Yorkshire, which is a cracking small traditional rock festival ran by one man with the help of volunteers and friends.
Talking to the gang it’s very frustrating that increasingly, with each passing year, more and more people pay at the door rather than buy tickets in advance. The numbers end up the same in the end, but it puts the organisers under a great deal of pressure in the run up as they work out how many toilets to order, how much security, fencing, lighting, and so on.
The message is simple. If you want to keep live music alive and kicking in small venues, cough up for the ticket early and persuade a bunch of mates to go with you. You’ll have a good time – even if the band is not up to snuff. That’s part of the fun! Beer + Music + Friends = good times. So if you see a gig you like, buy a ticket! Otherwise it might not be on when you get there!
BIO: Between 1984 and 1990, Ian McNabb released five albums with his band The Icicle Works and hit the UK Top 20 with the hit single Love is a Wonderful Colour. The band also hit the top 40 in the USA and Canada with the single Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly). Since The Icicle Works disbanded in 1990, Ian released 10 solo albums including his most recent release, Eclectic Warrior. He had major solo success with the celebrated Head Like a Rock album, which was nominated for a Mercury music prize and featured Neil Young’s backing band Crazy Horse, who Ian toured with in 1994.
Ian McNabb’s latest album Eclectic Warrior is available on CD direct from