IEA: Have to accept some people will miss out on big shows
The secondary market is a natural consequence of demand for concert tickets outstripping the supply, and any kind of cap on resale prices is both unworkable and contrary to the “basic realities of economics”.
That’s the view of Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), who has argued that the growing movement to curb ticket resale in the UK is the result of failure to properly grasp the economic concepts of scarcity and value.
Writing in the Times, Littlewood (pictured), who has led the influential free-market think tank since 2009, says anti-touting campaigners “have to accept that popular live events will always involve disappointed people missing out”. Using the example of Ed Sheeran’s latest album, ÷, which was streamed more than 200 million times in its first week of release, Littlewood says if 200m people wanted to see Sheeran live, “he would have to perform at Wembley Stadium every night for more than seven and a half years. Sheeran’s already hectic schedule is unlikely to make this feasible.”
He also argues that it is “folly” to believe a ticket’s face value “somehow reflects its intrinsic, objective value”. “As with all other goods and services, a ticket is worth whatever someone will legally pay for it,” he writes. “A rare chance to see my beloved Southampton FC play at Wembley may not be worth the £90 asking price to the overwhelming majority of people, but it is worth it many times over to me.”
“It is folly to believe a ticket’s face value somehow reflects its intrinsic, objective value”
This, he says, “highlights the absurdity” of a proposal by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson to cap resale prices at 10% above face value. “Why would we apply a legal cap on the mark-up of ticket prices, but not on other things?” Littlewood asks. “If in 1938 you purchased the first issue of Action Comics, featuring the debut of Superman, for 10¢, you could now sell it for more than $3 million. Presumably, Ms Hodgson believes you should only be allowed to sell it for 11¢ – or, if she is willing to take account of inflation, for a maximum price of $1.84.”
The secondary market, then, is necessary to allow those who can afford to buy access to shows they otherwise would have no chance of attending, Littlewood concludes.
“The reason that you can get into some events – if you have the cash and are willing to spend it – but may be unable attend others, irrespective of the financial sacrifice you are willing to make, hinges on whether an effective secondary market in ticket sales is allowed to operate,” he writes.
“Secondary markets in tickets are not a modern phenomenon. In ancient Rome, tickets for gladiatorial games or chariot races were typically given away. This led to the swift growth of the locarii – a profession dedicated to the purchase and resale of these tickets, which were made of shards of pottery. With modern technologies, today’s resale market is rather more sophisticated, but the principle remains the same: to get things into the hands of people who want them more than the people who currently own them.”
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The power of music
Working in the music industry is a demanding job, and only the luckiest of us can say they don’t occasionally have a day when they wonder why on earth they do it to themselves! But we should never make light of what we do, as every one of us is adding to the human experience on an unmeasurable scale. While we obviously couldn’t do what we do without the music, facilitating people’s interaction with music is helping in more ways than we realise.
The building of my music memory began in the womb, when my dad used to play me a variety of music, from Prince to Frank Zappa and Metallica. Music connected us throughout our lives together and even up to his last weeks on Earth we catalogued and listened to new music from an unknown band he’d discovered in America. He is sadly no longer with us, but not only have I been left with an extensive collection of CDs and vinyl to treasure, I have the emotions, memories and experiences we shared, all of which come flooding back to me when I listen to the music that we shared together.
We’ve all experienced that: hearing a favourite old song that brings up good and sometimes bad memories of people, times, places and even sensations. You can probably remember vividly your first concert or buying your first record or CD and how that made you feel. It’s been shown repeatedly that there is an inseparable connection between music, emotion and memory.
Remember that while we may only be small cogs in the bigger wheel … we truly are making a difference to humankind
Not only can music help preserve memories, it can play a part in the construction of us as people, determining what we wear, who our friends are and where we spend our time. And it can also aid in our physical wellbeing.
