some good news about the scalping battle

We know about scalping.  We know it’s bad.  We know that it’s just too much trouble and too much cost to go see a nationally touring act.  I won’t talk about why, I did that here.  Ok, will sum up super quick.  90% of concert tickets NEVER go onsale.  AND… they are long gone BEFORE the public onsale happens.  That last 10% is gotten not by fans but by computer programs that resourceful scalpers use.  They can ping Ticketbastard 100 a minute, whereas your slow dialing ass can do it once.

Let’s instead look at if it can be fought, and is anyone doing anything about it.

First… can it be fought?  Yes, but only by sucky and complicated means that are NOT consumer friendly.  To stop scalping, you can

  • Require the ID or credit card of the credit card that bought the ticket. This is essentially making an entire concert will call.  This means where you used to have 5 ticket takers… JUST taking tickets… you could move 20,000 people into an arena.  Now imagine if EVERY one of those tickets has to be verified with an ID.  Imagine standing in line behind 10 drunk women fumbling through their purses looking for their ID as you hear the opening band start up.  In many venues, this IS being done.  In fact, with an AXS show… it is the upside down world.  Instead of going to a show and they take your ticket… you show up with NO ticket… and they print your ticket at the door.
  • Print people’s names on the ticket. No one is doing this, and (seriously) I came up with this idea myself.  I could be done SO goddamn easily.  This way, TM could justify their ‘convenience’ charge.

Either one of these solutions suffers because it means you can’t give away or sell tickets.  Or buy them as a gift for a friend.  Which one do I prefer, knowing everything I know?  Neither.  Shoot the scalpers in the fucking head.  Same with TM, for sanctioning and embracing, and encouraging scalpers with their own scalper site ‘Ticketsnow.com’

What is the alternative?  Sadly, it is simple.  Stop going to concerts.  Stop patronizing scalpers.  Like the drug trade, this is kinda all our fault.  As long as some asshole is willing to pay $4,000 to see Adele… we ALL have to pay that.  Note, if I could afford that… I would pay it.  Adele is bitchin, and likely won’t tour again for a LONG time.  That is not faint praise, the last 4 concerts I went to… 3 of them were Iron Maiden.

Why aren’t the artists and managers and all that fighting for us?   Why would they?  As long as tickets are being sold, they are good.  It is likely better for their bottom line when ALL tickets sell out… even if a venue is only half full during the show.   Some artists are fighting back, though.  Here are their badass and commendable ideas and fights.  What is cool and interesting is every one of these bands took a different tact.  Spoiler alert… none have been effective –

 

So… let’s look at the good news and good dudes/dudettes who are fighting the good fight

Pearl Jam – back in the early 90s, they wanted to keep ticket prices at $10.  Not just the face value… but the total cost at the end of the day after fees and such.  Ticketmaster laughed, and they have a monopoly on the venues due to contracts.  So, PJ filed a DOJ anti trust suit, and then testified in front of fucking Congress.   The balls on those kids.  Even today, 20 years later, no band has taken such extreme measures.  Sadly, the effort fell flat.  There was supposed to be a whole slew of A-listers to show up and support them.  Their record companies and various suits warned the artists not to piss of TM… with the monopoly and all.  So… where folks like Garth Brooks pledged to show up… NO OTHER BANDS showed up.  So, you just had 5 long hair upstarts bitching at ‘the man’.  It was dismissed, sadly.

SO… Pearl Jam said ‘fine, we’ll just sell our own tickets to our own fans… and bypass TM’.   Yeah, that SUPER didn’t work.  TM ended up writing their own legislation that fan clubs can’t have more than 10% of a venues tickets… AND said all fan clubs have to charge at least $15.

Even better?  TM got sued for not even allocating that 10%.  Also, more on that here.


NSync – did I spell that right?  Well, who cares?  You know them as a soulless boy band, and launching pad for Justin Timberlake.  Well, they care, too.  They did a tour during their heyday, and found out that NONE of their floor seats ever went on sale to the public.  It’s not just a dick move.  Knowing what we know now, not even a big deal.  BUT… they also realized they would be playing for, and facing, NOT fans.  It would be suits, and the families of suits, and radio station suits, and super rich people.  They blew a gasket and busted the whole thing wide open and told everyone.  Again, 20 years ago, this was a BALLSY move.  A band like Pearl Jam knew they could keep playing.  NSync, though, was a corporate creation.  For them to stand up to the industry that incubated them was just very cool and strong.


