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Music Touring 101

Touring in the music world goes back to the beginning of music making, way back to the time before Edison had made the phonograph. It started by musicians just standing in the center of streets or courtyards and just performing for the public. After all, that was the only way for them to have their music heard.  When musicians realized, by moving around and traveling to nearby cities, that they could spread their music more widely it became a common reality to be a traveling musician.  Finally when music began to be recorded regularly and the form of labels began to emerge, music started to be sold frequently in shops. From there the demand to see peoples favorite musicians grew. Musicians soon found out that this idea of touring wasn’t just a way to gain popularity; they realized that if they created a strong enough fan base that they could get paid for playing in front of large audiences. (Hence the popularity of concert halls and venues rose). Soon enough the concept of touring was in full swing.


            Touring is truly a great part of the music art form. A tour is feasible for any artist,in any genre of music. Tours much like large sports games bring fans of the same liking together to create an amazing and hyped experience. A more interesting aspect is to experience concerts of many different genres of music.Each genre and artist will create and whole different atmosphere of the live concert phenomenon.


            Live concerts were very popular especially during the 60’s when many artists would put on concerts and perform their songs that were politically based, not to mention Woodstock, and when bands became a big part of society like The Beatles.  Again in the 80’s with the craze of the rocker image that swept the nation, with the big hair bands,and artists like Billy Idol, and Madonna, going to concerts to see your favorite artist was the coolest thing to do.  Sometime within these years cassettes and CD sales began to sky rocket, and in the early 90’s with grunge taking the unwilling spot light,CD sales became record labels’ main focus. It was the late 90’s artists like the ever-infamous boy bands, Britney Spears, and many others, which really showed just how profitable CD sales really could be.  In 1999 Britney Spears’ first album “Hit Me…One More Time”,sold over 22 million units. However as we all know along with the Millennium, came the rise of the Internet era and after about four years of Internet prosperity came the evolution of file sharing. File sharing allows billions of people who previously would have bought artists’ music, to easily get it for free on-line. For example only four years later when Britney released her fourth album in 2003, “In The Zone”, her sales dropped to a low of only 6 million units, almost down to a fourth of her previous sales. For whatever reason label’s noticed this slight decrease in CD sales but the first few years thought nothing of it. For decades the music industry had been run the same way. There was the music industry end that dealt with the promotion, talent relations, and so on, and then there was the record industry that brought in the majority of the labels profit, and the musicians profit. Labels never saw an end to this well-balanced set up.

It was in2001 that Apple had introduced iTunes, the facet that organized digital music and allowed for the personal copying of CD’s. Since 2001 CD sales have dropped more than 60 percent; and methods of trying to get money for mp3’s like their Tunes store, subscription deals, piracy lawsuits, and sales of ring tones, the monies that the record labels are scrapping up from these avenues,(even though it is rising) isn’t even coming close to half the amount of revenue that once came in from, hard copy sales.

           Once record labels and the music industry realized that they might actually be in trouble, which was only within the past few years, they started to come up with ideas. The best idea that record labels have come up with so far is the idea of a 360 deal. 360 deals or multiple rights deals, are part of the Label to artist contract that give the label the exclusivity to sell and exploit the artist pretty much as a brand name. Because labels are not getting their high end revenues from having their hands dipped into the single pocket of their artists’ music sales anymore, they have decided to create a much larger amount of pockets to have to dip into,thus creating a much wider range of revenue. These pockets including having their artist or band sell ranges of in depth merchandising. Merchandising used to mean t-shirts, stickers, hats etc. Now with the 360 deals, merchandising can mean the ever popular perfumes, sports drinks, clothing lines, house hold accessories and more. Each item being sold as part of the 360 deal means that it is being fronted by the label, this way labels are sure to get the largest possible sum of money from all of these.


            Another action that has taken place due to the drop in CD sales is one taken by the artist end of the spectrum. It was bad enough when CD sales were booming that the artist only received fewer than 20 percent of their total earnings. So imagine now how much artists, who are tied to their label and who are no longer receiving the big revenue, are suffering from money loss. Innovative bands like Radiohead made a leap towards dumping the idea of being tied to a label all together, and doing everything on their own. In 2007 Radiohead released their newest album completely independently and sold it online, making millions of dollars in profit, and had no debts to pay back to label. This idea worked well for Radiohead, already having a stable fan base, yet this tactic many rightfully feel would not work out nearly as successful for many less fortunate artists.


