Vixen Of The Violin: The Anna Phoebe Column (No. 10)
This week, Anna Phoebe escapes to Berlin and uncovers some musical gems. She also looks at the whole idea of bands doing post-gig meet and greets, and asks if musicians should be allowed to make money from their art? Click here to read previous columns from Anna.
With the second week of Roxy Music rehearsals over, I’ve sneaked away to my hideaway in Berlin for a week! Just having breakfast listening to old records – currently playing Rolling Stones’ Love You Live recorded in Paris and Toronto 1976-1977.
I found an amazing secondhand shop around the corner from my flat where I bought a huge bag of records for about 10 euros, and this baby was in it – complete with artwork by Andy Warhol. Nice! Next to be played include ZZ Top’s AfterBurner, T.Rex’s Solid Gold and Ike & Tina Turner, from the Italian collection of La Grande Storia del Rock.
On the flight over here I was reading the new Classic Rock issue. The letters page is usually something I glance over and then move on, but this time I actually read all of them; among the letters were a few complaining about Kiss’s entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to the business of music. One complained about Bad Company’s disappointingly short set and that it wasn’t value for money, and interestingly enough there were two who defended Aerosmith’s high ticket prices. It seems that when it comes to live shows, ‘good value for money’ is dependent on not only the quality of the band, but also the production of the stage show, the length of set and the cost of the tickets.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a band that I’ve been part of for the last six years is an excellent example of business model where they pitch everything just right – the tickets are cheap when compared with other arena acts, the lighting/stage rig is one of the biggest in the world (in fact, we use the same production team as Kiss, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, etc.) the length of set is just under three hours and we do a free meet and greet at the end of every show. What audience member could ask for more?
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is probably the only arena act which does the free meet and greet at the end of the show – the band come off stage, we have time to shower and change, and then we head up to the upper levels of the arena where they set up tables and chairs for us to sit. The audience (sometimes thousands) will stand in line to come and say hello. We give out autographs, accept gifts, take photos and sign merchandise for up to an hour. Yes, it is exhausting when you come off stage; often the only place you want to go to is straight to your bunk and curl up asleep. However, no matter how tired you are, meeting the fans who support your career is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, and can be an incredibly humbling experience.
Paul Stanley is attacked for saying that they’re too tired for a meet and greet after the shows. I can sympathise. Running around an arena stage for over two hours is exhausting, especially after a couple of months on the road. But I think it is despicable to say you’re too tired to meet anyone after the show unless they spend lots of money for the privilege. The most rewarding fans you meet after the show are exactly the ones who could never afford it.
I was pleasantly surprised by the two letters which defended Aerosmith’s high ticket prices for the O2 Arena show in London on June 15. Al from Edinburgh wrote: ‘Going to see gigs has been a huge part of my life since 1975 and I’m not complaining about high prices – it’s all about your priorities. The day rock or metal becomes some altruistic art form pandering to the greedy, lazy herd will be a sad day indeed!’ Quite right too!
The music industry has reverted back to the 70s where money has to be made from touring live since everyone expects recorded music to come for free. But this expectation that creative people should produce art simply for the love of it is not a new argument. The phrase ‘Ars Gratia Artis’ comes from the Romans, translating as ‘art is its own reward’. It’s been floating around in various guises ever since as an excuse to exploit creative people, by paying them as little as possible (or nothing) for producing art/literature/music.
Most musicians would agree that you don’t go into the music business because it will make you rich; you play music because it’s the only thing you can ever imagine doing. However, once you’ve accepted this ‘golden ball and chain’ and you find yourself part of the music industry, it is nice to make a bit of cash and earn a respectable living. And if you can combine being a musician with being a sensible business person, good for you! Kiss are a band of excellent entrepreneurs. Love or hate them, they know about marketing, about branding and about selling, and are not ashamed to flaunt it to its full potential.
Footballers and the football industry probably make far more money than the music industry here in the UK. Football fans don’t expect to get their entertainment fix for free – they spend hundreds (if not thousands) per year on satellite subscriptions to sport channels, on season tickets to clubs, and on the latest kit. And after 90 minutes on the football pitch, no-one expects the footballers to turn up for a meet and greet. Footballers play football for the love of the game, and yet nobody expects to be entertained by them for free. Why should music fans’ expectations be any different?
Right. Unpaid hours of violin practice beckon.
Inspiration Track of The Week: Rolling Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want