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boo who
talking about money generation
by greg cunningham
7.18.02
music


With a coldness that would have made Colonel Parker ashamed, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey announced that The Who tour will continue regardless of the death of original bass player John Entwistle. Barely a day after his death the two remaining band members named a replacement bass player and resumed their very lucrative concert tour. Faster than you can say ‘The Ox’, John Enthwistle got the axe, seemingly without a hiccup or a tear.

At least when The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, died in 1978 the surviving members had the dignity to postpone any decisions regarding the future of the band, including whether there could even be a Who without the charismatic Keith.

Or maybe Townshend and Daltrey just hadn’t thought to crunch the numbers.

But today you can still see and hear Roger and Pete ta…ta…talking about their generation, although the message now is very different. In 1966 it was about rebellion. In 2002 it’s about greed.

And sadly, that’s what many of the arena rock bands from the sixties are doing on their current tours. The Who are charging as much as $250.00 for main floor tickets, The Rolling Stones are charging $350.00, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are charging $250.00. Let me repeat that last line. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are charging $250.00! The same band that wrote the Woodstock anthem. And Woodstock was free!

And speaking of writing, these are all tours without new albums or new material. Historically, record contracts have favored the record companies, so rather than make money for the record executives these bands have decided to go for the big bucks on ticket prices and t-shirts. As for the fans? Sorry, how about a greatest hits CD and a $60 jersey instead?

Maybe this all got started with Woodstock. Not the free one in 1969, but rather the ‘sponsored by Chevrolet, Pepsi, and Miller Lite’ one in 1999. The one where water cost $3.50 a bottle and the audience rioted and nearly burned down the stage. Oh sure, that part was a little embarrassing for the sponsors, but boy did it pay off for the bands. After all, they didn’t get blamed. And a little bad press and several pissed off fans is a small price to pay when you consider the bottom line. The huge bottom line.

Maybe it’s time for another revolution-like John Lennon sang about years ago. You remember the one-it’s on that Nike commercial on television.


ABOUT GREG CUNNINGHAM

Mom was a militant feminist so radical she refused to serve chick peas. Dad was a lazy Mathematician best known for discovering 'rounding off'. Brother was tough as nails, working part time as a speed bump. Me, I'm a r-n-r purist,& consider anything recorded AFTER Pete Best left the band as 'not really the Beatles'. 38, single, 6' 6"' 240 white male

more about greg cunningham




COMMENTS

joe procopio
7.18.02 @ 8:22a

The music industry is in shambles, and this is part of the reason why. Bands touring without new material works in some instances, but when it becomes a boomer nostalgia trip, how many times can it pay off? The industry has always been happy to cut future intake for now intake, and that's coming home to roost.

I say great. The underground scene is thriving again, and we routinely see awesome bands for $5-$8 a pop.

sarah ficke
7.18.02 @ 10:01a

It just goes to show how much people will pay for nostalgia. When you go to see The Who now, what are you really getting? Not the original sound, obviously, and probably not a new take on the old hits, just the old hits played live so that you can feel like it's all still current.

What I'd like to see is Pete Townshend playing solo in a small club somewhere for less because he wants to share his music with others. Silly idealist me.

erik myers
7.18.02 @ 10:22a

I've got a friend who's an enormous Who fan who's going to see the remaining members of the Who next week. When I challenged him about it, this is what he said, "There were four. Keith Moon died in 1978. Afterwards, they did a couple albums with another drummer, who didn't really live up to him. They split up. Since they've resumed touring in the
last ten years, they've had Zak Starkey (Ringo's son) on drums, who's very, very good. John Entwistle died the day before the tour was to start,
and with his family's wishes, they decided to go on with the tour, being professionals and all, though Pete Townshend's statements say he's not really certain about it at all. Truth be known, of the three of them, John was probably the least obtrusive. You can have something approaching the Who without John, while you couldn't if you were missing either Roger or Pete. I'll be damned if it's gonna stop me from seeing either of them."

I don't think it's all greed, and I'll bet dollars to donuts that the prices were set my execs rather than the band.

Oh, and Woodstock wasn't free. It was crashed. People were supposed to pay, they just didn't.

But I agree, Sarah -- it goes to show how much people will pay for nostalgia. Memories are damn important things. I'd pay for it.

