Hard Times

So, we’re living in hard times – I hear that all the time. Constantly. It’s a battering ram for one political party against the other. It does seem like there is less of a lot of things these days. (Saying there is more of less just seems wrong.)

However, maybe it’s us. Maybe, just maybe our priorities are screwed up.

This occurred to me last night while we were at a Lady Antebellum concert. Three acts – Thompson Square, Darius Rucker,  and Lady Antebellum played a sold-out show at the American Airlines Center. We had tickets through the Darius Rucker fan club, but we had still paid over $100 for a pair of floor seats. A $59 ticket is a full day’s work, given a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

(This is not meant as a rant against Lady Antebellum or the other acts. It was a good show. This basic thought occurs to me every time we attend a concert.)

So, there were 21,000 people in attendance, since the band announced it was a sell-out and that’s what Wikipedia says the AAC holds for concerts. (Two unimpeachable sources.) I’m pretty sure we got a deal on tickets, since the box office was selling someone tickets for $99 (“good seats”) while we were at wll-call, and a scalper was selling his floor seats for $300. Each.

That’s a lot of money.

There were an amazing number of iPhones in attendance, which are not free, plus you have to pay to use them. There were some fairly sluttily-attired women, and from my understanding, looking slutty can be expensive.

The Spousal Unit and I had two cheeseburgers, a large Dr Pepper and a bottle of water before the show. That was another $29. We saw enough alcohol being consumed to require an AAC staff member to make the rounds with a mop. Seriously.

My point is that there was a lot of discretionary spending going on in the AAC and these are not the 1% that are supposed to be universally hated.These are the 99% that are constantly being told they are suffering. (This is not based on any specific research other than my understanding is that very few of the 1% actually own gimme caps.)

Maybe we are spending $200 a night plus $800 for a phone and $100 or more a month so we can take photos for Facebook to try to forget we’re poor. That might be the problem.

Now, I’m sure that some of these people will attend this one show this year and nothing else. However, it’s still a lot of money.At $59 a seat (and many paid more), there was over a million dollars of seats sold last night. The band announced it was their sixth sellout of the tour, so it’s not just Dallas.

Jimmy Buffett will be in town this summer, and he wants $136 EACH for tickets. Four hours after the show was announced, the only tickets at that price level were in the second tier. (To be fair, seats on the lawn – i.e. no seat at all – are only $36. We’re not going. I can’t see spending $300 to hear a bunch of songs I heard live when I was in college.) It should be noted that Jimmy Buffett probably does not set his own personal ticket prices. However, he reaps the benefits.

[Based on attendance at the last Buffett concert I attended, some of the Parrotheads are the 1%, trying to relive a life they never had. Doctors and lawyers make bad pirates. Well, doctors, anyway.]

We have a lot of money for concerts and concert accessories, apparently.

I’m as guilty as the rest, too – so I’m not just pointing fingers. There’s a certain list of artists who I will go see when they come to town, regardless of price (mostly.) I won’t pay $300 for Jimmy Buffett. I’ve paid more than that for Sir Paul McCartney. We paid close to that for Tom Petty floor seats after his Super Bowl show.

I can almost understand the price levels when there are only 21,000 seats available, since there are a lot of fixed costs involved with moving three bands around the country and setting up the stage and the light show. However, the prices don’t go down when you get to larger arenas (Cowboys Stadium, which has shit acoustics, seats five times as many people.) In fact, some times the prices go up.So, economies of scale don’t enter the equation.

You know, this started as a rant about the economy, but it’s turning into a rant against the music business.

Here’s how to help the music business – next time a touring band comes to town, and you wince when you see the ticket prices, just go down to your local bar, pay the cover (if any) and throw $10 in the band’s tip jar. You’re helping a small band, the local economy and you’re saving money. (If they don’t suck, buy a CD. Buy two. If they really don’t suck, ask if they’re on PledgeMusic or Kickstarter for their next project. Pledge.) Find your local community radio station, like KNON. Pledge. A lot.(Really. We’re in the middle of pledge drive at KNON.)

When you do see a local band, take the CD home and play it. See how it sounds very close to how they sounded live? That’s because the band plays the music, whether live or recorded. Now, do the same thing with a big touring act. Does it sound the same? It depends on how many musicians they have on stage with them. Also, you’ll never notice because the thousands of dollars of light show distracts you.

Maybe popular music should take a hint from classical – when you go to an orchestral concert, you have the music. I’ve never seen a cellist rise up from the middle of the stage at the Dallas Symphony. There isn’t a light show. The violinists don’t dash across the stage to trade solos. Why? Because people are there to listen, not see.

So, as always, the fundamental problem with the universe is MTV. I’m glad we got that cleared up.

A final note to national touring bands – you can stop telling us you appreciate how we’re spending our hard-earned money on you. We get it – you’re grateful. You’re also rich, so you don’t have to remind us that we’re not. If you’re really grateful, why not leave drop $20 off the ticket prices. Either that, or buy everyone a beer.

A final thought – yes, this is contrary to my earlier post, and yes, we had screamers behind us last night. Sigh. How many times has Barbra retired?