The concert business has been remarkably resilient in the face of an incipient recession economy, but it's not invincible. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs who were employed when 2008 began. Many of them want to go to concerts. The industry needs them at concerts. But they have to eat, too. So now's the time to make tickets more affordable. That means bookers may have to lower their expectations about what their acts can earn. That's just smart business.
Touring has become the driving force of the music business by putting the customer first. Aside from increased concessions and ticket prices, almost every major development in live music in the past decade has been designed for fans. More convenient ticketing, better food, easier parking, nicer venues-all of these developments are about improving the concert experience for fans. These days, "direct to fan" has become a catchphrase. Some executives seem to translate "direct to fan" as "upselling." But if businesses want to reach fans in 2009, they'd better offer them a bargain.
The digital age has brought many efficient and exciting ways to reach people who love music. The best of these-the ones that work-offer something special. We know fans love a heads-up from Bonnaroo when there's a lineup announcement. We know fans love an e-blast from Ticketmaster that tells them Dierks Bentley is coming to their town. We know-and StubHub knows-that hardcore fans will pay a significant premium to get a seat in the first 10 rows. And we know parents will move heaven and earth to cop a Miley Cyrus ticket for their kids.
But sometimes moving heaven and earth is not enough. In its rapid, technology-driven efforts toward improving customer service, the concert industry has lost.
Ray Waddell is the executive director of content and programming for touring and live entertainment for Billboard.