Somewhere along the line, we all started worshipping a half-baked theory.
It said that the implosion in recordings was a problem over there, a situation for the Lyor Cohens and Doug Morrises of the world. The up-and-comers, we’d build new models based on touring, merchandising, advertising, in-person appearances, Kickstarter campaigns.
It turns out we were ignoring a critically interconnected ecosystem. The post-recording model never quite panned out, and most of the artists and managers we’ve talked to tell a similar story. Yes, the non-recording model can work, but it only works with a lot of work – and frequently, label support and lottery-style luck. In fact, a major source of touring revenues – the good ol’ CD sold on a makeshift table – has basically evaporated.
But the evaporation of the CD has caused an unexpected squeeze on touring – surprisingly, from old-line superstars that used to be ‘set’. Because superstar artists can no longer bank on ridiculous recording royalties month after month, which means sporadic touring is no longer an option. Which is part of the reason why bands like Metallica are playing a lot more dates these days.
“The cycles of taking two years off don’t exist anymore. We were able to do that because we had record royalties coming in consistently. Now you put out an album and you have a windfall maybe once or twice. But it’s not the way it used to be – a check every three months.”
– James Hetfield, discussing the issue with Rolling Stone.
Other post-prime superstars are saying the same thing. “The rules that applied in 2009 don’t apply in 2012 anymore, and another percentage of record sales have gone down the toilet somewhere,” Noel Gallagher recently observed during an interview at Coachella. “But you’ve just got to get on with it, and that’s why tours are becoming so long. By the time I’m done with this tour, it will be a year-and-four-months.”
Which means the touring lanes are suddenly a lot more crowded for younger, developing artists. The reason is simply that established superstars – no matter how aged – can typically command solid crowds, and are perfect fodder for festivals like Coachella. Reunion tours, even of the disastrous Van Halen variety, also represent ‘fresh’ competition. “Just less slots, really, and less money, it’s just crowded,” one touring manager flatly told Digital Music News.
All of which begs the question: is the post-recording music industry simply a smaller place… for everyone?