I’m stunned how much ink Harry Styles is getting for his residency at Madison Square Garden.
Dennis Arfa, agent for Billy Joel, quibbles with that term, but the game remains the same, playing an extended run at a venue over a period of time. Billy can do MSG once a month, because he lives in the area, but many acts are not close to NYC, never mind their bands.
But Billy Joel is a legendary superstar. Harry Styles is a twentysomething in the heart of his career.
But all the buzz has been about fans coming to the gig, a la Las Vegas, as opposed to the record…
Yes, want publicity, GO FOR THE RECORD!
Now the truth is many arenas have a limited number of dates available, because of their sports teams. But the Forum in L.A. has none, it’s music only, so theoretically 365 days are available. Who can play the longest?
That’s another reason new arenas are being built. Because of the demand and availability. Comparing yesterday to today is apples and oranges. You see there are a lot more people, never mind a lot more acts.
I guess too many people miss the news. This was the essence of my SiriusXM show yesterday.
Let me start with the residency concept. The big story here was in the “New York Times” last week:
“Why Pop’s Biggest Stars Are Staying Put for Long Residencies – Extended runs in one venue, once associated with legacy acts, have become popular with stars including Harry Styles and BTS, lowering bills and building hype as touring costs rise.”: https://nyti.ms/3R3yU9L
This is not news to anyone in the business, then again we haven’t seen an exhaustive article about this in the business. But how many people saw this article? That’s the issue. Used to be if it was in the New York or L.A. “Times” everybody saw it. That’s not the case these days, they don’t reach those in the business. And “Billboard” has become a nearly useless consumer facing publication. You can get some inside information from HitsDailyDouble.com, albeit in many cases biased by payments, but I’m stunned how many people don’t read it, aren’t even aware of it. You see when “Hits” started 36 years ago, record companies ruled. Now they’re a sideshow. Just read about the executive movements, you won’t know who the people are and you won’t care.
And then there was an article in the “Wall Street Journal”:
“Look Out Boomers: The Next Generation of Arena Stars Is Coming – While the Stones and Springsteen show few signs of slowing down, newer and younger artists are selling out massive venues.”: https://on.wsj.com/3AKmKwA
Once again, those in the business know all this, but to see it in one place puts the situation in context. Many of the classic acts are starting to ride into the sunset, they’re not going to be able to play live forever. And in the earlier part of this century, when files replaced CDs, it was thought that the era of the arena act was dead. That it would become a theatre business. But this has turned out to be untrue. Irrelevant of their mindshare in the country at large, there are enough fans to support today’s artists to the point where they can play arenas and sometimes stadiums. You see today’s youth have a different perspective. They didn’t live through the ladder of yore…from clubs to theatres to arenas over a number of years, never mind stadiums. Today kids want to go and they expect their act to play in a large venue nearly immediately. You see there are two tiers of acts, those that break right away and those that take years in the marketplace and maybe don’t ever make it to arenas. And the young acts have a shorter shelf life, but the demand is huge. But, once again, there is a population increase, and also more disposable income. Talk about economic challenges all you want, but if they truly existed in the concert sphere prices would come down and instead they keep going up. We are approaching a challenging time in the concert business…with the Covid demand having been fulfilled, will a potential recession hit sales? Sales dipped a few months back, but then they recovered. In any event, in a digital, virtual world, the experience of live music is unique and desirable, one you cannot get anywhere else.
And then there was that story in the L.A. “Times”:
“After Astroworld catastrophe and Drakeo’s stabbing, Live Nation faces mounting questions over concert safety”: https://lat.ms/3KppWRt
No one is talking about this, it’s got no legs. If for no other reason it’s got no juice. Live Nation’s PR person fielded the questions as opposed to Michael Rapino. Rapino quotes travel, those of the PR person do not. This is the Springsteen issue… If you’re a celebrity, if you have a profile, don’t enter the fray without knowing anything you say will be repeated around the world and will never disappear. Whereas if you say nothing…people’s memories are short, if they even know the story to begin with.