Prince – Prince wanted to play small clubs again.  There were 2 problems with that:  they would make a tenth of the money he could make playing mega arenas.  In fact, let’s stop here and run the numbers.  He played the Ogden theater, a cool little club of 1200.  Let’s say tickets are $100.  His gross, then, is 120K.   Great take for one night’s work, right?  Normally, someone of his status would play the ____ center.  You know, the venue where your basketball and hockey team plays.  Ours is called the Pepsi Center, and it holds 20,000.   Let’s say those tickets are also $100 each.  If he plays this venue, just a few blocks away, he grosses 2 million.

but… Prince wants to play clubs.  How does he do this and make his nut.  What can he do?  He prices the tickets are fair market value.  Those Ogden show tickets were $250 each.  Am I outraged?   No!  I am turned on!  I LOVE what Prince did, and here is why – it was incredibly innovative!  See, Prince could have charged $100.  Thing is, NO fan would get those tickets.  They would get gobbled up by presales and scalpers.  THEN… those scalpers would have charged (and easily got) $250 a ticket.  If people are willing to pay $250 to see Prince in a club (instead of a soulless mega Arena)… shouldn’t that money go to Prince?  Yes it should.  PLUS > at that price point it squeezes out the scalpers.  The scalpers would have to buy each ticket for $250, and sell it for what?  $300?  Not worth their trouble.   Prince is great, because he is one of 2 people in ALL of rock and truly do (or… did) only what they believe in.  The other is Neil Young.

String Cheese Incident – also not amused by the monopoly and mark ups.  Using a loophole where tickets could be bought for face value at the venue… String Cheese went to the venue and bought up ALL the tickets.  Then… sold them to their fans at face value.  Once again, the balls on these guys.  They also fought a couple long and ugly court battles with TM over all their bullshit.  These dudes, like everyone on this list… are heroes!  More on that here, and here, and here.  Just in case it is lost on you what they did, let’s let the band explain themselves.

One Friday afternoon recently, about 50 fans and friends of the band String Cheese Incident took $20,000 in cash to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles to take a small stand against the system — in this case, Ticketmaster.

With money advanced by the band, each person had enough to buy eight tickets at $49.95 apiece for the group’s show in July. Once all tickets were in hand, almost 400 of them, they were carried back to String Cheese headquarters in Colorado and put on sale again through the group’s Web site — for $49.95.

“We’re scalping our own tickets at no service charge,” Mike Luba, one of the group’s managers, explained in an interview last week. “It’s ridiculous.”

Fucking heroes!  Don’t worry, TM sued them, too.  It’s a great story and an interesting read.  Bonus evil TM fun?  Once they finished their total monopoly by merging with Live Nation, TM closed that loophole about the box office.  It is now MORE expensive to drive to the venue and buy tickets there (vs over the phone).  I experienced this personally, and wrote about it here.

Kid Rock – tried something fun and innovative.  He did a shed tour (its’ the half seating and half lawn venue your city has) and he capped the ticket price at $20.   AFTER FEES.  Let me demonstrate how impressive that is.  About 10 years ago, Motley Crue did a shed tour, and tickets were only $5.   Before fees.  After fees?  $25 each.  You may see $25 being a great and fair price to see Motley Crue.  You would be Correct.  Until… you see that 75% of that goes to TM.  $20 of the $25 is all service fees.   So, when Kid Rock caps the very end cost at $25… everyone has to take less.  Kid Rock explained it as “I can afford it, I am rich.  If no one shows up, I can take the loss.”  What kind of loss, you wonder?  He awesomely explained that it costs $100K for him to show up.  Keep in mind, this is cost for salaries of bus drivers and cooks and roadies and hookers.  I know Kid Rock takes a ton of shit for being a Trump flunkie, and he should.  However, it doesn’t mean he isn’t a good dude.  This stunt proved it.

