If Your Music Business Model Is To Make Money On Live Shows, Make Those Live Shows Experiences To Remember

from the things-to-think-about dept

In talking about various business models for musicians these days, we’ve never suggested that concerts are the only (or even the best) way to make money. However, they certainly are one way that can work. That doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to work, of course. One of our regular critics has been bombarding the submission page with stories of failed concert tours this year, as if that proves that the business models we talk about don’t work. Of course, by that logic, if some bands can’t sell CDs, it means that selling CDs is a business model that can’t work. A single failure — or even a cluster of failures — does not disprove that a model can work. But, it might take some effort to actually make it work.

This is why I was fascinated by a recent interview that Kyle Bylin did over at Hypebot with Rich Huxley of the band Hope and Social, with part of it discussing how they try to make sure that every concert they put on is a true experience for the fans who come out:

Well, for Hope and Social, we endeavor to make every show an experience. It’s not just about playing the songs — that’s just not enough. We feel like good people are an extension of the band, we want you to feel like you’re part of our gang. So, as an extension of this, we like to involve people in our music and in our shows; for example, we’ll give each audience member a kazoo and teach them one of the brass hooks to a song. Sometimes we’ll invite people up onstage to play a kazoo solo onstage with the band, or to sing with us, that sort of thing.

We’ve run events where we’ve invited our fans further into our lives and our work and into our studio, to shows in the very lair that we’ve made our records in, and recorded our audience playing with us. There’s a track on our latest album April called Eurospin which features 70 fans as a wine bottle orchestra. We recorded this song live at an event we called “Come Dine With Us” where we turned our studio into a bistro for the evening and fed, watered and waited on the people who came. Awesome fun and a great band/fan bonding experience to boot.

This highlights a really important point. When we’ve talked about the various business models that artists can use, we’ve noted that many of them take creativity and effort — and that’s why some people jump straight to the “well, touring is the business model,” because it seems straightforward and easy to understand. But, as Rich is pointing out, you still need to be creative and do cool things on a tour to make sure people really feel connected.

Separately, in the next question, Kyle points to a fascinating article from last year, which we had not seen, that highlights the fact that people value “experiences” more than “possessions.” What’s funny is the same critic who’s been talking about tour failures has bolstered his argument by claiming the exact opposite: saying that the reason concerts won’t work as a business model is that people want possessions more than fleeting experiences. Well, turns out the evidence suggests exactly the opposite:

Psychological research suggests that, in the long run, experiences make people happier than possessions.

That’s in part because the initial joy of acquiring a new object, such as a new car, fades over time as people become accustomed to seeing it every day, experts said. Experiences, on the other hand, continue to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred.

The article mentions a study where researchers actually tested this hypothesis and found it to be true. It’s definitely nice to see this confirmed in some manner. Anyway, the interview with Rich has some more interesting nuggets as well, so check it out.

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Comments on “If Your Music Business Model Is To Make Money On Live Shows, Make Those Live Shows Experiences To Remember”

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Eugene (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It IS pretty disgusting, how these bands are trying to connect with their fans. How absolutely awful. Can’t we go back to the days when rock stars were kept behind handlers, the things they said were pre-written by PR people, and all correspondence between them and fans was handled by the marketing staff at the record label?? That was so much better!! >:(

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sorry but this is pretty disgusting.

Giving your fans what they want is disgusting? Say what?

So now playing music is not enough?

No one said that. I said give them a great experience. In some cases, that might just be the music. In other cases in might not be.

Make kazoo orchester out of your audience?

No one said everyone should do it, or that it was the right approach for every band. The point is that whatever it takes to better connect with your audience.

Please, I am interested in music, not some circus.

Then, clearly, this approach is not right for you.

I really can’t appreciate bullshit like this as a concert goer.

Well, then clearly, you’re not a fan of this band. But that’s not really the point now, is it?

Anonymous Coward says:

“rock stars”? please. The distributing kazoos thing is the classic “clap your hands everybody” rock-star stereotype taken one step further. The “connect with fans” seems to have become some sort of a slogan which has to be repeated at least several times in every discussion here. I’ve seen several fantastic concerts this year. It was all different styles from different music cultures/traditions (definitely no rock stars, only rock star i like is iggy :)). They all had one thing in common: It was great music, played full force&brilliantly, without any other nonsense to it. Connecting OK, but I think musicians should connect mainly through how they play and their music. Instead of having to think about silly tricks. Oh, and I don’t think any music old&new I love is produced with a “target audience” in mind. I think this the “old” – “ugly label” way of thinking, which people seem to despise so much here.

