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The Great Gig Grab: Could Live Overshadow Album Sales?

11th July 2006 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Venue: Private Room, Bertorelli Bar & Restaurant


Given the ever-increasing importance of live income, this session will ask who makes the most from this burgeoning sector, who is losing out, and how the situation can be improved for the benefit of venues, promoters, labels, artists and fans alike.

With album sales continuing to drop (down 3% in the first quarter of 2006) live music remains in the ascendancy, with PRS pop collections alone rising 16% in 2004 and by the same again in 2005, representing a cool £½bn just for box office.

In 2005 alone the top 10 tours by global superstars grossed over $818 million, reaffirming the market for top-level live experiences. But potential income from live music events varies massively: while megastars such as Madonna can thrive while charging up to £160 a ticket, small to mid-size band tours have traditionally operated at a loss.

Robbie Williams has now been sharing touring and merchandise revenue with EMI for three years, his latest tour selling a world record 1.6million tickets in a day. Korn have gone a step further, dividing touring/merchandise income with both label and promoter (Live Nation).

Do these deals suggest options for the development of an attractive new label/promoter model to benefit a wider range of artists – emerging performers as well as the bestsellers?

What could labels bring to the table to improve the live experience and generate further potential revenue streams? A less one-off, more personalised experience for the consumer – think preview tracks, live souvenir downloads, live podcasts to those unable to attend and loyalty discounts? More active exploitation of online and mobile streaming (AOL’s Live 8 coverage reached 5 million users)? Or more tie-in with the ethos of the artist – think Fair Trade at Coldplay gigs, Icelandic art at Sigur Ros?

Instant Live is certainly a productive start. But could a more advanced cradle-to-grave experience cause ticket prices to rise?

Latest figures show an increase in UK music ticket prices of 25.5% in just two years. Booking fees, imposed by official online outlets, can amount to as much as a third of the ticket’s face value. And then there’s the touts and auction sites, concerns over whom has led the government to set up a steering group, reconvening in July, to look at ways of tackling the problem and making the ticketing process fairer.

But does the popularity of ticket auction sites illustrate an online community eager to buy and trade tickets in a different way? Might fans be happier if they could glimpse the logic behind steep booking fees and postage?

Meanwhile, there are also ongoing concerns about the inequalities in other areas. Managers, for example, are eager to lower the percentage of merchandising revenue paid to venues, some of whom take up to 30% of net merchandise sales, albeit often in return for discounting the hall rental costs to promoters.

From ticket sale to stage, album purchase to podcast: What are the best strategies for developing and diversifying live music?

This event has been prepared with the support of IQ magazine.

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