Welcome to the weekly article looking at the current music industry, its challenges and overall why and how SHOUT4's RevShare model works so well for the independent music industry. Written by SHOUT4 Chairman, Ric Yerbury.
Well, are we?
Feels a bit flaky at the moment with so many music festivals having already been cancelled and many close to the point of putting up the white flag for this year. Primarily this is due to the lack of insurance or government support to underwrite any risk. As I write, the ‘Delta Variant’ of Covid is causing many to get nervous about committing to any such offer. So the reality is, as far as the UK is concerned, that festivals are for 2022 in the main. So perhaps we’re not so ‘live’, so far!
I must declare an interest here.
I have spent a lot of time trying to get people into a room to love new artists playing their hearts out in sweaty rooms. Not a massively profitable pursuit I know, but incredibly rewarding when it goes right and of course a bit of a downer if/when it doesn’t. I have been fortunate to have been the promoter for some incredible artists playing early in their career. Ok some name dropping, Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran, The Vaccines, Ben Howard, Alt-J, Wolf Alice and on we go. Great nights, many sold out, and of course some more suited to current social distancing measures!
From this you will realise that I have a real empathy for the community of promoters, venue owners, live sound engineers and of course the artists themselves. It’s really hurting at the moment and we’re not sure when that hurt will stop.
You may say, ‘surely this is all about to change’? (Delta aside), ‘surely there will be pent up demand and the venues will be heaving with sweaty beer hurling crowds’?
It could be and how great would that be?! Umm though, I have a couple of worries that need consideration. The most obvious is of course the question of whether or not our priorities have changed, or may wane with other leisure pursuits introducing new habits over the past 18 months? Perhaps this suggests that we have learned to live life differently and we will not necessarily move back to the old ways? Well my answer to that from my experience, promoters and venues will work even harder! I am sure there will still be demand and they go out there and shout as loud as possible.
So far so good. However, I think there may be a more pressing problem. What were the trends prior to the pandemic and how has Covid affected these? Wonderful venues were closing before Covid 19 due to a variety of pressures. Also what is the competition? Most of us have finite funds available to spend on leisure activities and live music is competing for that leisure pound alongside a whole new generation of opportunities. Many of those are consumed in a digital way. Promoters have already seen, pre Covid, a disconnect between digital profiles and real committed fans who will turn up to live nights to follow that band they seemingly love so much. This time I will not name names as it would be disingenuous, but I have promoted nights where the ‘data’ from Myspace, then Facebook, and more recently Insta and Spotify from some pretty impressive acts have not delivered the audience we expected. Why is this? Fake news in part or at least fake likes, follows, streams etc, potentially even falsely boosted vanity metrics. What an age…
There is perhaps another factor to take into consideration with the changing nature of what is considered ‘live entertainment’ driven by a different generation of performers. None of us are immune to the rise and rise of Tik Tok and Triller and the worlds they encourage. I remember we had a week recently when a significant number of the top 10 singles came via artists from Tik Tok.
The question is then, if these are the artists of the future, where does live fit in?
Could this mean the end of the wonderful ‘toilet’ tour where so many great acts in the past have won their audience? Have the pubs / clubs / small venues from the wonderful cultural spread of UK towns and cities been replaced by so-called more elaborate encounters, driven through the lens of social media where metrics can be manipulated to bolster at will?
It may be argued that my reminiscences are pure nostalgia and that what people want from a live experience has moved on. My main defence is simply this, the creation and nurturing of some of the greatest talents around has been as a result of that world I support – and whilst there may be a demand for different stars, there will always be demand for real musical talent and live is where it starts, is honed and crafted.
Anyhows what to do? Well first believe. We who love and value that toilet tour, (getting a UK wide discovery circuit together in 2018/19 was one of the happiest times I had), need to help the great work of the likes of Mark Davyd and Music Venue Trust. We also need to look once again at the finances. The likelihood is that numbers will be low after an initial burst of ‘freedom’ excitement, so the economics will work against keeping this area of live music afloat. Promoters will need to have access to sufficient funds to be able to really go to town on attracting the audiences back. Venues have costs to pay, bands may not expect much but travel costs add up and the promoter needs some form of return over a portfolio of gigs. Having said that numbers are likely to be low, how can we do this?
Well I have been giving this a lot of thought over the past few years and when we were able to get SHOUT4 underway, we were keen to ensure that Revshare deals could be the way forward here as well as in the creation and marketing of content. So in summary, if an artist wants to get a tour around the UK with good promotion to back up those social media numbers, tickets sales will not pay back that investment alone; so perhaps they can consider sharing future revenues from other revenue streams for a period of time at an agreed percentage. It’s still possible that this undiscovered act may never generate massive revenues, but it does offer the chance for those that choose to support them early on to get something back in return. These revshare deals are simple and effective and can be put together in a matter of minutes. It is creating a currency of their talent.
Let’s be clear, I am on the side of those who want to experience the excitement and pure visceral pleasure of a new artist nailing a wonderfully free spirited performance to an audience of 100 people, rather than feeling as though we were all part of some reality show. If you value this too, then as soon as you can, get out there and soak it all up!
Until next time when we ponder: ‘Banged to rights’
Ric has a background in music as an artist, manager, label owner and promoter. He has combined this with a career away from music as CEO within SMEs and PLCs. As the architect of SHOUT4's Revshare model he is a strong advocate for artists retaining rights and providing legal and financial solutions to the DIY market which reflect the way the world is now and not the past.