This method of cost control is a very close cousin of what Pearl Jam was trying.  What did Kid Rock do different that he was able to do it, where Pearl Jam could not?  He (Kid Rock) worked with TM, instead of against them.  Every artist has been working against TM for so long (and for good reason)… that no one had tried to work with them.  Oh, and the real short answer of how this business model works?  Kid Rock gets a cut of the beers sales (which he also capped at $5).  Even though his politics are wack, I still very much enjoy ‘Devil without a Cause’.  I feel the same way about Uncle Ted.  Total psycho dickweed, politically… but it’s tough to think of a cooler song than ‘Stranglehold’.  Again, I’ll let Mr Rock (nee Bobby Ritchie) explain himself

This is a model Rock says he has been working on for a long time. “It’s always going to come down to price, but I think [from the fan’s perspective] it’s more the service charges, the fees, getting in there and not knowing what beers will cost, what they’ll hit you for parking,” he says. “Every little thing they nickel and dime you, and it’s not just music, it’s sports, it’s going to the movies. Artists demand so much money, and you have to set ticket prices at [a certain level]. Everyone’s fighting the system, and it’s really been all of our faults. We’re all fortunate to make as much money as we do, and I can surely take a pay cut and help out in these hard times.”

See, this is what is great about Kid Rock, and why I can’t hate him.  Plenty of folks talk about protecting the vaunted ‘blue collar worker and poor suffering family’… but Kid Rock actually did something.  Name someone else who has?   Trick question, the answer is no one.

Adele – wanted fans to see her show.  And only fans.  Here is the unique approach she did – no ‘holdback’ tickets.  This means she put every single ticket on sale for every show.  No tickets were held back for family, friends, promoters, fan clubs, record companies, radio stations.  How is this a big deal?  I mention in the article I referenced at the very top that 90% of tickets now to go ‘holdbacks’.  What that means, specifically, is this:  Billy Bob is going to play Red Rocks this summer.  It holds 10,000 seats.  Tickets go on sale Dec 15th, 2017.   When that onsale happens, and you log in to get tickets, 90% are already gone.  Only 1,000 tickets will actually go onsale.  When that happens, you won’t even see those 1,000 tickets.  Computer programs used by resourceful scalpers get those tickets.

Sadly, industry folks say Adele’s most excellent intentions had little effect.  Her tickets still showed up instantly on the ‘secondary’ legal scalper sites.  It’s ok, though, at least she tried something no one else has.  Fucking Hero! If you don’t like Adele, as a person, you don’t like puppies!  She drinks and curses and belches and laughs… all in concert.  She is good people!

Eric Church – several artists have canceled tickets they knew were scalped.  Most famously, the Boss.  Springsteen has canceled blocks of tickets, and encouraged use of paperless tickets (where you have to show your ID at the door).  Church, though, went nuts. He just canceled 25K tickets for his tour.  Here is why that is ‘balls’;   those 25K tickets were guaranteed money that he had in pocket.  Assuming tickets were $85 each, he walked away from 2.1 million dollars.  I gotta be honest, I have no idea who he is, and I don’t dig new county that isn’t Chris Stapleton.  But, whoever the hell this guy is… he is a hero.

That is all for now, I shall keep you posted on the good fight as it occurs.  If you know of other artists taking similar initiatives, please drop me a line.  My email is ‘I am correct at gmail dot com’ (all smooshed together, no spaces)

Friday Fives – He’s a Juicy Fire!

A mondegreen is a mis-heard lyric. What is your favorite misheard lyric? 

A boy, I got a good one. I recently bought the remastered box set of U2’s ‘Unforgettable Fire’. It is such an amazing album, and is mixed so poorly, I had great hopes. In the HUGE hit song ‘Pride in the name of Love’, in the first verse there is a sentence that goes ‘one comes here to justify’. I never knew that lyric until I got the box set last week. In the original CD, they only print the lyrics to one song, which is the first song.

Now, I was always pretty sure what I was hearing was incorrect, but listen to the song. Right now. Here, I will embed if for you. Now, go to that first verse. The exact moment is 57 seconds. I always heard ‘one man come, he a juicy fire’. Go ahead, sing that with that line. He a juicy fire. That isn’t the heart of this story.  Not anymore. Don’t worry, this story gets WAY worse.

As with all things, I was discussing this with my pal Jamie. I asked him what he heard. This is no lie. He said “I always thought he was saying ‘one man come, he set Jews on fire…’. Wow. That is brilliant, and fucked up. Obviously, it’s not brilliant to set jews on fire. It’s brilliant that that is what Jamie thought all these years, and gleefully sang along. Kinda puts my ‘juicy fire’ into perspective, doesn’t it?

A spoonerism is a deliberate (or accidental ) error in speech or words. Do you have a favorite? 