Look at the incredible work that charities such as Nordoff Robbins do in rehabilitating people through music therapy, as a shining example of the power of music. Even towards the end of life the positive effects can be seen in Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers. This was demonstrated most recently by 80-year-old Teddy Mac, ‘The Songaminute Man’, whose car-pool videos posted by his son went viral. As an Alzheimer’s sufferer, Teddy was unable to remember almost anything except the lyrics to the songs that he so beautifully delivers.
So when we have those days of doubt, remember that while we may only be small cogs in the bigger wheel, and we may sometimes doubt the significance of what we do, we truly are making a difference to humankind.
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Artist mobility to the US
Recently, the music industry reeled in horror at news that the fee for US artist visas will soon increase from $325 (€302) to $460 (€429).
I understand people’s annoyance, but the current outrage is misdirected. A little fee increase is not the problem with the US artist visa process. The problem is that the process is so slow that almost everyone has to pay the government’s $1225 (€1141) Premium Processing expediting fee, and it is so complex and unreliable that almost everyone has to hire a lawyer to get through it (costing anywhere from $800 [€745] to $8,000 [€7,450]). Those are untenable expenses.
Many artists have entirely given up touring in the US because it’s impossible to break even. The cost of getting an artist into the US has multiplied twentyfold in the last 25 years, which is not only terrible for business, but also means Americans have less access to international culture, which can’t be helping America’s growing isolationism and xenophobia. And what is most gutting is that this transformation is not anyone’s agenda; it’s merely the heavy tread of the rough beast of slouching bureaucracy.
The process used to be a lot cheaper, easier, and faster. When US Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990, it was trying to make it easier for talented foreign artists to work legally in the US while still protecting the labour interests of American performing artists. Initially, the INS (later to become USCIS or ‘The Service’) applied the rules broadly enough that almost any artist with renown was deemed eligible for a longterm visa. The only real problem was inconsistency: a grumpy officer occasionally threw a spanner in the works, delaying or even denying a petition. The entertainment industry grumbled a lot about this, so some time in the late 2000s, The Service set out to clean up its act by trying to ground decisions in a more literal interpretation of the law.
Unfortunately, it turns out the laws are incredibly complex, ambiguous, and onerous, if you actually try to interpret them strictly. This is where things started to fall apart. The government had to increase its fee from $125 (€116) to $325 (€303) to $460 (€428) to cover increased labour costs of strict adjudication. To systematise (and subsidise) the expedition of the process, it introduced an optional Premium Processing service, removing any incentive to improve “normal” processing times. Meanwhile, the unions, tasked with reviewing mountains of materials, started charging a $50 (€47) fee, which has since grown to as much as $500 (€470). But while these costs are bad, they are dwarfed by a new budget item: most agencies, labels, and promoters lost confidence in their ability to navigate the process in-house, and ceded the work to lawyers who typically charge anywhere between $1,000 (€931) to $10,000 (€9,310) to prepare and file a petition.
Many artists have entirely given up touring in the US because it’s impossible to break even
In 1991, the total process cost about $200 (€94), required minimal effort, and rendered reliable results and long-term visas; in 2016, the same process costs as much as $10,000 (€9,310), may or may not work, and often has to be repeated every few months. This is unconscionable, especially considering…
• The Service shouldn’t be doing this. This is a remarkable case of mission drift. Since The Service’s role in this process is neither to secure the homeland (that’s the Department of State’s job), nor to protect US labour interests (that’s the AFM’s job), there is no compelling reason for USCIS to be making this so hard.
• The Service doesn’t want to do this. The current malaise means a lose/lose for everyone (except the lawyers). USCIS is chronically understaffed and overworked, and the level of scrutiny required to maintain the current process is an administrative nightmare for them.
• The Service doesn’t have to do this. The problem is not with the laws, but rather their enforcement, reflected in the myriad policy memos, officers’ handbooks, executive guides, and regulations that guide officers. These “rules” are not law, and can be changed if there is sufficient will and desire to do so.
And this is why there is hope, and why your outrage can be useful: in January, Tamizdat will publish a White Paper on Artist Mobility to the US. This document will review the problems artists encounter with the US visa process, and will propose dozens of specific solutions. Some solutions will be long-range, but most are procedural tweaks to help get The Service back on track, and back in the business of working with the US performing arts industry to ensure that America is accessible to international performing arts.
