Why Pay Less?

Kid Rock may not be the most sympathetic example, but artists’ attempts at altruistic ticket pricing appear to do a disservice to their fans:

As an industry leader, with access to nearly limitless data, Ticketmaster can determine fairly precisely just how much fans are willing to pay for every kind of show. Generally speaking, Smith says, artists who charged a lot more for the best 1,000 or so seats would reduce the incentive for scalpers to buy these tickets; it would also allow artists to charge even less for the rest of the seats in the house. Kid Rock told me that on his forthcoming tour, he is planning on charging a lot more than usual for “platinum seating” so that all other seats — including those in the first two rows — can be around $20. “It’s a smart thing for me to do,” he said. “We’re going to make money; I’m going to make money. I want to prove there is a better way to do this.”

I am regularly priced out of the market for great seats at a show, often even shows by my very favorite groups. I always admired the Grateful Dead and Phish method of distributing tickets to fans. The most significant portion of the price was the laborious process of assembling postal money orders, self-addressed stamped envelopes and being keenly aware of when the shows were going to take place. Scalpers would have had to pay the price for every batch, too. Those days may be gone forever, but soaking the fat cats in the front rows and passing the savings onto fans of modest means likely retains much of the Respect for the Working Man so many artists want to project.

Goodbye, ear X-tacy

When I moved to Louisville from Murray, Kentucky in 1995, ear X-tacy was the place where you went to get your music. Period. With thousands of square feet situated in just the right spot on Bardstown Road, it served as a magnet for music evangelists, eager newbies and local bands vying for attention and a small share of Louisvillians’ music budgets. I’m almost ashamed to admit how much of my current musical tastes I first discovered in that store. Their trademark bumper stickers found their way onto instrument cases and served as a clear declaration that you liked music and you were from Louisville.

Like so many iconic record stores, ear X-tacy recently closed its doors. As part of a series entitled “Hard Times: A Journey Across America,” NPR reporter Debbie Elliott talks with ear X-tacy owner John Timmons. They tell the same story: It was the economy! Unfortunately, while the recession has taken its toll, the tale of the beleaguered local record store as told by NPR gets it just about completely wrong.

I have a less controversial claim: It was the creative destruction! Compact disc sales have bottomed out in the last decade, replaced largely with digital sales at places like iTunes. The only real bright spot of the physical product called music is the long play record, but LPs represent only a tiny fraction of music sales today. The consumer has spoken. Audiophiles are reverting to (or sticking with) LPs. Everyone else has gone digital. NPR’s story makes only passing reference to competitive pressure from digital sales.

I’m sad to see ear X-tacy go, but I have a wider variety of music available in seconds than ear X-tacy could provide with vastly more floor space and another million dollars in inventory. I doubt many of ear X-tacy’s departed customers would switch back to the slow, labor-intensive mid-1990s model of music distribution. There’s ample evidence that they’re plenty pleased with their choice.

Timmons rightly identifies strongly with the store he built that delivered so much value to customers like me. He should be proud. But blaming the economy for an obvious, decade-long trend is a bit like the local ice delivery man faulting the economy when his customers merely switched to Frigidaires.

Happy Birthday, Bob!

From JazzTimes:

It was rare for the old guard of any musical genre to embrace Dylan’s work in the 1960s. Flatt & Scruggs—the most famous of all bluegrass duos—broke-up their act because of Earl Scruggs’ fascination with Dylan’s songs. This may sound like an over-statement, but if Dylan’s music was not the cause for the split, it certainly embodied the different paths the two wanted to take. On their later albums, guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo master Earl Scruggs recorded enough Bob Dylan songs to fill a 60-minute tape. I know; I compiled one. Earl loved the new directions; Lester couldn’t relate. They parted.