Anonymous Coward says:


There are plenty of bands i see that have no connections with major labels. They tour constantly through the year.
The easiest to mention that you would recognize would be phish. Their entire Existence was based around the live show and encourage taping of them. This spread to a new generation. Umphreys mcgee, the string cheese incident, the disco biscuits, moe, yonder mountain string band, sound tribe sector 9, ect…

There is a hole treasure trove of musical artists you have never touched on mike, and im surprised because of your major concentration on the “new world order” of music. All of these bands are on either their own label or one of the other bands label close to the music scene. And it is obvious enough some of them can afford to live a lavish life while almost 100% of them allow the taping and trading of their live shows. (Also, never have seen them go after and take down studio recordings from youtube, ect).

cram says:


This has to be a new low for you.

“fascinating article from last year, which we had not seen, that highlights the fact”

FACT? Something reported in CNN is fact, but when someone criticizes you on this site it is a “claim.”? Geez! Both are claims, but you spin one into a “fact” because it suits your worldview and business model. Of course if someone else did it, he’d be “lying.” You are incapable of it, as your fans know.

“Well, turns out the evidence suggests exactly the opposite:”

EVIDENCE? There is no evidence here. Even the story says, “
Psychological research suggests…”

Suggests is the key word here. Psychology is not an exact science [much of it is bullshit, IMHO :)]. That’s why studies such as these always “suggest,” since this stuff can never be conclusively proven.

Also remember, possessions are easier to acquire than experiences. Not everyone can attend a concert, but almost everyone can get hold of a CD (or an MP3). Not everyone finds the time to go to a movie for the “experience,” which is why there is something called the DVD business (it’s still in the billions, so don’t bother with the “shiny disc business is dying” stuff).

It’s plain ridiculous to claim that one is better than the other. Psychologists have been fooling everyone with such nonsense for too long; you should have known better.

Rich Huxley (profile) says:

Hopefully a bit of clarification

fogbugzd, :Lobo Santo, Kevin Stapp, Eugene, Mike Masnick – Thanks for your comments, They’ll spur me on.

Anonymous Coward of Jul 26th, 2010 @ 4:22pm – Fair doos, you probably won’t enjoy one of our shows. It’s not for everyone, but it does work, and y’know what… It’s loads of FUN! I like having fun, so do the rest of the band, and so do most people we encounter. If you come to a show and don’t enjoy it, we’ll give you your money back. Not that we know who you are sadly. 🙁

Anonymous Coward of Jul 26th, 2010 @ 5:51pm
That’s the point isn’t it? Music can connect with people, but we’re not touting some bolt-on shit-shenanigans for the sake of it. Picture 100,000 people singing the outro of Hey Jude at Glastonbury. Yep that’s crowd involvement (and cheese to the max) but hey, if you as an audience member feels that as a moment, then it’s valid. That’s what we do. Also, the kazoos are a gift, which is nice of us.

The Groove Tiger – lotsalols

Isabel – it’s not draining to meet lots of great people. We have a song with the lyrics “wherever we meet there’ll be bars of angels” and that’s usually the case. I believe in the good of people. That said, I’m happy to tell @r$£holes, bigots, idiots and anyone humanly offensive to eff off and do whatever I can to disconnect the band, and me, from them.

If we get tired of having fun, we’ll call it a day.

Here’s to Hope and Social, long may she sail.

Over and out,

Ben Denison (user link) says:

Missing The point

The magic happens before the mic. This is a given. If the music isnt great, then give up. No one will care.

The point is, the world is awash with great music. Most of it not being listened to. Im sure you love great music you havent listened to, from artists you have long since felt a connection with. Where are they, and where is that relationship you had now?

The difficulty for artists is connecting and maintaining a connection with a group of people on a level which keeps them coming back and keeps the artist going both financially and creatively.

Yes, Hope and Social is about great music primarily, but it takes more than that to keep it going, so it is also about having fun and making art. These are things that bring the band and the fans together time and again with increasing energy. Its a potent combination in a time when people are craving distinction. People want something different, something unique, and experiences, fun and art are this.

The challenge is to find what works for you, as a band or as a fan. Hope and Social is sailing. For everyone involved. Come down and see for yourself.

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