How Priavo Security can keep touring artists safe
What long-term impact do you see the recent terror attacks across Europe having on security within the live events industry?
Tragically, the security climate has changed considerably in Europe. Crowded places are being targeted to cause mass casualties; coordinated multiple and simultaneous attacks result in emergency response teams and agencies quickly becoming overwhelmed, and fear and panic is being multiplied – a tactic we are well familiar with in the UK, post-IRA. This broadening of IS/Daesh’s modus operandi, from its previous focus on western lifestyles to, in particular, cultural and entertainment sites, is significant. It highlights the escalation in security across Europe and the importance of choosing the correct security option.
The music and events industry must now address security very seriously. Venues need to increase their security to avoid becoming the next target, as attackers will always look for maximum impact with weakest resistance. There is a duty of care and obligation to provide safe travel, not only to the artists but also to the crew supporting them and to the fans attending the shows. Security should be chosen wisely.
How long has Priavo been established in the market and what are your full range of security services? What percentage is within live music and entertainment, both here in the UK and internationally?
I left the military in 2008 after 11 years of service and formed Priavo Security, having gained considerable exposure to various security scenarios across the corporate, private and government sectors. Over 20 years’ experience within the private security sector formed an important array of global contacts, allowing Priavo to be continuously resourceful wherever we operate.
Our first task was on behalf of a renowned LA based event planner, for whom we carried out security at a high-profile celebrity wedding in Cannes. Our client base grew steadily through word of mouth within the music and events industry; however, during the last two years we have witnessed rapid growth and expansion due the global security climate, terrorism and lone-wolf attacks. Clients are nervous and demand for heightened security measures has grown considerably. We have experienced this across the events, entertainments, financial and corporate sectors. Our music business has seen the most significant growth in the last six months, as tour managers feel the need for more specialised security and greater experience. Artists are feeling vulnerable in the current global situation, in particular since the Bataclan and Brussels Airport terror attacks.
Our first music task was for a well known US rock group who had concerns about travelling to higher-risk countries on their tour. Additional security was requested to give the band members the confidence to continue the tour in areas experiencing civil protests and anti-US sentiment. Our first task for the music industry was executed as we would any other, with military planning and precision backed by our global military and civilian networks.
Our security services include executive protection, travel risk assessments, reconnaissance of all venues, media access, crowd control, perimeter security, contingency planning, surveillance, full logistical support of all third parties, secure transportation, co-ordination and deconfliction with existing venue and band security where required.
The majority of our clientèle are US-based, and we carry out confidential security deployments across the globe including South America, Asia, the Middle East and more recently throughout much of Europe.
Until recently only a small percentage of our clients were from the music industry; however, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from this sector due to the current climate
How is your workload broken down?
We regularly deploy on a range of security tasks covering mainly music tours, high profile bespoke events, roadshows and corporate travel safety. All of these include the following:
- In-country travel risk assessments (TRA) to understand the current climate and potential threats
- Security advance: to arrive in country and ensure all security protocols are in place, liaise with government, internal security teams and third parties, give real time atmospherics, carry out recces of all relevant areas and give feedback to all incoming production and crew or event planners
- Reconnaissance of all venues, transportation, airports, routes, hotels, safe havens.
- Contingency planning: create a clear and concise plan to deliver to the band/VIP, security and crew explaining what to do in the event of an emergency
- Operational support: we have executive protection operatives with specialised skillsets to complement each other depending on the task, and we will advise on the number and tier of operatives required. Further operational support will be provided from base
What makes Priavo’s services stand out from other security companies who operate within the live market?
Our brand values differentiate us in the marketplace and sum the team up: Adaptability, fortitude, integrity and loyalty.
Priavo Security have a meticulous, military precision and process to managing security. This is audited annually by an independent third party and has been reflected by the award of the ISO 9001:2008 certification. The wealth of security knowledge in the management team comes from hands-on British special forces experience.
