Issue 23 Volume 1 May 2011
GO CORPORATE IF YOU WANT TO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB
Not many industries have had to contend with their product becoming free, I suppose, and record companies were always going to find the transition from being gatekeepers to value creators very difficult anyway.
In theory, as the cartels weakened opportunities arose for others. In reality, that is not really the case. As one songwriter commented to me, the competition in songwriting is, in his view, weaker than ever, but because it is easy to get product on to the market, getting quality writing heard through the general noise is harder than ever. “The situation is easier than it has ever been and harder than it has ever been,” he says.
There has been a big shift to live performance being the
focus, especially in America. Tours typically have a VIP package: a
standard $50 ticket but you can also buy a $500 ticket and go to a
cocktail party. Getting recorded music onto the airwaves or other
avenues, has become a loss leader. It is no longer a way to sell CDs,
it is a way to get people to live performances (where CDs may be part
of the merchandise, but that’s about all).
Figures from Live Performance Australia back this up. Last year, performances of non-classical music – everything from pop to heavy metal – resulted in sales of 4.7 million tickets (up 8.1 per cent) for revenue of $460 million (up 18.3 per cent). It now has the biggest share of the revenue (42.5 per cent) of the live performance industry.Splendour in the Grass costs $450 a ticket and sells over 35,000 tickets relatively quickly. Eighteen year olds are paying $1000 when you take into account the transport costs.
All well and good, but often even the most attractive acts struggle to get well paid. Less well known acts are often hardly paid at all. The usual excuse: “It is good exposure for you” is trotted out. You can die of exposure.
So where is the money? Corporate gigs are by far the best. Many big Australian acts release records not to make money from CD sales. They release them to get attention, which they then use to get corporate gigs. They are genuinely lucrative (including charity fund raisers, ironically enough). At least there is one place that musicians can do relatively well.
Bye Bye Bluesman
Matthew “Dutch” Tilders recently passed away. Frequently referred to as the “Godfather” of Australian Blues, Dutch born Tilders’ career lasted over 50 years. Perhaps the most frequently told story about the bluesman is that when he was first heard by US blues giant BB King, King was sure that Tilders was black and was apparently disbelieving when introduced!
Tilders 1981 Tilders 2006
Kookaburra still sitting in the legal tree
Having lost their appeal in the “Land Down Under/Kookabura sits in the Old Gum Tree” copyright case, EMI (see above!) are now in for another shock. The court has allowed a cross appeal by publisher Larrakin (which owns the rights to the Kookaburra ditty). The cross appeal is based on a further claim against EMI, this time for “authorising” copyright infringement by licensing use of Men at Work’s recording of “Land Down Under”.
And in yet another lawyer feeding frenzy, monster search engine Google has been fined nearly half a million Euros by a French court for letting customers access sites where the unauthorised viewing of four films (the subject of the case) was possible. This case is about films but music industry types are asking how long it will it be before someone in France attempts to apply the precedent to music.