Lori and I just came back from a family vacation at the Jersey Shore. We snuck away for a night to Atlantic City, and we're either the worst gamblers or the best gamblers ever, because we ended up spending about four hours at the Borgata with $10 more than we had when we entered. (I paid $5 back at the parking garage.) The rest of the week, we entertained ourselves with walks on the Ocean City boardwalk and quality time with our nieces.
Once we got home, Lori decided to get some Jackson Browne concert tickets as a gift for her Dad, for hosting us at the shore house all week. Live Nation's got lots of options, ranging from seats in the back at $40, all the way to some VIP ticket packages at $160. But the website's too shy to admit they're sold out -- just giving us the same plaintive error message that it can't find any seats, and to call back later. (Scalpers are happy to sell us those tickets at $300, but Lori's dad is a pretty frugal guy -- if he found out, he'd kill both of us.)
Ian S. Port from SF Weekly calls this one of the signs of the music industry's "Summer Bloodbath." $160 concert tickets just aren't lighting up the box office during a recession. Where they do, it's usually in smaller venues where you're paying a premium for a more intimate experience. But more and more national tours are rolling up shop early this year. I'm starting to worry that Jane Wiedlin didn't just fall... maybe she was pushed?!
This is an unprecedented opportunity for independent, working musicians. Right here in Philly, I've seen a wave of acts doing some creative things to help talent buyers fill dark rooms. Special theme nights, one-time-only cover events, live mash-ups. That's real value, and it's creating experiences that actually rank up there with some of the most powerful concerts some of your audience members have ever seen.
Lori and I still talk about the power of a songwriters' roundtable show we saw ten years ago. What can you do this summer to move your audience the same way?
If you can create an unusual, authentic, memorable evening for your audience for $10, you can earn the rest of the $160 they were going to spend on that high-priced event. They'll come to more of your usual gigs, they'll buy merchandise, and they'll gift your music to their friends. It's entertainment, but it's also value.
And because I value Jane Wiedlin and hope she gets better soon, here's "Rush Hour:"