Most importantly, Priavo work with in partnership with our clients to really understand how they operate and ensure we deliver flexible, effective security services while minimising the level of disruption to manage and mitigate potential threats.
Our objective is to help bands continue to tour confidently and not let terrorism stand in the way of entertainment
What level of training do your security staff have?
All of our operatives are vetted, licensed and professionally qualified. Exceptional military background and time served undertaking tasks for clients across the globe ensure standards are of the highest level.
The physical skillset necessary for executive protection can be taught over time, but the dedication, adaptability and integrity necessary to do the job well is often harder to find. All of our operatives are respected for their skill, discretion and ability to execute rapid and confidential security deployments. Our teams regularly work across both the private and public sectors and understand how to blend in and maintain a low profile. They have a high degree of situational awareness and are experienced in correctly assessing threats and employing the appropriate countermeasures. All possess strong communication skills and the highest moral and professional standards.
All operatives in the field are fully supported by the Priavo office-based operations team, experienced in logistical planning, account and travel management.
Following your attendance at the ILMC conference this year, what are your business objectives to engage further within the international live music industry?
Our objective is to help bands continue to tour confidently and not let terrorism stand in the way of entertainment.
Our established global network is paramount to deliver in-country support and intelligence. Priavo has the means to quickly deploy additional resource across Europe and beyond, and we offer a range of security services to offer a complete operational package or enhance existing measures for touring artists and bands.
A couple of decades ago, long before the term ‘austerity measures’ had become widely known, young people who wanted to devote their life to music could also devote their dole money to buying an amp or hiring a van in order to get to an unpaid gig. Many top international acts have emerged from such humble beginnings, claiming government subsidy during early stages of musical development.
Times have changed and you can certainly no longer claim the dole whilst you hang out in your bedroom practising guitar riffs. With funding cuts across the arts sector also taking their toll, financial support for nurturing talent has become harder to find.
True, the industry offers some bursaries, apprenticeships and internships, but for many young people nowadays, it’s the bank of mum and dad filling the gap. But what if you don’t have a dad, and mum stacks shelves in the local supermarket? What if you’ve been brought up in care? Or you’re disabled and simply can’t afford music lessons to overcome the challenges you face?
Embarking on a career in the music business also has its risks. Coming from a moneyed or comfortable background often means that you can follow this path safe in the knowledge that there’s family backup if it goes horribly wrong. However, many don’t have this support network and end up sacrificing their dream to focus on taking regular, reliable work that pays the bills. It seems so unfair that these potentially talented musicians, managers, producers and promoters of the future never get beyond go.
With funding cuts across the arts sector also taking their toll, financial support for nurturing talent has become harder to find
At Youth Music, we know what a life-changer it can be to fulfil your potential in music. We’re a leading national music charity offering music-making opportunities to young people in challenging circumstances. For example, they might be living with mental health issues, facing poverty or experiencing life as a young refugee. Since 1999, the projects we support throughout the UK have offered regular workshops in instrument learning, music production, singing, song-writing and performance, across all musical genres.
Every year we take over 75,000 young people on a journey that helps them build their confidence and self-esteem alongside their musical know-how. The goal isn’t necessarily to support their entry into the music business, though for many that becomes their aim. Through music, we help them to overcome the significant challenges they face in their lives. Take Darren, a young man who took part in one of our music projects run by Skimstone Arts in Newcastle. We’ve seen how live music making has changed his life from despair and homelessness to independent living with hope for the future.
In Darren’s words: “I was in a really bad situation, really low. I was living in hostels and it was miserable but I had no choice. I never saw my family and only had two friends. People would kick my door and punch me when I was walking to the toilet or kitchen. I just used to stay in my room all day. No one even said ‘hello’.”
That all began to change when a friend suggested he go along to Skimstone Arts. Two years on from joining the project, Darren now has a job and recently moved into a flat. He saved up to buy a bass guitar and plans for his new band to go on tour locally and make a name for themselves.