[edited]

greg cunningham
7.18.02 @ 10:43a

I would argue that The Who is one of the few bands whose members were all vital to their particular sound-that's not always true with bass players and drummers-just listen to the opening track on Quadrophenia-'The Real Me' the bass and drum playing make the song. They aren't the Who, anymore-they're a small step above a cover band. Just like Deep Purple's current tour without Ritchie Blackmore-since every guy who has ever picked up a guitar in his life played the riff from Smoke On The Water at least once-it's not the same

I have no problem with bands palying only for nostlgia purposes, either, without putting out new material. Have you heard the last 5 Who albums?-yuck! I'd do the same , given the choice. It beats getting a day job. But considering The Rolling Stones averaged a million dollars a night on their Steel Wheels tour when tickets were only $40.00(since most of the expenses were covered by their sponsor-a perfume company I think). At $350 a pop the band is just fleecing their fans (those who CHOOSE to shell out the bucks) I don't think it's execs making the ticket price decision, though.
You are right about Woodstock not starting out free-I remember the movie-but at least they didn't have Evian Corp. charging by the hour for skinny dipping in the lake.

erik myers
7.18.02 @ 10:51a

I'll be the first to admit that I'm out of my league to argue about The Who. I don't know enough about them, I'm just a casual fan.

However, in 15 years, if Bon Jovi goes on tour again with the only two members that aren't working at McDonalds (not that I'm comparing Bon Jovi to The Who, but I think you get my drift), I'll gladly shell out the $250 to go see them, just to relive my squandered youth.

Oh.. and also... I'd pay good money to go skinny dipping in Evian Spring Water. No leeches in uncomfortable places, and perfectly clear water. Fun.

Honestly, just because there are vendors charging $4.00 for a bottle of water doesn't mean that you have to buy it.

greg cunningham
7.18.02 @ 11:18a

It does if they don't let you bring your own water in the park. Those muggy, hot Summer outdoor events have a captured audience.

(and you know by now what Evian spells backwards).

Also, re: John's uniquness to the band-don't forget he plays the french horn throughout the 'Tommy' rock opera.



erik myers
7.18.02 @ 11:25a

But it's still your choice as to whether your gonna pony up the money, or just wait until the show is over. Nobody's forcing you to drink the water. Besides, if you're sneaky enough you can get some in. The only thing I've been denied in concert venues, thus far, is glass bottles.

Oh, and this just in from the Who fan (who I wish would just succumb and frickin' join Intrepid, already):

"And by the way, we're seeing 'em in an amphitheater. I paid something like $30 apiece for lawn seats. $250 is just silly, and is the price being set in the NYC-type venues."


adam kraemer
7.18.02 @ 11:28a

Entwistle didn't play french horn when they performed Tommy live.

Actually, I read that one of the reasons the Who was touring this summer was because Daltry and Entwistle needed the money. Because Townshend owns all the rights, he's the only one who makes money when a car commercial uses Baba O'Riley or the Overture from Tommy is used to sell allergy medicine. Besides, yes Entwistle's sound is very distinctive, but that doesn't mean it can't be copied by a very competent professional bassist. It's not like the guy has to write the music, just play the correct notes.

[edited]

brian anderson
7.18.02 @ 11:36a

Here, I have succumbed to the succubus that is Intrepid. Happy, Erik?

Why has Pete Townshend held my attention longer than most pop music groups? He changes, and the Who changed with him. The Who of 2002 is not the Who of 1978, which was not the Who of 1974 or 1969 or 1964. Unlike say, the Stones or McCartney, Townshend hasn't been doing the same thing since 1979 -- which is why he has reservations about "Who" tours as well.

Why am I going (at my $30 ticket price)? Mainly to see Pete on stage - there's precious few other times to see him, except when he does small club dates every few years (so you could get your wish, Sarah). To see Roger as well is icing on the cake. John will be missed, and it's worth noting that Pino Palladino, who was asked aboard at the last minute, was told specifically: "Don't emulate John. Just play for us."

I'm not going to see The Who of Tommy or Quadrophenia. I'm going to see Pete Townshend in his current state. I'll be disappointed if he doesn't change a thing.

michelle von euw
7.18.02 @ 11:42a

You can't see a major act for $30. Impossible. The Who's cheapest ticket prices in Minnesota are $45. In cities like NY, tickets start about $10 higher. That's for nosebleed (or lawn) seats. The music industry is completely insane and will do what they can to take our hard-earned money.

I have to agree with Joe -- the $10 bands are thriving, and that's where the real music is. In 1998, I had a much better time at a $5 Where is God? show than I did at a $90 Rolling Stones concert.

erik myers
7.18.02 @ 11:46a

Not arguing.

I generally have a much better time at the local music scene for a $5 cover than I do at the large concert venues on the $40 ticket.

There have been a couple of large shows that I've really enjoyed, though, and I've never paid over $40 per band for a show that I've gone to... and some of them were really damn good seats.