I found this to be too kitschy to interest me. So, how about another mondegreen. In ‘Every Breath you Take’ from the Police. There is a line that says ‘how my poor heart aches’. Makes sense. That is not what I heard, and I listened to this song thousands of times. This album was incredibly influential for me. Really, it changed my life more than any other album. I was such a fan of this record that my brother took me to see the Police live. It was on this tour, Synchronicity. It was their farewell tour, and they were firing on all cylinders. It was incredible. I knew that night that rock and roll was all I ever wanted. It’s what I wanted to do, to think about, to talk about, to be my job, to be my nights and weekends… all from that Police show. I was 10, I think.

FOCUS, man! What I heard was ‘how my pool hall aches’. Go ahead, watch. Its at the 50 second mark. Tell me he is not saying ‘how my pool hall aches’.


A malapropism is an incorrect word in place of another.  Can you remember one used?

This one also does not interest me. It’s strange, I am a word guy. I am super passionate about words. I got a degree in literature, that is how much I love words. Yet, I am not inspired. I think it’s because I need to just get to bed.

So, how about this? The funniest mondegreen of all time comes from Dave Barry. There was a classic great soul song called ‘ain’t no woman like the one I got’ Makes sense. Touching, and sweet. What Dave Barry brings us is this – Ain’t no woman like the one eyed Gott’.

Lastly, no conversation about mondegreens can be complete without this. My favorite band, and someone trying to figure out just exactly what the hell Eddie is singing.  In fact, there is not even an official studio version of this.  The recording we all know was done on the fly at a radio station that Ed and Mike were visiting.  Mike brought an acoustic and they knocked out two songs that day.  Both were largely improvised on the spot.  The other song was Bee Girl.

To be fair, this song never had official lyrics, and I am about 90% confident that he changes the words night to night a bit to fit his mood.

An earworm  is a snippet of catchy tune that gets stuck in your head. Do you have a common one? 

Goodwill Halloween, goodwill Halloween, goodwill halloween

Btw, I… and I alone, have pioneered a way to fix them. It will sound dumb and obvious… but it works. Your mind needs closure when this is happening. To fix the earworm, you need to listen to the song in its entirety. I have had to actually reach over to my phone in the middle of the night and download a song online and listen to it with headphones while wifey is sleeping to get closure. It works.

The Tetris effect occurs when so much time and attention is devoted to an activity it affects other parts of your life.  Do you do this? 

Really? I disagree. For me, the tetris effect is all about organization. It could be packing the back of a moving van with everything you own. Every spot counts. It could be about time management… trying to fit in all the shit you need to fit into your day. My wife is the master of tetris in real life. Need stuff packed? You just sit back, keep your hands and feet away, and watch the art.

Friday Fives – more music because my editor is a lazy bastard

I can say that, right?  I mean… it’s with love.  Plus, it’s about music.  I can hold forth all day long about music… but you poor sucks already know that, don’t you?

Who is the worst band you’ve ever seen live and why?

Flaming Lips at Red Rocks.  They were opening for someone, I don’t remember.  I was initially very excited to see them.  Wayne Coyne is famous for his great live shows.  Red Rocks is also a magical place that has coaxed amazing performances out of mediocre bands… like Radiohead.  The Flaming Lips were horrible.  I finally realized they are built on kitsch and novelty.  They are not good songwriters, they are not good musicians, and Wayne Coyne is not a good singer.  10 or 15 minutes into their set I have to leave. I went up top to drink and look at the amazing view.

See, if you go up top, the sound is horrible… which is best for the Lips.  It means it is also the quietest up there.  Red Rocks doesn’t put speakers anywhere but the base of a stage.  Normally, this would be fine… were you not on the side of the mountain.  If you are not in the first 30 rows, the sound is terrible.  This is especially true when the wind whips around, which it tends to do on the side of a mountain.

but why were they so bad?  The music just wasn’t compelling on any level.  Not catchy, nor thoughtful.  You know those kids songs Charlie Sheen’s character wrote on 2 and a half men?  It was stuff like ‘who cut the cheese?’.  Yeah, that is Flaming Lips catalog.  Anyone who likes Flaming Lips is a hipster douchebag!  Trust me, it takes one to know one.

But… any concert at Red Rocks can’t be that bad, right?  It’s like how they say a bad day fishing is better than the best day at work?  Well, they weren’t at this show.  To close, Will Rogers never met this band.

Who is the best band you’ve seen live, and why?