“If it wasn’t for the project, I’d still be depressed, on my own, on Jobseekers’ Allowance and going to the Job Centre. I couldn’t believe that my life could change for the better like this: I feel like a different person”
Darren adds: “If it wasn’t for the project, I’d still be depressed, on my own, on Jobseekers’ [Allowance] and going to the Job Centre. I couldn’t believe that my life could change for the better like this: I feel like a different person.”
Darren is just one the many thousand lives we help transform every year. So how could the live music industry help us to help young people like him? One way would be to offer us your corporate support by, for example, making us your charity partner for a live music festival, major gig or concert tour. Or you could support our Give a Gig fundraising initiative.
In 2016, we’re building on the grass-roots success of Give a Gig, which has seen gigs put on across the UK in every possible venue from back gardens to Bush Hall in West London, and from Arundel Cathedral to the Rock Bar in Leeds. Give a Gig doesn’t necessarily mean just putting on a special gig, although we’d really like that. You can also support the initiative by providing a venue for free, offering your services to help promote or run the gig on the night or donating just some of the proceeds to Youth Music.
Putting musicians in the picture
Again and again you hear from musicians that they feel they have been screwed by the music business – much like Sinead O’Connor published on Facebook in August. If you listen to all the complaints you might think that everyone working in the music business is a crook. That’s of course far from the truth. Whilst all those people who make up the business team of a musician (manager, agent, A&R manager) have their own financial interests in the success of the musician, who is defending the interests of the musician?
The only independent adviser for a musician is his or her lawyer. In some countries you have musicians’ unions that offer similar services but in general, the music business doesn’t meet the needs of musicians needing non-legal, independent advice. Three years ago I started a blog Compass for Creatives to fill this gap. This blog provides free empowerment advice to musicians in order to help them strengthen their position.
The blog has received more than 150,000 views so far. When musicians feel screwed by the business, it’s either because they really have been, or because they wrongly believe they have been. The latter is often caused by a lack of understanding of how the music business works. In both cases, empowerment offers a solution.
Even if most of us aren’t crooks, there are ‘sharks’ operating in the music business. We have all heard the stories about promoters selling a band to a venue and keeping 50% of the fee for him or herself, or when the band doesn’t get paid because they accepted drugs from the promoter that were allegedly worth the amount of the fee.
Empowerment can help musicians in two ways. Firstly, empowering musicians makes them more aware of what power they have and that helps them develop the strength of personality needed to deal with people. Secondly, they become more alert of everything that’s going on around them. Therefore, they will hopefully realise that they are getting screwed by a business partner quite early, maybe even in time to prevent it. Empowered musicians are also better equipped to defend their own interests when they were unable to prevent getting screwed in the first place.
Musicians need to know that the fee is dependent on the ticket sales. They don’t have to know all the details, but they do need to know the basics in order to set out the direction the whole team is heading.
When musicians wrongly feel they’ve been screwed, it’s often because they don’t understand how the music business works. And the music business has a long tradition of preventing musicians from understanding how the industry works. Two years ago, I participated in a panel at Go-North in Inverness, Scotland, that explained how the international music business works. One of my co-panelists, that worked at a major record company, mentioned openly that she prefers young musicians, aged 20 or less, because they don’t yet have their own opinion and don’t know how the business works.
There are also musicians who don’t want to be informed. Sinead O’Connor admits in the Facebook discussion mentioned above, that she wants to make music and leave the business side to others. But empowered musicians are able to lead their business team. Musicians need to know that the fee is dependent on the ticket sales. They don’t have to know all the details, but they do need to know the basics in order to set out the direction the whole team is heading. It’s not only about their career, it’s about their life too!
As a European agent I prefer to work with informed musicians. In September 2001, I celebrated my 20th anniversary at Paperclip Agency. I work as the European agent and Dutch promoter for bands from all over the world. Acts on my roster include(d) John Watts (from Fischer-Z), I Muvrini, Balkan Beat Box, Chloe Charles, and many others.
In Compass for Creatives, I combine my experience in the live music business with my master’s degree in cultural psychology and my interest in personal management. As part of my blog, I offer online workshops as well as individual coaching. I’m regularly invited to guest lecturer at universities and colleges on the topic of music management.
