Harvey Goldsmith

Harvey Goldsmith attends the summer launch party of the OnBlackheath Festival in partnership with John Lewis on the John Lewis Roof Gardens, Oxford Street Store, on Aug. 6, 2014 in London, England.  

David M. Benett/Getty Images

Veteran live music promoter, Harvey Goldsmith, issued some stark warnings for the future of the music business, calling for better collaboration between publishers, labels, promoters and collection societies and revealing how he thinks Live Aid changed it for the worst during a speech at Midem in Cannes on Monday. 

While there's no doubt the huge fundraising concert, first organized by Goldsmith and Bob Geldof in 1985, proved that musicians were prepared to use their global reach for good reasons, it also birthed the era of the "celebrity musician," said Goldsmith. 

"Live Aid was the start of the rot that killed the creative juices of great bands and great talent and turned them into pop stars and celebrity-based stars," he explained. 

"Before Live Aid, national newspapers only ever talked about rock music and musicians if they'd been busted or there was a divorce. Suddenly, newspapers realized they could sell newspapers off the back of our business and the whole era of the celebrity artist started to become important."

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Goldsmith booked his first tour at aged 22 and has since worked with the biggest artists in the world, including Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, George Michael and many more.

During his long career, Goldsmith has witnessed the demise of record sales and the growing importance of live income. However, record companies "still do not engage with the live business" and are at war with publishers and collection societies, while promoters "moan about agents." Meanwhile, he said, managers "watch everyone fight each other."

The lack of collaboration ends up in pricey court cases while "a gaping hole" is appearing on the horizon due to lack of resources and attention going towards developing festival headliners of the future. 

"Where are the new global rock acts? Where is the long-term development?" Goldsmith asked an audience of artists and young industry executives. "The age of pop and dance is with us, but it's still transient. Downloads are being surpassed by streaming, with diminishing artist returns and live shows [being] too expensive."

Established festivals are having problems because of the lack of headliners, while smaller boutique events that "do more than offer an endless list of artists" are "winning the day."

Meanwhile, the secondary ticketing market has become a "blot on the landscape" as the live industry has allowed "third parties to take control of the business," with fans being priced out of the market in the wake of ever-increasing VIP and premium offerings.

Said Goldsmith: "We cannot stand by and screw the hand that feeds us. Too many tickets are creamed off by artists and the secondary ticket sellers, creating a false market and turning fans off from buying.

"Take That shows in London, where, as far as I can work out, something like £1.5 million worth of tickets were creamed off to the secondary market. For The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary concerts, over 3,000 tickets were given to the secondary market per venue. Premium tickets have now crept into the arena, but what do they offer the fan? Only an increasing price by holding off the market of great seats which regular fans can't afford.

"Most of the venues today, certainly in the UK, live off the fact that there are comedians who can sell out 10, 20 and upwards nights, but not the rock acts. Is the age of rock dead? As the dinosaurs die out, who's going to replace them? This is the difficulty with the business not communicating enough."

The future of the record industry lies in independent labels, new crowd-funded businesses and apps that make it easy for artists to distribute their music, concluded Goldsmith.

"Do I think an album as a body of work will can continue as it is? I don't know. There are so many different ways now of putting music out, you've got to think clever.

"But at the end of the day, there are two standards that run our whole business, one is performance and the other one is the song.

"If a song is great and the performance is great, somehow, with all the clutter, all the crap, Adele can sell 80 million albums, and Ed Sheeran has sold out three shows at Wembley Arena, with 230,000 people coming to see him. 

"I try and put the issues of the business on the table, but believe me, if I was the problem solver, I wouldn't be here, I'd be on my boat on the beach. At least I know what the issues are, you've just got to keep trying."