Monthly Archives: October 2010

Your Favorite Band Has a New Price Tag

I was born in Chicago and my entire family resides there. I’m also a Yeasayer fan. So when I heard that Yeasayer was performing a show in Chicago on New Year’s Eve, I was ecstatic. I would get the chance to see my relatives and jam out to an amazing indie act. All of this enthusiasm and joy was flushed down the toilet when I saw that Yeasayer is charging $55 for advance tickets (I’m sure it will be more expensive closer to the date of the show). In addition, they’re charging $250 for “VIP” table seats. Honestly, this infuriates me, but I want to take this opportunity to address a much greater problem that we’re seeing within the music business. The costs of concert tickets has gone into the stratosphere and only the pampered, rich and NASA can attend concerts.

Well maybe it’s not that bad, but you catch my drift. In the last five years, concert ticket sales have grown by almost sixty five percent (economist Alan Krueger discovered this back in 2002, so I’m sure those numbers are even higher now, see the link at the bottom of the page). If you take a look at the entire decade, in 2000-2001, a music fan would spend around $40-65 for a high end act i.e. Jay-Z, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, etc. Now that fan is spending close to $200 sans ticket fees for the same mainstream acts. In addition, music fans are paying almost three times as much for merchandise. Yes, that’s right, I’m sure you remember when you could purchase a t-shirt at a concert and it wasn’t the price of an oil change and tire rotation.

Now indie acts have caught a whiff of this price-gouging trend and are engaging in similar practices. Naturally when I heard Yeasayer was charging $55 for tickets in my beloved hometown of Chicago, I was a little pissed. And it’s not just Yeasayer, I have no intention of singling them out – there are several indie bands doing this.

I find this highly problematic for a couple reasons. If indie bands start charging ridiculous prices for their tickets, the concert experience becomes classist and elitist. Not every person can afford to pay $60+ for concert tickets nor are they willing to pay that amount. So the artists end up excluding people who might have even spent $30-40 for the same tickets. At that point, the indie artist is telling the fan that their concert at a mid-level venue is more valuable and precious than other experiences that you can obtain with the same amount of money. So let’s see, what can you buy with $60?

  • New clothes and shoes
  • Tickets to Six Flags or another theme park
  • An iPod
  • Groceries (single person household)
  • Movie tickets and a dinner date
  • Music equipment (if you’re a music gear freak like me)

All things considered, the aforementioned list is fairly limited. I encourage you, the readers, to draw up a list of ten things that you could purchase with sixty dollars. Now compare that list to a music concert being held by an indie act. How much value does that concert hold now?

My intentions are not to push people away from concert venues, by all means that would defeat the purpose of this blog. But I need to illustrate a point and I want to touch upon an issue that is delicate and has become a very thorny and troublesome practice.

The second reason why indie acts have no business charging what major acts do is simple. The income distribution within the music business is skewed and biased and it always has been. More and more music fans are investing in the “tried and true” acts, the artists they feel have consistently delivered year after year. It’s not the indie bands; it’s the Rolling Stones, U2, Prince, etc. Music fans are shelling out their hard earned dollars to see those acts and not the next hype on Pitchfork Media. In addition, the more established acts have older fanbases who have more personal spending money to allocate towards a greater variety of entertainment options. The access simply isn’t there for your average 16 or 17 year old kid who heard about a band on Gorilla vs. Bear, but can’t afford to check out their concert.

Nonetheless, there are two sides to every story. Yes, this is a direct repercussion of rampant downloading. I also realize that there are very high production costs attached to tours and its hectic moving in full stacks of equipment, huge mixers, dinosaur-sized light rigs and a staff to assist with all of that. But is that really feasible or efficient for an indie act? I always felt the beauty of being an independent artist is that you could pack less on tour, bring only one or two trusted consultants and move as quickly and efficiently as possible. Moreover, if I was an indie artist doing a regional tour, I would call all the college radio stations in the towns I was touring in and ask if they could do ticket giveaways for the shows.

With the New Year approaching soon, we are going to see an all-time high in price-gouging and exploitative ticket prices. And it won’t be just the “greedy and commercial” music acts engaging in these practices. It will be the nice, new indie band that you read about on a music blog similar to this. If it’s going to cost me $75+, I’d rather sit at home, pop some popcorn and watch Song Remains the Same on blu-ray.  You decide what works for you.