I think it's just a matter of scalping the right tickets.

mike julianelle
7.18.02 @ 11:46a

Screw nostalgia or whatever. I saw the Who 2 years ago because I never had the chance to see them at their prime, and I wanted to see one of my favorite, and one of the best, bands of all time live on stage. Of course it's not the same anymore. I also saw Jimmy Page and the Black Crows because it's the closest I'll ever get to seeing Led Zeppelin live, and I will consider seeing both the Stones and Paul McCartney their next times around because again, it's the only chance to see legendary bands. It's not the same, but it's as good as I'm gonna get, and it's better than nothing.

michelle von euw
7.18.02 @ 11:49a

Welcome, Brian!

Your post illustrates exactly why bands (and record execs and promoters) can charge insanely high prices for concert tickets. They hit the die-hard fans who think "I'd like to see Pete (Or Mick or Paul or whoever) one last time." They figure that a lot of fans who were teenagers in the '70s are now successful enough to afford $100, $200 seats.

Oh, and Mike's post is the other reason why ticket prices are so high: those of us who weren't around in 1970 feel like we missed out on the Stones and the Who, and want to catch a piece of that.

[edited]

erik myers
7.18.02 @ 11:51a

But, the thing is... for the most part... they're right.

brian anderson
7.18.02 @ 11:54a

Actually, *I'm* not arguing over local bands vs. major acts, either. I'm just saying why I'm willing to pay to see the Who. Yeah, they can keep 'em high because of me, but it's only for Pete. I'm not responsible for Elton John prices.

And re: ticket prices, I'll go back and recheck, 'cause I bought 'em weeks ago -- but it was *not* over $40 for lawn seats in Camden (next Sat). I remember being amazed at the prices, considering what people were quoting...and if it had been any higher, I wouldn't have bothered. I would have just gnashed my teeth in frustration.

[edited]

adam kraemer
7.18.02 @ 11:57a

I'm severly disappointed that I have yet to see the Who or Springsteen live. My problem isn't really the ticket price - my problem is how much of a pain in the ass it often is to get the tickets. By the time I hear that Bruce is doing 10 shows at MSG, they're already sold out.

And don't underestimate nostalgia. When someone asks you what your favorite song is, how many of you are likely to name something from the last 5 years? As good as it might be, how many people (even young people) can quote the new Weezer album as readily as "Sympathy For the Devil" or "Back in the USSR"?

tracey kelley
7.18.02 @ 12:37p

I guess I have a problem with live shows of big acts in general, because if I'm not close enough to see their nose hairs, I don't want to go. But so far, no one is worth over $30-$40 for me to see (Although I did pay $65 to see Phantom of the Opera, but I had 10th row, too. Touring Phantom Brad Little could have spit on me.) The whole live experience includes being able to SEE them, something that just isn't duplicated on an overhead video screen. If I'm going to pay to watch a screen, I'll tape the concert off Pay-Per-View.

I saw Bruce Springsteen "live" on HBO last summer, and although I like him, I didn't like the show. Van Zandt was off-key, and the rest of the band acted as if they were sleepwalking through the sets.

I love club shows of big and little bands alike. But I'm not upset about missing Def Leppard's club show in Minneapolis next weekend because of a nostalgia trip - on the contrary, I wish I were going because maybe they'd actually play something more than the 7 hits from "Hysteria." I've seen them live a couple of times, but I get bored with hearing "the old favorites" done the same way live - but if they shake 'em up, it's worth the price.

juli mccarthy
7.18.02 @ 12:59p

Having seen the Who's "Farewell Tour" in 1980, I am just plain disgusted that they're even still touring. Weren't these the guys who said "hope I die before I get old"? Same goes for the Stones (who I didn't think were good even when they were in their prime.) I could swear Jagger said something along the lines of not wanting to be 50 and still onstage. On the other hand, I would pay through the nose to see Elton John, who has continually evolved with his audience, or Bowie (likewise). As for the nostalgia acts, I like to catch them at local summer festival gigs, where you pay $3 to get in and see most of BTO, The Guess Who, Marshall Tucker Band and the Buckinghams, and you can sing along without someone screaming in your ear.

brian anderson
7.18.02 @ 1:28p

Okay, so Big Name Nostalgia Act costs too much. We agree on that. The question is: how does Suburb Guy decide that it's worth the drive into the city and poor parking and a $10 cover charge to see the band Local Talent -- an unknown quantity -- over $40, parking provided, well-known Big Name?

