Archives: Music Fans & Concert Goers: The Neglected Lifeblood of The Industry
This article was first published on July 16th, 2014 on forthecountryrecord.com.
It’s a shame, sometimes, how the industry’s pre-occupation with and often overwhelming focus on financial gain overrules the true contributors to their bank balance. Of course, this is hardly news, and I am at peace with the way business works, in this case that which commodifies “culture”. But it becomes ever more starkly apparent when music fans, who pay those people’s wages, are left standing outside in the cold, manipulated and left out of pocket. Often, if a tour isn’t selling enough, a promoter may pull out, leaving the artist to cancel or postpone and leaving many fans, who have paid for travel and accommodation for that specific date and location, out of pocket despite a ticket refund (or where they will be valid for a future date).
For example, a couple of days before a Ben Folds gig in Berlin two weeks ago, fans were informed that the event would not be taking place. This was the only Germany date on the tour; indeed it was the only date in that entire area of Europe and he has a huge fanbase there, so fans were travelling from many miles around. A friend of a friend of mine was due to go to said gig, and when they called the European promoters to find out what was going on (no reason had been given), they were told that due to some problems with American dates further back in the tour, the US promoters had decided to cancel the Berlin gig in order to reschedule in America, and that the European promoters had no choice. While Ben Folds’ market priority might be the US, this is a huge shame for all the European fans who will have spent hundreds of Euros and time out of their lives just to attend, only to be told far too late that it was all for nothing. He will likely not even have known about the occurrence, and so could not have done anything, and well, it just damn sucks for those fans who dedicate their hard-earned money to an artist, only to be overruled.
Another example is when a friend of mine had tickets to a couple of shows in Ireland for Martina McBride, back in 2010. A couple of shows from that tour in Norway were supposed to be financing the whole thing, but when they got cancelled the whole tour did, and proposed rescheduling never materialized. My friend was looking to travel from the north east of England, and ended up significantly out of pocket financially as well as disappointed, while clearly she wasn’t the only one. Again, this decision wasn’t down to Martina either, but a by-product of industry folk behind the scenes screwing things up, as well as being focused almost entirely on finances. Don’t get me wrong, if they can’t afford to tour they can’t afford it, but I hardly think announcing dates, selling tickets then panicking leading up to it and having to cancel is the best way forward. These things can be avoided with simple organization procedures, such as when a solo Martina gig was announced in Manchester, UK for last March. It was the day before Martina was due to play the Country to Country festival in London, and tickets went on sale for excited fans wanting to see a full show rather than as part of a line-up. A couple of weeks later, and the gig was mysteriously cancelled, followed by an announcement that Martina would instead play as part of the CMA Songwriters Series in London that night. It’s not the same, and many of the fans couldn’t go, so again they missed out.
But this regular occurrence was turned bizarrely on its head when the news broke last week about Garth Brooks’ five comeback shows in Ireland. The tickets went on sale many months ago, and after the initial two shows sold out almost immediately, a third show was announced… and then a fourth, and then a fifth, resulting in five total consecutive shows to be played at Dublin’s Croke Park at the end of July. Overall, an astonishing 400,000 tickets had been sold for the event, and from the start a by-law that said only three consecutive shows could be held there each year had some residents’ backs up, who complained that the noise and traffic would be a pain. Just over 300 residents complained over the following few months, and though the council got involved it seemed like it was all just blowing smoke. Until, all of a sudden, the council announced that two of the shows must be cancelled, and Garth, likely shocked, was adamant that he would play five shows or none at all (yay Garth!). They took that and decided all the shows would be cancelled, meaning that less than 3 weeks before the event, which would see fans come from Ireland, the UK and some of Europe, fans were told that big event that they had been waiting for since 1998, that one they had spent many hundreds of their home currency to make travel and accommodation arrangements, that was cancelled, and of course they would only be able to get the refund of the ticket.
So, what, that’s it? Looks like it. At the time of writing (July 10), Garth still wants to work things out, half of his gear is in the Atlantic Ocean on a ship headed towards Europe, and the Prime Minister of Ireland has got involved. Unfortunately for them, half the world’s media has got a hold of the story, and things are looking pretty embarrassing for Dublin right now, mostly because they’ve turned down the opportunity to inject several million Euros into the local economy (Ireland’s economic standing is worse than most right now). But for the fans stuck in the middle of it, as things stand they’ve already lost a great deal of money themselves, as well as now not having the opportunity to see the long-awaited Garth returning from hiatus and, all the more exciting, returning to a European shore (albeit the most Western one).
What this tells us is that it’s not just the music industry that really doesn’t care about fans, it’s also other big organizations too. The ordinary person at the bottom of the pile once again is left in the dirt, and even in the fallout all most people are talking about is the idiocy of the Dublin council rather than actually the people who this will most affect, or has already affected. If the shows then do end up going ahead through much deliberation, will some of the fans have already managed to cancel their travel/accommodation arrangements (if they’re able to), and then not be able to go to the show that is back on? It’s a mess, and it’s not the first time or the last time. Considering fans are the only reason any of these people are able to do what they do and get paid handsomely for it, you think they’d be treated better, but they’re always the last people to know or be considered. Maybe this Garth fiasco will be something of a lesson to promoters and others involved, but I guess they’re just too high up to see the ants doing their bidding down below.
UPDATE: All the Garth shows were cancelled at the beginning of this week.