Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rock and Roll Wealth

Who made the most money last year in rock and roll?

I'm assuming that this list is top money earners over the last fiscal year or two. I read an article that for years, Paul McCartney was the richest musician (at just over a billion in wealth), but then Bowie passed him a couple of years ago. Apparently the 'Bowie Bonds' put him over the top.

But I remain concerned about some of the totals: Bon Jovi $75 million? Nickelback $74 million? The article spills into links with slideshows and, if it's your cup-o-tea, you can watch a slide show with the industry's richest women (some music makers and some from other fields).

I think this list ought to scare the pants off the music industry (I know, nasty image). You have The Stones - who are the legends that they are - three country acts, Madonna/Celine/Streisand, Bon Jovi, Nickelback and Dave Matthews.

Where is the viable, relevant contemporary rock here? The Stones are making it with a dinosaur tour (and I say that with all respect to them - they're part of the founding British generation, but they haven't been relevant for centuries). Dave Matthews is an established jam act but what is he doing to make innovative music?

Where are the bands who are moving rock FORWARD? Where are the truly innovative and original? Well, obviously there are plenty of creative young acts out there, but they have been entirely unhitched from the revenue machine. If I were a record exec at a label, this would keep me up at night. Oh, wait a sec... no it would not because if I were a label exec I would be brain dead already.

In part I also blame the audiences. I don't see the Foo Fighters or Green Day or My Chemical Romance making the top dollars. Why? Because audiences haven't turned new acts into icons with their purchasing dollars. They are either going to safe standbys like The Stones and Madonna or flocking to safe newbies like Nickelback and Dave Matthews. The labels aren't the ones putting the acts on tour. The labels aren't the ones making people go (or not) to rock shows.

So, who determines what acts draw the biggest audience at concerts? Is the problem simply the promoters who gauge audience supply and demand? Or is the problem audiences themselves for attending the same tired old dinosaurs? Concert sales isn't simply about the music or who's getting the push from their label. If 45,000 people showed up outside the Whiskey A-Go-Go one night to see a sneak preview show by, say very different acts like Fountains of Wayne or bland Sugar Ray or smirk humor wizard Weird Al you can bet there would be a promoter making these acts into stadium fodder the very next day at $150 to $250 a seat.

So, in the end, is it any surprise which acts are so wealthy?

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