I see two industries with complementary skills: music companies develop artists and technology companies develop applications. Combine the two with fair remuneration to creators, deliver to consumers and you have a big win. I firmly believe that through better alignment of business goals, simplification, and modernized use of common technological tools, we can create a vibrant future.
Perhaps musicians’ renegade spirit is what ultimately will save the next generation of recording artists, who are increasingly forgoing record deals altogether and going it alone. As true independents, they work the margin between the technology that makes recordings cheaper to create and a public that is steadily buying fewer of them. Without a label taking a bite out of multiple revenue sources, the numbers can actually work. Others are coming together in groups centered on advocacy and pressing for changes to the laws that dictate royalty payments in the new streaming economy — something that could mean all the difference when injury, accident or age brings a touring musician’s career to a halt. But in the meantime, the vans and buses roll on.
If musicians have to rely on touring for the majority of their income, is that ultimately sustainable?
The thing is, I thought music was so important. I thought music was so healing and transformative that I wanted to give it to the world and giving it to the world was more important to me than moving up the job ladder or making more money or buying a car with my first middle-class income.
The thing is music touches us in a way that is beyond verbal. And to get really mystical, it’s like we’re made — it’s hard to figure out what evolutionary purpose our musicality serves, but we’re clearly made to really respond strongly to music.
The idea is to get people to become fans of the venue so they want to come back, versus, “Oh, we can make an extra $4 if we charge them this fee at the box office.”
There’s a common misconception when you’re running a club that more is always better. More shows + higher ticket prices + ticketing fees + higher drink prices = more money, right?
The idea is that once someone has come into your venue they’re yours – stuck there for the three to five hours from when doors open until the show ends. A few clubs even charge ticket fees even when you schlep to the box office. A beer that was $4 a few years ago is now $7 and so on…
But what if you flip the script?
What if you book less shows, but they’re all quality shows? Wouldn’t your club is known for good music? And wouldn’t that help create a scene around your venue?
What if you kept ticket prices low so that more people could come? Wouldn’t the number of tickets you sold in a year increase?
And once the fans are there, what if you treated them not just like bodies in the room, but actual music fans? What if you made it comfortable for them to see the shows? What if your venue had good sound, good sight lines, and room to move around? What if you hired staff who are music fans too so they actually know what it’s like to go to shows? What if you started shows at reasonable hours and ended in time for them to take public transportation home? What if you offered free water so they could hydrate? And what if you offered late-night food options to help soak up the beer?
What if you treated your guests as fans not consumers? What if you made the entire concert-going experience more fan-friendly?
In addition to talking about unconventional venues for shows and the landscape of music venues in Boston, we also discussed an editorial that Dan recently published on Boston Hassle calling for Boston mayor Marty Walsh and his new Chief of Arts and Culture, Julie Burros to facilitate the creation of:
Affordable small to mid-size performance spaces for housing social artistic experiences. Such spaces serve many kinds of artists, offering space in which to perform and hone their craft before an audience.
More affordable living space for working artists of all kinds: sculptors, musicians, filmmakers, painters, writers, visual artists, etc. Lower rents = more time spent creating art.
Affordable work/ practice space for artists. Artists need private space to work on their craft. Lower work/ practice space rent = more time spent creating art.
As of Monday, Dan hadn’t received much in the way of a response from the Walsh administration, but I still think it’s important that they are bringing up these issues.
Boston’s rent crisis has already driven most of the musicians I know out of the city. Affordable practice spaces are hard to come by.
If development in Boston is not paired with affordable housing, Boston’s going to be left with the city it deserves: gentrified, but sterile…and fit only for the 1%.
These are issues that are not unique to Boston. As cities grow and developers plan, we must to be mindful of the need for space for artists of all kinds. The vitality of our cities depends on it.