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Saturday, November 04, 2006

The high price of a dying genre

Eric Clapton is coming to Singapore on January 2007. The show will last for two hours and the tickets for the event are priced staring at S$ 85 (Rs 2500) and going all the way upto S$ 399 (Rs 12,000). A CD of collection of two hours of Clapton’s songs would come between S$20-40. Most of these songs would also be available for free on the internet.

Now, I am no fan of Clapton, and so not fully able to grasp the attraction of listening to him; but even if it were some one I like say Rage Against The Machine or Clash; I would have preferred to listen to a much better produced studio version of the songs rather than listen to it live, especially given the price difference of the order of 20. One may say that even though the studio version (which you get on CD or download) offers much better production quality; a live show has its own charm, energy and feel.

Gone are the days of Clash when the band would release double or even triple albums for the price of a single album and forego their own royalties to make up for the deficit of their record companies. Clash would also price their concerts very cheap so that many young people couldn’t attend the same. But left wing bands have changed a lot over time. Rage Against the Machine, the extreme radical left wing band of the 90s, had no qualms about the high price of their cassettes and shows, justifying it by saying:

When you live in a capitalistic society, the currency of the dissemination of information goes through capitalistic channels. Would Noam Chomsky object to his works being sold at Barnes & Noble? No, because that's where people buy their books. We're not interested in preaching to just the converted. It's great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it's also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart.

All that is fine; but what about the ideals of Clash? One can say that the final blow to the ideals of the sixties with one-dimensional capitalism happened with Eric Clapton (again) when he allowed his materials to be used for Beer commercials. And audiences have slimmed down as price have gone up; rock music is almost dead and it is reaching the fate of Indian theaters who always cry that their shows are not popular; at the same time the price their shows above 500Rs. By the way, the Singapore show will house at most 9000 people. That’s a poor reflection on the status of a music genre that drew over 500,000 attendees during Woodstock in idealistic 1969.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. I was reading about Peter Grant- the legendary manager of Led Zeppelin. The guy set concert prices as low 1.50 pounds (remarkable even for the 70s) just to ensure everybody could watch the great band play!

And Clapton is just not worth it. Jimmy Page or Rolling Stones maybe.

Naveen Roy said...

Well, I wouldn't agree on the Clapton part....cause Clapton was and is still a great guitarist....but yes, its true how live shows have become a sort of luxury!!...and we get such crappy bands come into India.....

Anonymous said...

Good one.

Are you familiar with the Pearl Jam and Ticketmaster episode?
PJ wanted their tickets to be priced low, so students could get in, but Ticketmaster would have none of that.
Unfortunately, Ticketmaster had contracted practically every venue in many of the US towns and ultimately, after a couple of years of resitance, PJ gave in and had to use Ticketmaster for their shows.