Music to the Masses

Let me just get this out of the way… I like Kelly Clarkson’s music. There, I said it, now let us move on.

CNN has a story up today about Kelly canceling her tour. And on one hand I feel bad for her because she was having poor ticket sales and I feel bad for her fans because the ones who did buy tickets won’t get to see her (No, I didn’t buy tickets), on the other hand I’m kinda glad to see another arena tour fail.

Don’t get me wrong… I love a good arena show. But there is a certain type of arena show I like. For example, in August I’ll be going to see Def Leppard, Styx and Foreigner. And whenever Poison puts on one of their Glam Slam Metal Jams, I’m there. I love a good festival show, like the local radio station 99x’s Big Day Out. But a huge arena show needs bands that demand it, or needs to feature a few bands. U2, prime candidates for a solo arena tour. Same with the Police on their current reunion. Not only do they have a huge library of their own music which will easily fill two hours on stage (plus an encore or two), but they have the current pull to fill the seats. While each band on my 3-band August show ticket could have at one time filled an arena on their own, these days they haven’t had a whole lot of hits.

Kelly Clarkson is a pretty good artist. She sings well, performs well, and all in all I like her. I would definitely go see her live… if it were a smaller show. For her Atlanta date, she was playing the Arena at Gwinnett Center, half house (which is actually more than half), running her about 8,000 seats, give or take. For $50 to $70 (plus handling fees), that’s just too much to wind up being in the nose bleeds for an artist with only her third album coming out and a handful of top 40 songs. Now, put her down at the Roxy or the Tabernacle and drop the price to $15 or $20, I guarantee she’d be a sellout. Heck, in a smaller venue I might actually be willing to pay that $50 or more for an artist who is know to hang around and talk to the fans or put on an awesome show. For $50 I expect to be able to watch the artist perform, not to watch the artist perform on a giant TV because I’m too far away to watch the artist.

I see the draw of the arena show, the same draw it always has had: more money and less time. You play one show, 5,000+ people at $30+ a head, even if you only take home 25% of that, its $37,500+ for one night. Do a tour of 20 or 30 of those and you can probably net near a million dollars. Plan it right and you can do that tour in under 3 months, and take the other 9 off to work on songs and plan your next tour, or maybe do a leg through Europe or Asia. Meanwhile if you do the little shows, you have to do more of them, you have to stay on the road. A year, 18 months at a stretch maybe, at least that’s what those guys on Behind the Music always say. It would be hard work… like, I don’t know… working retail every day, or sitting in a cubicle punching out programming code. Except, you’d be in music, and seeing the world, and making a living entertaining people and putting smiles on faces. Arenas always seemed to me to be a way to facelessly rock as many people as possible.

Maybe I just need to catch more bands on the upswing. I went and saw No More Kings play down at Smith’s Olde Bar, and I and my friends chatted with Pete Mitchell for nearly a half hour. But that doesn’t cover it entirely… I’ve seen Better Than Ezra in concert a half dozen times, once or twice they were part of a festival where I got to see twenty bands, but mostly they’ve been at places like the Roxy, or Underground, or even in the Centennial Park, and even though I’ve never met the band, their shows felt more personal, they were better.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Ms. Clarkson, if you or your people read this, come to Atlanta, play a small show, I’ll be there and I’ll sing your praises.

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