For about this, read economist Alan Krueger’s pricing of concert tickets

Next to Last Festival – Oct. 27-31, Athens, GA

This is a reprint from the Moon and Pluto, thank you Nadia

This Halloween, Athens, GA will be inundated with the music, art and spooky performances presented at the Next to Last Festival. This festival will be trick or treating at several venues including New Earth Music Hall, Go Bar and the Melting Point.

Headlining acts include Van Dyke Parks, ESG, and Music Tapes. Local performers are Dead Confederate, Quiet Hooves, Gift Horse, New Sound of Numbers, Supercluster and many more.

The full schedule, line-up and details can be found at Next to Last Festival site.

Album Review: Zach Hill – “Face Tat”

This is a reprint from Moe at Latest Disgrace, enjoy.

Even in the anything goes and generally—how shall I put it?—not so normal mind of the average tattoo artist, the face tat is hardcore. Anything else can be easily obscured, covered up, forgotten. But the face tat is unavoidable and all consuming as it relates to one’s public identity. With regards to the outside world, everything else—fashion, wealth, occupation—is out the window. The face tat defines you.

But looked at from another another angle, it can also be incredibly liberating and empowering. It’s your brand, your identifying marker. It’s your means of standing out and differentiating yourself from the faceless masses. In a world that demands conformism and a culture that craves homogeneity, the face tat is like a giant middle finger to societal values and norms. It says that you will be you; everyone else can get fucked.

For Zach Hill, endlessly inventive drummer and most prolific of collaborators, it’s this free-wheeling spirit of oddball uniqueness and individuality that drives his sophomore effort called (surprise!) Face Tat. And while you’ll no doubt read much about the plethora of guests on this record—Devendra Banhart, Guillermo Scott Herren (Prefuse 73) and members of No Age, Hella, and Deerhoof all make appearances—as well as the usual critical gushing for Hill’s relentless, ferocious, fleet-footed drumming—he’s once again the many-tentacled monster we’ve all come to know and love—what makes this album so impressive and, frankly, mind-blowing, is its utter disregard for convention, its willingness to thumb its nose at just about every tenet of traditional songwriting. To its core, this album crushes expectations; it disrupts, deconstructs, and/or destroys any notion of what pop or rock music is and should be.

All of this is not to say that Face Tat lacks structure or even hooks. One listen to the off-kilter tropical funk of opening salvo, “Memo to the Man,” the bouncy, fuzzed-out synth-pop of “The Primitives Talk,” or the frantic punk freak-out that is “The Sacto Smile” and you’ll know that’s not the case. The music may be chaotic, it may be manic, but there are some resplendent melodies in there and Hill’s woven tapestries of sound have a definitive focus.

It’s a big leap from the exhausting, convoluted mess of beats and incomprehensible noise that formed much of his solo debut, Astrological Straits. Hill has always been a musical gambler willing to sacrifice subtlety and restraint in pursuit of sounds that are altogether foreign and unique. In the past this let it fly attitude has proven detrimental; here his instincts are much more refined.

Coated in a shiny pop veneer, Face Tat is bright, glistening, metallic. It’s also big and booming (almost outlandishly so), filled to the brim with a spastic barrage of beats that leave you wondering whether to nod your head in unison or shake it in amazement. Musically, Hill leaves few touchstones unturned. With his Bygones partner in crime and Tera Melos guitarist, Nick Reinhart, pouring in some right smart guitar work, Hill injects the proceedings with scraps of punk, prog and funk, as well as looping bits of hardcore, metal and hip hop. For the average listener, you’ll find nothing small, modest or straightforward about this record. The music here is bold and effusive, and, yet, still difficult and, at times, disorienting. The songs have gotten substantially better… I didn’t mention anything about them getting any easier.

Face Tat Track List:
01. Memo to the Man
02. The Primitives Talk
03. Ex-Ravers
04. The Sacto Smile
05. Green Bricks
06. House of Hits
07. Jackers
08. Burner in the Video
09. Dizzy From the Twins
10. Gross Sales
11. Total Recall
12. Face Tat
13. Second Life

More Info:
Bandcamp: www.zachhill.bandcamp.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/zachhillmusic
Twitter: www.twitter.com/zachhill

Featured Show of the Week

Why Bands Need Managers



It’s not groundbreaking news that the music business is changing. The music business has been in a state of flux for the past seven or eight years. The biggest thing now is that artists no longer feel the need to rely on external forces to create and promote their products on the market. DIY is bigger than ever and not even the DIY punk movements can rival an uprising of this magnitude. While I strongly advocate artists writing and structuring their own material, finding an image that comfortably works for them, and targeting the right audiences with their works; overall, I feel many artists still need to rely on some of the external forces that helped to build the music industry in the first place. One of those major forces is management.

