Is the music industry now entirely in the hands of live promoters?

No Comments 31 July 2017

Is the music industry now entirely in the hands of live promoters?

This week, the man behind MCD and now chairman of Live Nation UK & Ireland, Denis Desmond, gave an insightful interview about his industry to Music Business Worldwide. In it, he rang the death knell of fat-cheque advance deals from record companies.

“The big change is that initially bands toured to sell records and now the live income is the major source for most artists, and the record is the trailer for the gig. [Record company] investment is probably more about time and effort than it ever was, and less about money,” he said. “The days are gone of big cheques and big advances. No one’s spending a million making a video these days.”

Tell us something we didn’t know, we muttered. And then he did.

“A lot of the deals we [Live Nation] are doing are development deals, where I suppose we have kind of replaced the record companies, from an advance point of view,” he said. “So when you have artists coming along saying they would like to spend X on production, because we’re about to go on tour, that money can come from Live Nation, and that’s us investing in the artists, that’s us saying we believe. And it can be a big investment.”

The idea of the live promoter nurturing new artists does, in many ways, make perfect sense. It’s another way the music industry’s structure is changing with the times. It leads to a more direct relationship between the artist and the biggest area of growth in the music industry (factoid: Live Nation sold 26 per cent more tickets in June 2017 than last year), and it’s a logical investment for promoters to make – after all, they’re the ones profiting from an exciting music scene.

And critically, it solves a finance issue as no one else is developing artists. Arts funding is notoriously scarce and record companies are playing it so safe that if you’re name’s not Ned Sheeran, they’re not interested. So in the last few years, the main viable options are selling your heirlooms to self-fund, or selling your soul and featuring your song in an ad. Given someone’s got to pay for the three-star lifestyle that characterises the band’s first few gigging years, it’s long-overdue.

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