Local Talent doesn't get played on the radio (as they might have been up until the 1970s). Local Talent doesn't show up on the local variety TV show (because the only locally-produced program is the news). MTV2 doesn't promote Local Talent in their regional feeds (the way that they promised to do when they were M2). None of his friends can point him to a Napster-style mp3, because there's no good universal file-swapping program.

How do we break the cycle ("Sleater-Kinney? Who's that?") and let Suburb Guy know that it's worth it for him to pick some band he hasn't heard of?

adam kraemer
7.18.02 @ 1:55p

In defense of the Who, Juli, they were actually sounding better on stage in the last couple of years than in the previous 20. Totally rocked the Concert for NYC.

mike julianelle
7.18.02 @ 2:23p

Sleater-Kinney is great.

jon lastra
7.18.02 @ 2:34p

The first major concert I saw was 1971, Tampa Stadium, Santana & Bobby Womack. Me & some buddies scraped together the $15 for a ticket and the gas money to get there and back.
It was an unforgettable experience. That was alot of money. I'm embarrased to say
how much I have paid to see
Neil Young, The Stones or The Eagles.
The way I see it, your paying for the experience and if it's worth it you'll come up with the cash. Otherwise stay
at home an watch it on TV.

mike julianelle
7.18.02 @ 2:42p

5 years, hell 1 year after seeing those concerts, I bet you weren't bitching about the money you'd have saved, but instead were relishing the fact that you saw some of your faves live. There's no substitute for live perfomance, and if I can see a band I like live, I am going to.

tracey kelley
7.18.02 @ 4:24p

I have high demands for live shows. If I like someone, I've already bought the cd. I don't want to go to a live show just to hear a 3:25 version of a 3:15 song. For some fans, they want to sing along, feel comfortable. When I go to a live show, I want to be entertained - I want to hear B-sides and live jams and rebuilt hits. I want guitarists playing drums and singers sitting out an instrumental. If the band just cranks out the same stuff, it's not a good live show to me.

I do regret never going to Lilith Fair. That would have been a totally different experience.

I don't mind taking a chance on a new act, because if we don't, N'Sync and manufacturered pap like that will rule the world. Sure, it's a leap of faith when you enter a club, but all your "favorites" had to be heard the first time, too.

adam kraemer
7.18.02 @ 4:27p

I don't think we're arguing about whether it's worth listening to new bands. But if I'm going to shell out $40 to see a band, I want to know up front what I'm going to get.

russ carr
7.18.02 @ 4:35p

N*Sync not only intend to rule the world, but space, too.

I'm with you, Tracey -- it takes a lot to get me to go to a live show. Maybe I'm old enough and crabby enough now that I don't want to stand for an hour after doors open, then an hour thru some opening act's set, then another half hour before the main act's set. My good time isn't worth ringing ears and swollen feet. I can grab at least a few CDs for the same price as a ticket to just about any major touring act, and then I can enjoy that music any time I want.

As for unknown acts, we've got a decent public radio station here, and there's always streaming Internet radio.

I have gone to a few remarkable shows, notably the Alarm, U2 and -- believe it or not, albeit 15 years ago -- the Moody Blues...three bands who dutifully avoided sounding like a greatest hits CD.

mike julianelle
7.18.02 @ 4:37p

I agree that seeing a band reproduce their albums is not the best live performance. But you can respect it. Look at Rush. They play the same set, the same way, every nite of a tour, and they duplicate the sounds off their album. And Peart does a drum solo. Sure, it's impressive that they can duplicate their studio sounds so perfectly, especially with just the 3 of them, but what's the point of seeing them live?

Pearl Jam, on the other hand, play different sets EVERY nite, pulling out b-sides and covers and jams and improvs and from every corner of their catalog, so that you can see them 3 times on one tour and see 3 totally different concerts, albeit with an emphasis on whatever album they are touring in support of.

brian anderson
7.18.02 @ 9:18p

Having gotten the tickets themselves into my hot little hand, I can confirm the price for the Who as $35 each for Camden, NJ lawn seats. I'm trying to remember how much I paid to see Weezer & Live in a gymnasium in 1994 (just after the release of the first _Weezer_ and _Throwing Copper_ albums) ... and I'm thinking $20 or so.

michelle von euw
7.18.02 @ 9:36p

I stand corrected, Brian (well, almost...I wanna see those ticketmaster shipping fees, plus parking, water, bathroom fees...just kidding).

Live played for free at my college in '94, & I went to a $20 Counting Crow show in '93. In '99, I think we paid about $65 to see those two bands together.

