September 15, 2023
Music History

Who Has All the Power in the Music Business These Days? Concert Bookers.

In the old (pre-Napster) days, those who controlled the distribution and sale of music–record labels especially–had all the power. But with the sale of physical music continuing to crater, that power had eroded into a mere shadow of what it once was.

So who wields the big hammer in the music biz these days?  One day it might be streaming music services, but not yet. Now it’s the people who book concerts.

Touring used to be the loss-leader for anyone looking to sell music.  Now the music is a calling card that reads “come see me play live,” or perhaps more correctly “Please come to my show because it’s the only real way for me to make any money these days.”

If we go with conjecture  (b), this means that artists are more than ever dependant on the benevolence of those who book and promote shows. Promoters, booking agents, festival organizers and live music hustlers of all sorts have more clout than ever before.  Even the Wall Street Journal is writing about them.

As musicians play more live shows to make up for diminished album sales, booking agents are moving into the spotlight.In the old days, when tours were driven by album releases, booking agents were something of an afterthought, focused mainly on mundane logistics at a limited number of concert halls. These days, their job involves a much wider range of duties, including many tasks that record companies used to handle.

High on the list is creating offbeat venues, events and stunts that will help an artist stand out. The Windish Agency, for example, booked a show for the English rock band XX for New Year’s Eve on a beach in Mexico, and had rapper-producer Diplo helicopter to four different performances on a single night on the East Coast, before sailing to play a string of Caribbean islands.

Continue reading.  (Thanks to Dan for the link.)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37051 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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