The basic premise behind any manager is simple. A manager is someone who provides practical advice and positive direction for the group. Over the years, the title manager has evolved into something sullied and unclean. Managers may be viewed as soul-less and mechanical human beings whose sole purpose is to provide a fat Rolodex for the band. While some artists may feel they just need managers for their networking skills and contacts, I feel the artist-manager relationship should delve much deeper and into something more significant.

Artists need managers – let’s face it; we are our biggest enemies, especially when it comes to group scenarios. On a daily basis, music groups create more tension and friction internally than any slick-talking record exec, pr person, or anyone outside the group could create for them. We are our own enemies and largely responsible for our own failures. I can’t express how many times I’ve heard band members chime in and say we’re going to make it the top, but in their actions refuse to create a brand or a signature sound that will differentiate them from the crowd. Too many musicians refuse to see the music business for what it is, a business.

Often times, groups become subject to the classic groupthink syndrome and fail to evaluate and understand outside perspectives and angles.  Managers can and should provide an observer’s perspective.

A manager’s number one responsibility should be to be to mobilize the team. On top of that, managers need to be able to execute insightful and strategic game plans for the groups they manage and keep those members abreast of everything happening within the organization. The manager acts as the glue of the group, keeping people bonded and motivated, but they should also distance themselves at times so as to always keep their outside observer’s perspective intact.

Music groups need coaches and instructors just like sports teams or any other team. The manager’s job is to provide strong leadership and direction within the group; band members should trust this individual and not fight against them.

Nonetheless, it is still very important that musicians are astute and hard-boiled when picking their managers. If you lay in bed with a wolf every night, expect to be bitten.

As the music business evolves; musicians will continue to experiment  with new DIY marketing tactics, engage listeners in their social media lab experiments and in general, try to grasp at the what the heck is going on. While all of this happens, the manager or at least a trusted consultant should be at the core of the team, working to further the group’s career as much If not more than the group members.

Featured Show of the Week

Album Review: Sea Lions – “Strange Veins”

I heard about Sea Lions a few months ago via the members of Stokeswood. I really enjoyed their sound, but could never force myself to review or criticize their material. I’m in luck – my friend Moe who runs Latest Disgrace has already reviewed Sea Lions new record Strange Vein. You can read what he had to say below.

Sealions’ lush synth-pop is unapologetically retro, reaching back across a quarter century of music and pulling out more than a handful of New Order’s smoky dance floor atmospherics. And, really, it’s this sort of ’80s electro spirit that the Atlanta four-piece channels throughout their hypnotic debut, Strange Veins, an album full of hazy, infectious dance grooves that would rather float along celestially than thump insistently. But as a matter of substance, there is more going on here than mere nostalgia worship.

Songs like the billowing opener, “Bellwether,” and the elegant “Apparition,” seem initially locked into a bygone era, but as they progress and unfold, more contemporary elements—a buzzing smattering of beats here, an arresting dream-pop guitar line there—begin to spill out.

Other tracks such as “Indian Summer” and the “Islands” are more doggedly forward-thinking, employing familiar ’80s dance/disco trappings—snappy handclaps, swelling synths, vocals drenched in reverb—but coating them in a modern electro veneer. For indie rock aficionados, there are guitars here to be sure, and some even carry a distorted heft, but mostly they’re buried and subtle, used not as catalysts, but as so much gravel and sand in the foundation.

But what sticks out the most is just how artfully crafted these songs are, straddling the line between a traditional get-on-the-floor dance pop aesthetic and a more soft-edged experimental approach.

Despite its pastel-hued glow and deceptively upbeat demeanor, Sealions has delivered a late night soundtrack for sweaty, bleary-eyed souls in motion. There are a some hiccups and gaffes here and there and the production, however crisp, seems to whitewash a lot of the material, at times robbing the songs of their individuality.

Overall, Strange Veins is an impressive debut, one that generally skirts mindless pop escapism in favor of something more thoughtful and inventive.

Strange Veins Track List:
01. Bellwether
02. Golden
03. Hold On Hope
04. Spine
05. Indian Summer
06. Quarter Moon
07. Islands
08. Apparition
09. Crystal Ceiling

More Info:
Web: www.sealionsmusic.com
MySpace: www.myspace.com/sealions
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SealionsATL