            In October of 2007, Madonna made a move that combined the idea of the 360 deals,and leaving the constricting label. Madonna signed a deal with Live Nation, and left her past label Warner Bros. Group Corp. The new deal with Live Nation raised her advances and income to over an estimated 120 million dollars. However this deal allows Live Nation to get a part of the action in every move she makes whether it includes future music and music-related business, the Madonna brand, albums, touring, merchandising, fan club and Websites, DVDs, music-related television and film projects, and associated sponsorship agreements! But this deal gave her more freedom and more money to work with. Madonna was quotes saying the day the deal was announced that, “The paradigm in the music business has shifted and as an artist and a businesswoman, I have to move with that shift…”.


           So with artists and labels alike in a scramble for survival many key elements have shown through in all the experiments done so far. A few being that people with always have a passion for making music and people will always have a passion to hear and enjoy music. It is not certain if the strict format of label will always be in place, however a starting artist will always need aback board of support that can front project starting money, give promotion,handle public relations, manage and more. The real problem is just balancing out where the money will come from. With the record industry in the gutters for now, there is only one true thing for the artists and their dangling labels to do, and that is to go back to the basics. These basics would be to give the fans what they want, in person, by live concerts.


            With CD sales no longer an option to bring in the highest revenue, the next option that has potential for the highest amount of revenue is touring.  Although tours take a lot of money,dedication, time, and planning in the beginning, the end result is unbelievably positive. With a tour comes many opportunities for the artist; the main and most obvious being the extreme amount of publicity. For an artist to tour through multiple cities in multiple countries is the greatest way for an artist to spread their name. When a tour goes through a city the artists name gets announced on flyers, radio stations, the street teams get to work, and the artists expand their fan base by word of mouth, and by adopting the fans of the other artists they may be on tour with. This comes to the next great aspect of touring for the artists; which is being able to get networking and meet other artists and make connections. Working and being on tour with various other artists allows for the artist to grow musically and develop friendships with other artists that may lead to future collaborations on tracks and projects.


            Touring for the label as well is greatly rewarding, fans are willing to pay a pretty high price to see a great concert by their favorite artist. With very stable and legitimate ticket selling sources like Ticketmaster, large amounts of revenue alone can come in from ticket sales. Along with ticket sales is the sale of merchandise during the concerts. As said before merchandise no longer is in the basics.  Merchandise that can be sold at concerts can range from underwear, to sports drinks, to cosmetics, and appliances. Also on tour is still of course the special tourt-shirts, stickers, pins etc, that can still bring in a hefty amount of revenue. Along the lines of trying to help with the decrease in hard copy music sales, many artists will sell limited time CD’s, autographed CD’s, special guest tracks, and collector’s edition type records, to try and get die hard fans to buy these types of products, by making them look more important than what you could get for free or .99 cents online.


            Many artists are jumping on the touring bandwagon, and have realized that touring in other countries especially to Japan and Europe can be very beneficial to the wallet. Larger bands that can front the money to travel overseas, can really gain a whole new spectrum of a fan base and profits. Just look at how big The Beatles became when they arrived in the United States. Just imagine what their career might have been like and how our last five decades of music could have been different if the Unites States had not been introduced to The Beatles.


            Collaborations of tours within labels and similar genres have been becoming more frequent.Also in the past decade or so the idea of large annual concerts events have become a great attraction. For instance like The Vans Warped Tour, OzFest, Bonnaroo, The South By South West Festival, The Bamboozle and tons of others have had a growing popularity rate. These events are even greater because they bring in a huge variety of artists that get to work together, meet others, and have their fans meet other fans. Smaller concert organizers have been getting their hand wet with concert series’, doing city wide or regions music series’ that last for a whole season long. Artists, labels, and concert promoters alike have been trying to get their piece of the action in the live concert world.


            On a more artistic note, going on tour can be a really maturing experience for an artist. Being on tour takes a lot hard work and dedication. Especially one that is multi-continental and takes more than half a year to complete. But while an artist or band is on tour they learn a lot about themselves, their band mates,and the world. Many artists write whole albums and their best songs while on tour because of the great influences and inspiring attributes that can be found along the way. 


            It is quite clear that touring can be beneficial for an artist and their label,but touring and live concerts is also great for society. Just like other spectator events like football games or Nascar races, there is a certain special atmosphere and feeling of a strong community connection that can be felt when hundreds of strangers meet up together to celebrate and enjoy something they all have in common. In this case a love for music. Whether it was back in the 1800’s when a violinist would stand on the corner of Main Street and play for a small clustered crowd, or Elvis or The Beatles playing live on the Ed Sullivan Show, or Woodstock, everyone that experienced events like these has felt that special kind of feeling you get when the excitement fills the body,the vibe of the crowd gets the adrenaline running, and how by the simple“hello” from the artist can send the crowd into a riot. It’s live music, its touring, its money.




Publish October 2011 Music Clout (C)


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