Sometimes it seems that older generations got to see more shows — local gigs, festivals, arena concerts. The truth is, they probably did, because shows were a lot, lot cheaper back in the day.
The price of concert tickets has been shooting up in the past decades, doubling or tripling since the 90s, with some noting that tickets have increased tenfold since the 60’s, even after adjusting for inflation.
So why has the cost of gigs increased so much? Because music consumption habits have changed, and now musicians get most of their revenue from performance, not album sales. Whereas touring used to be a way to promote an album, now it’s the other way around. U2 infamously forced iTunes users to download their album for free to promote their forthcoming tour — sparking outrage, but not changing the fundamental economic reality which drove the decision. Digital media has gutted album sales, and the only high-margin option for musicians is to hit the road — but that comes with a price.
While demand for big-ticket concerts remains high, a backlash (or alternative) is brewing. Headlined by events like Fake Festivals, Glastonbudget, and Tribfest, many music lovers are finding an affordable option in events that showcase “tribute” or “fake” bands — cover acts with names like Oasish, Kazabian, and the Antarctic Monkeys. These events promise to give all the experience of a big event, at a fraction of the cost — and their popularity is growing.
What makes this phenomenon fascinating is how it highlights three separate, but interlinked, aspects of the weaknesses in the current compensation ecosystem for musicians.
The perpetual tour
On the one hand, we see big acts undertaking longer and harder touring schedules to try to compensate for falling revenue from recorded music. This is unavoidable, given the drop in sales since music’s pre-Napster heights, but it does have a significant impact. Shows are more expensive, which requires more gear — as people spending more money expect more spectacle, which in turn raises both costs and expectations for the next tour.
In contrast, smaller acts and session musicians use tribute events as a way to get stage time and monetize their performance in an industry dominated by big labels. As Paul Higginson, a former welder, session musician and tribute artist who performs as Liam Gallagher in Oasish and as Kelly Jones for the Stereotonics describes it:
“The feeling you get when you step onto the stage is uplifting and exciting. Your shoulders go back and the chest goes out, all of a sudden the swagger arrives and I pick up the tambourine and you think, ‘This is what it must have felt like for them’. I feel like a rock god!”
Playing two or three festivals a week during the summer gives Higginson and his bandmates exposure, money, and a chance to be a megastar — at least for a couple of hours. It also means an additional source of revenue to the rights holders of the material they cover, assuming they pay their royalties, which may or may not be the case.
The next best thing
Consumers who want live, spectacular entertainment but can’t afford it due to the rising costs of shows also flock to these events as a low-cost alternative. With large acts’ tours rising in price while simultaneously hitting fewer small cities, seeing a show can cost as much as a vacation. While not prohibitive, the increased cost has changed going to a show from an everyday leisure activity to an occasional indulgence.
This gets worse the farther listeners live from a major city — while fans in New York, London, or LA will likely see their favorite bands pass through, residents of Dildo, Newfoundland, Slickpoo, Idaho, or Wetwang, Yorkshire are rarely that lucky. For them, a trip to see a concert means transport costs, hotel stays, parking, meals, and then the tickets — it can really add up for consumers on a budget. So, to the fake fests they go, and enjoy a night they can afford, instead of missing out on one they can’t.
Fixing the system
At Utopia Genesis, we are dedicated to fixing the system for musicians and consumers alike. By using advanced technology and blockchain-powered solutions and payment rails, we are ensuring that all musicians are compensated fairly for the work they do — meaning more fractional ownership and more stable income from their digital art . It also helps ensure that consumers have access to the music they love.
By fixing the system, Utopia Genesis will be raising revenues for the music industry, improving exposure, and providing transparency for fans, artists and labels — ensuring that the industry continues to grow, improve blockchain services and products like NFTs. For more information, visit https://utopiagenesis.com.
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