I'd like to say that I don't go to big concerts, but we see DMB every year (at least $100/pair) and BNL every two years or so. And I can't imagine missing a Pearl Jam concert (their prices are notoriously low, but still start at $30 thanks to ticketmaster and venue fees) or U2. Um, yes, come to think of it, I'm the problem. Apologies, Greg.

tracey kelley
7.18.02 @ 10:02p

No way, 'Chelle. DMB goes out of their way to put on a truly amazing concert experience. That's key. That's when you know you're getting your money's worth.

I would have loved to have seen U2, but I have a friend whose wife loves them so much, they paid $500 EACH to sit, like, 10 feet from the stage.

I don't like U2 that much.

I'm with ya, Russ. One of the most unexpected concert thrills I ever had was the Moody Blues with the symphony. They were phenomenal - just a wonderful musical experience. And I don't own a single bit of their work.

Now, I love Rush, but I wouldn't see them live.

I would, however, break my neck and refinance the house if the Police reunited.

I paid $20 2 years to see Def Leppard from the 5th row. Seeing as I have lusted after Joe Elliott since before I could legally drive, that was a treat. However, while I enjoyed hearing a new version of "Bringing on the Heartbreak" and some awesome jams, I really grew weary of every-single-hit-from-Hysteria being played. I know I'm one of the 2% that knew of them before - and after - that album, it makes me less inclined to see them, my "guilty pleasure band", unless it's in a totally different setting. Again with the being pissed I'll miss the club show next weekend.

michelle von euw
7.19.02 @ 9:41a

That's true, Tracey: we've only seen one Dave clunker in the past five years, and the other four shows definitely made up for that (especially this year, where he played both "Lover Lay Down" and "Ants Marching.")

I used to love music festivals -- you get like a dozen different bands playing their best for a brief period of time. Minus the lightning, Tibet '98 was the most kickass music experience ever. (But now I'm like Russ, old and crabby and not up for being pushed around by college kids for twelve hours in the heat.)

jeff wilder
7.19.02 @ 10:14a

First off, yes the concert prices are way too high. It's not just for the nostalgia acts either. Metallica tickets ran to about $90 per person when I went to see them back in 1997 (before they really went downhill). Which is not as big as some ticket prices yes. But still...

In response to Juli's comment about seeing nostalgia acts at summer festivals, I can see where she's coming from. Back in March I saw Kansas at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Florida. The overall cost of the concert was $5 for admission to the park. That's it, $5! Of course it's a sign when a band is playing Gulfstream that they're more or less a nostalgia act (Grand Funk and Styx had been there not long before Kansas). What was good about the venue and setting was the fact that there was a real sense of community between band and audience members. At the end when they played "Carry On Wayward Son" all of the audience members were standing up and singing along. Nobody was drunk or high or anything obnoxious like that.

And Joe is right; this is one of the reasons why the music industry is in such a mess right now. One of the other reasons is that they invested too much in that whole "boy band" thing. When that ran out of gas, so did the music industry's business plan for the next 5 years or so.

Also I agree with Tracey. When I go to see a band in concert, I want to hear more than just the hits replicated note for note.

jon lastra
7.19.02 @ 2:15p

Adam K - There are a number of
bands who who update their
web site with previous shows
set list. The Allman Bro's
do an excellent job at this.
If you like the Brothers jam,
you will love them live.

adam kraemer
7.19.02 @ 3:03p

I saw them live twice in March, and then I saw Gov't Mule in April. If you want a few good sites, check out www.jambands.com, www.mulezone.com, and www.furthernet.com.

[edited]

sarah ficke
7.19.02 @ 8:19p

I would pay through the nose to see Elton John, who has continually evolved with his audience, or Bowie (likewise).

I think I'd sell my firstborn child to see Bowie live even though I haven't heard any of his new work.

jon lastra
7.26.02 @ 9:32a

Now it comes to light that Entwistle was using Cocaine
which led to the heart attack
that caused his death.
At 57, is that a responsbile thing to do? Especially in light of the fact they had an impending tour?
I'm sure that R Daltry and P Townsend feel a great sense of
loss and grief for Entwistle.
Should they however, cancel or
delay a tour that has been
in the planning for quite sometime. What about their
responsibility to their fans
who have paid signficant coin
for tickets?


russ carr
7.26.02 @ 9:59a

Like the man sings, "Party like a rock star, kick a little bucket."

jael mchenry
7.26.02 @ 10:08a

Which man would that be? I'm so uneducated.

russ carr
7.26.02 @ 10:22a

Actually, the lyric is "kick a little ass," but I wanted to kertwang it for Entwhistle. The band that sings the song (entitled SoCal Loco) is Sprung Monkey. And the song sucks, but there you are.

The joke's not funny when you have to explain it.



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