Everything at Compass for Creatives is about the empowerment of artists. Inspired by research from the McKinsey Institute into the ‘secret’ of the successful women who made it to the Fortunes500, I developed five empowerment tools for musicians. These five tools have proven very useful in coaching both male and female musicians. Right now, the second edition of the ‘Online Workshop 5 Empowerment Tools For Musicians – Learn in 6 weeks how to move from insecurity to an upward spiral towards success’ is running. The first edition attracted plenty of enthusiastic feedback, including: “This workshop engages the ‘higher’ forms of business. It’s more a personal development rather than a ‘how to’ workshop yet it connects directly to business. Would I recommend it? Definitely!” The third workshop starts 16 November.
How I learned to stop worrying
I have no idea what the traditional route into this job is to be honest, but after speaking to a few colleagues we all have similar stories of how we fell into being tour managers. I had no aspirations for any particular job when I was growing up, which is why when I look back at where I came from and where I am now, I always think: how the hell did this happen again?
Back in the late 90s, some of my friends were in a band called Earthtone9 and I helped them out. ‘Helping out’ evolved into driving the van, setting up the backline, selling merch and other general duties. All for the princely sum of a bag of crisps and a Ginsters Cornish pasty, no money involved! I did it because I liked doing it and I had absolutely no idea that this could actually be a proper full-time job. I did it for fun and to hang out with my mates. When they could afford to pay me, I think it was £25 a day – and that felt like quite a sum, considering that I started on nothing.
I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and generally made it up as I went along, based on what I thought was the right thing to do. Along the way I met my first real TM and that’s when I realised that I had a lot to learn. Thankfully, that guy was very generous with his time and advice, and it certainly set me on a better path.
It felt like being told off by my old headmaster, but was always followed up with good advice and the unspoken knowledge that I wouldn’t make that same mistake again – damn right I didn’t.
There came a moment when I was offered a job working for another band called Lostprophets who where just about to take off. We didn’t really know that at the time, but it happened for them. So within a year we had gone from playing 500-capacity rooms to selling out Brixton Academy.
This was to be a turning point in my life for so many reasons, back then and in recent times as well. The band signed to a big record label with a huge management company and I personally thought that that was it for me and that they would bring someone else in with more experience to take over.
To this day, I need to thank the people at that management company for being so very patient with me. Especially HM Wollman and Tony DiCioccio from Q Prime. Mistakes on my part (there where quite a few) were met with not a raised voice, but with a stern reproach. It felt like being told off by my old headmaster, but was always followed up with good advice and the unspoken knowledge that I wouldn’t make that same mistake again – damn right I didn’t.
I didn’t want to let band, management or myself down, so I basically spent from 2000-2003 being very stressed and worrying about every little thing. I worried that at some point someone would call me out for the guy who was just winging it day by day, which is how it sometimes felt. It’s hard to put it into words when you ride a wave like that, with no real experience of how to deal with it.
Once the cycle was finished I took some time for myself.
For some reason I decided to go travelling around the world because clearly spending the last few years zipping across the world wasn’t enough. Talk about stretching my soul too thin. I should have just stayed at home and enjoyed being still for a while – something that I appreciate more than ever these days once a tour has finished.
After a few months of relentless travelling, I had a moment of clarity in Sydney. I stayed still for two weeks and tried to put it all into perspective. That was a major turning point for me and when I came back home I knew that this was going to be my life. Since then, I have gone on to work for quite well known rock/metal bands: Funeral for a Friend, Bullet for my Valentine, Mastodon and Of Mice & Men, and I’m currently the tour manager for the Swedish band Ghost, who I’ve been with since 2013.
My route into the business is such a unique experience, I think, as it doesn’t happen like that for a lot of people. It’s also something that I will carry with me and that has helped shape the TM that I am today. It wasn’t planned by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m so glad it happened the way it did.
Fifteen years later and I still love my job and certainly do not worry about things as much as I used to.