And there is one gotcha in the L.A. “Times” article:
“CSC job listings for event staff show that typical pay is under $20 an hour, and its own advertising for job openings has told candidates, ‘Why pay upwards of $100 for a ticket when you can experience the event with the CSC family and be compensated for it?’”
How well can a security person do their job if they’re incentivized to see the show as part of the gig?
CSC is Contemporary Services Corp. I.e. a security company. Yes, security for these big events is OUTSOURCED!
This is what killed GE, this is what is still killing America, this is what is hurting so many workers, that are shadow employees, even in tech. They do all the work for the well-known company, but they’re paid by an intermediary, and they don’t get the same pay and benefits. You can be working for Google, but paid by a third party.
So, the buck stops with Live Nation, but they are not the hands-on party.
And you must watch the Woodstock ’99 documentary on Netflix to see the character and quality of these third party security people, it’s not much better today, but the reason I mention it is a member of the audience offers a big buck for the security person’s t-shirt and he sells it to him! He got money in his pocket, and the person with the shirt now has access and other powers. It’s akin to a backstage pass.
Security is a huge issue. Something we should all be discussing. But this exhaustive article in the L.A. “Times” had no reach, no impact. Even the L.A. “Times” is its own private backwater. To reach everybody is impossible. We have a zillion verticals, and oftentimes those who need to be reached are on TikTok, where the mainstream media has no presence or impact.
But getting back to the residency…
It can be a badge of honor. Akin to a Grammy, but better. How many nights did you play at the arena, do you hold the record? And was every gig sold out?
You see fans will flock to the residency not just to see the act, but to be part of an event, to say they were there! It’s one thing to say you saw the act at your local arena, it’s quite another to say you were at show 16 at the residency. This is part of fandom, you want to own the act and the experience! As far as flying or driving to the arena…you go on vacation, don’t you?
Sure, there is a business touring the country, but it will never get cheaper. You don’t have to pay for hotels if you stay in one place, never mind all those trucks. And it doesn’t have to be in Las Vegas, in Vegas music is secondary to gambling and having a good time. But at the Forum, IT’S MUSIC ONLY! Adding gravitas.
Don’t expect change overnight, but there will be an evolution.
God, most of Billy Joel’s ink in the past decade has been about his residency, without it there would have been a lot of less press and maybe fewer ticket sales not only at Madison Square Garden but elsewhere.
And it’s not like Harry Styles’s record just came out. It was released on May 20th, but now he’s on the cover of “Rolling Stone”…which no one reads anymore, because it’s behind a paywall, but quotes are pulled by other news media and it makes a good tweet…and now there’s another article in the “New York Times” reviewing the show:
“The Harry Styles Show (and Some Music) Comes to New York – The first two nights of a 15-concert run at Madison Square Garden were heavy on charisma, banter and nods to the past.”: https://nyti.ms/3Tb3Q9k
It doesn’t stop! The Harry train keeps rolling. And, once again, Harry’s fans are not reading this story, but advertisers and film producers are, they see the impact Harry has. Harry Styles might be the biggest superstar in music today, along with Bad Bunny, but the aged think it’s Beyoncé. Now they know otherwise. And as far as Beyoncé goes, not being on the road hurts her purchase on society at large, there was the buzz around the release of the album, now what? The experts here are the Kardashians. They’re online and in the news every damn day. Did you see that Apple has even got Kim Kardashian earbuds? And they’re sold out, but Apple has full page ads and the bottom line is people still think the Kardashians are a sideshow, but if you’re involved with Apple…that’s the top of the heap, that’s the Holy Grail!
There’s a lot going on. But no one media outlet has a hold on it, never mind having little reach and almost no legs. In a world where you can reach everybody instantly, they’re reaching ever fewer and what’s here today is gone tomorrow.
Which is why the mainstream media is only part of your plan. Why the record is only part of your plan. Live, the fan can feel the connection, once again it’s a unique experience, capitalize on that. Harry Styles has.