The Corporatisation of this thing called Rock ’N’ Roll – Don’t let money fool ya! Print E-mail
Written by Nick Russell   
Sunday, 18 September 2016 03:00

I’ll make it clear from the start, Black Sabbath made me do this! Not that Ozzy is standing there with a gun to my head but it is indeed down to Birmingham’s finest that this piece exists. In fact, there are two reasons behind it all, I shall return to the second one in a little while…

 

Everybody has that one gateway band that sends them on a path and from that point, there is usually no looking back. For me, metal started with Black Sabbath. I was 15 and my school friend Michael Currie lent me two cassettes (most people reading this will know what they are!). One had ‘Heaven And Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ on it and the other was a compilation of older Ozzy-era tunes. I absolutely loved them, especially with ‘Mob Rules’ resonating with me, and that was it, I was hooked! From there, the very first metal vinyl I bought was the double album ‘LiveEvil’, and whilst the Ronnie era was clearly to the forefront of my listening, I went backwards and discovered all the Ozzy era back catalogue as well. Some 35 years on, metal is well and truly in my veins, from Bon Jovi to Behemoth! And it always will be.

Black Sabbath - Mob Rules 

It’s an inescapable fact that, whether we like it or not, the world of music has changed, not quite beyond all recognition but fairly close to it.

 

Firstly, forming your band has changed, you don’t actually need to know each other before you get together, you’re created by some marketing team who can see nothing but dollar signs, knowing full well the sheeple will dig it. Chemistry and actual talent aren’t a real consideration! As for writing the songs, there probably is an app for that!! Or someone will write them for you, you’ll just be a figure head!

 

Then it’s time to record those tunes, have you got enough money behind you for studio time? No worries, you can ask fans to pay for it first and offer them all sorts of “special” packages including the vinyl boxset with their grandmother thrown in, all for a premium price! Or don’t even bother with a studio, use modern technology in the comfort of your own bedroom! And the old adage of “you can’t polish a turd” no longer applies, you can make any old shit sound half decent these days! And in the process of recording the songs, you don’t need to be together, you can text your contribution via the Cloud and it will magically appear on the finished product (although probably turned down in the mix by the guitarist, it is his band after all!)

 

Now you have those songs down on tape (nod to the old school!), with the power of social media and technology, you can get your music out to the world with ease. If you are willing to release your music in more than a virtual fashion, whether it be DIY or with label backing, getting us punters to buy it has drastically changed as well. Long gone are the huge megastores with racks full of albums and cd’s, in fact record shops full stop are few and far between these days, why go out when you can order online from the comfort of wherever you may be and get it the next day, cheaper? Although I wager, like me, there’s a few of you out there who like a good rummage through the racks!

 

And that’s if you want to actually pay for your music, why wouldn’t you? Artists have taken the time to create something, dig deep into you disposable income and help a brother or sister out, tight bastards!! But no, in this instant world, you don’t want to part with your hard earned cash, you just want it now, for free. Then you can take that tune and make your own video and share it with the world, after all, that song is your property, not the bands!

 

If that wasn’t enough, it’s all change for bands going out on tour and for you, the punter, to go and see them. If we’re lucky enough to get a normal price ticket in the 5 minutes when they go on sale and not have to pay a premium from the thieving scum ticket agencies that purposely put tickets for sale on secondary web sites, then we’re lucky! You could then pay more money to have a waitress drinks service or a box. And if you use a particular brand of pet food, you can get into a smaller queue and get in 10 minutes sooner than everyone else!

 

As for the bands, these days, unless you’re a mega band (think copy of their album in Tesco’s!), the only way you can make any money is by touring. Invariably it will be self-financed, even if you are on a record label, the levels of label support these days are so much smaller. The days of a 30 day UK tour are long gone, partly because there just aren’t as many venues to play, although fair play to Exodus with their 17 date UK tour earlier this year, a rarity. So with shorter tours, bands can only make some money on merchandise sales such as t-shirts, hoodies (sorry Motley Crue, but 80 quid, fuck off!!) hats, g-strings, a signed copy of the bog roll used by the band etc. Even bands on record labels have copies of the album for sale at the merch desk, anything that brings in some revenue. Which is bringing me to one of my main points, the meet and greet.

 

Back in the day, if you wanted to meet anyone in a band, you’d have to wait outside the venue in the cold pissing rain and hope to catch them as they run the five yards from the stage door to the tour bus. Some would be quite happy to stop and sign things for you, whilst you’d be thoroughly pissed off that the grumpy guitarist brushed you off! These days you can meet and greet them, for a fee. Now, I understand that for smaller bands, it is an additional form of much needed revenue and don’t blame them what-so-ever. If a band is willing to spend time with fans for an extra bit of dosh, I get the principle, I don’t necessarily agree with it though. I recently attended a Star Wars celebration and I could have got Luke Skywalker’s signature for £145! A picture would’ve been more! The bigger the name, the more money you have to pay, just don’t like it.

 

My stepson does meet and greets, he pays (in some cases) a lot of money, to spend some time, get a pic and something signed, usually a vinyl sleeve, by the artist/band. Back in the day, we would spend an equivalent amount of money of every format available of our favourite bands single, so I can’t argue too much on that. He then prints the pics and puts everything in a frame, which do look good and I sort of get that, quite cool.

 

But this leads me to my second point, and back to Black Sabbath…

 

black-sabbath-the-end-splash 

They are playing their “final” ever tour dates early next year and offering the chance to meet the band, what a great opportunity to meet people who’ve probably been your heroes. Firstly, as a gesture to their loyal fan base, they’re charging £70 for the cheapest nearly behind a pillar view (Birmingham NEC)! Ok, market forces maybe, big touring productions do cost money, but still a bit of a nerve I think. Not only do I want to see them one last time in concert but I would love to meet these icons, that’s what my stepson wanted to do. You could have your pic with the 3 main men (no autographs though), a special VIP laminate, VIP tour gift, access to the “Golden Circle” (the very front of the stage to you and me!!) and early access to spend even more money on over-priced merch! And how much for this once in a lifetime opportunity? The bargain price of 1050 of your English pounds!!! But there’s more, if you want to have a Q&A session with Ozzy himself, well that’s only 1750 quid!!! Yes, those figures are correct!

 

As much as I love them, it’s an absolute disgrace that a band, any band in fact, would even think of charging that much, especially in their home town where they came from humble working class backgrounds! I’m sure they are getting a fair whack for this tour as it is, do they really feel the need to fleece the fans one more time? Come on, you don’t really need the money, unlike those smaller bands who also do meet and greets, and still have jobs when not touring. You would be surprised how many and the size of some of these bands. Will it stop me listening to the mighty Sabbath, probably not, how could I live without those classic tunes. But it’s certainly left a very bitter taste in the mouth.

 

In this instant, money is no object, I want it all, it’s my right modern world we live in, stupid people will still pay stupid money for these privileges. And as long as that happens, the greedy bastards will carry on supplying them. We really are better than that.