Oh golly, I have see a LOT of bands, and a LOT of great bands.  It is almost impossible to pick 1.  So, I’ll pick two.  This answer goes out to Cody in Utah, a month late.  Sorry on that, bud.  James Taylor and Barenaked Ladies.

James Taylor I have been seeing since high school, possibly longer.  For one, and maybe this is a given, he sounds perfect… every time.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s… every decade I have seen him he was amazing and crystal clear.  Every show gets the obvious hits.  Here is what people don’t know who haven’t seen him; he is hilarious.  He is a seriously funny and engaging guy.  I have seen comedians live, many of the great ones:  Richard Lewis, Mitch Hedberg, Lewis Black, and Brian Regan.  I have laughed that hard at every single James Taylor show.

Barenaked Ladies have always killed it live.  First time I saw them, it was the ‘Rock Spectacle’ tour, which was a very early greatest hits tour… of sorts.  I wasn’t a big fan, but I Gordon.  The internet wasn’t everywhere yet, so I hadn’t seen clips or read reviews.  After that show, I was amazed.  As everyone knows now, they are amazing live.  Funny and sweet and musical and surprisingly improvisational.

Every show becomes a very unique experience.  It becomes about your city, and current events.  I have seen them 3 or 4 times, and every show was better than the last.  I should have to mention this was all back when Steven Page was with them.  I can tell you every person who has ever seen BNL at any era with Steven Page will tell you it was the best concert they have ever seen.  I agree.

What band has your go to perfect album?

Again, SO many.  How about three?  Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti,  Guns & Roses Appetite for Destruction, and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream.

What are the best comebacks you know?

The question implies a witty rejoinder, a la ‘the jerk store called’.  In the spirit of the questions leading up to this, I will assume it is a poorly worded question about career comebacks in music.

I have been seeing bands for 30 years now (it starts with the Police in 1983 and Rush in 1985… and keeps going).  One day, ask me about the golden girl I saw at the Rush, and how that kinda changed my life. Hint, it involves boobs and a 13 year old boy. A lot of the acts I have seen were regarded as ‘comebacks’, but never left.  I saw Pearl Jam in 1997, and the critics were calling it their ‘comeback’ tour.  They never went anywhere, never broke up, and never stopped making music.  Same has been said for seeing Page & Plant together, James Taylor, and Paul Simon.  To qualify, we have to count a band who fully broke up before I saw them.  I think these guys broke up a lot.  Heck, they just re-broke up again last fall.  This time, I think it’s for good.  Greg must be in his 70s.

The Allman Brothers.  I first saw them in the late 80s.  They had already been broken up and reunited several times by then.  Over the years, I saw them more than any other band, except maybe the Grateful Dead.  I have seen both bands around 20 times.

When I count the Dead above, I am talking about with Jerry Garcia.  Since his passing, I have seen another 20 shows of their very many offshoot bands.  Also saw Bobby and Jerry solo while Jerry was alive.  Still go see Bobby every year.  Going to see him this summer, too.

The Allmans are a unique class of band that got better with age.  They are also a band that thrives live.  I say the same about Iron Maiden.  They not only get better, they get more popular.  Iron Maiden is amazing, and one of two bands I NEVER miss when they come to town (the other is Pearl Jam).  Sorry, since we are talking about great live bands, I had to get in a plug for Iron Maiden.

The radio is on and you are driving down the road, a song comes on. At what moment did you realize “Damn.. I’m getting old”?

HA… I remember the exact moment.  Wifey and I were driving through Northern Arizona on our bi annual trek to see movies.  We were in a car that likely only had a cassette deck, and we were sick of our tapes.  Maybe it was CDs, who knows?  We were searching the radio for anything.  Of course, when you are in the middle of nowhere, you only get county and bible shit.  Why is that?

FINALLY we find a good station.  Prince was on, from his Purple Rain heyday.  We were so pleased with ourselves until the dj came on.  “you’re listening to Northern Arizona’s golden oldies.”.  we listened for another hour.  We knew, and loved, every song.  We were OLD, man.  I swear we were only in our early 30s, if even that.  We are early 40s, now.

* for the record, Wayne did this.  It was cool and all, but clearly a distraction from shitty music.  Prince never had to do this.  Also, he was afraid to get passed back/up.  Reasonable, since Red Rocks is built into the side of a mountain.  Still, though, that woulda been cool.