“F**k the music industry, that’s the last thing we’re thinking”. Is it really? / The short head of live music


“Industry has a lot to do with things… The industry is tough, especially for a band like us, a rock band right now. We’re not bitter about it or anything like, “Fuck the music industry”, that’s the last thing we’re thinking. We’re all continuing to do music”

After 10 years together as a band, Dave Strauchman of “Every Avenue”, explains their break up in Oct 2012 in an interview to The Gunz Show.

Every Avenue / long-tail artists tour more

Every Avenue is a pop punk band from Marysville, Michigan. They have 228,000 likes on Facebook, millions of views on YouTube but most probably you haven’t heard of them and they are still referred to as the “long tail” of the music industry.

Before their break up in 2012, Every Avenue was also one of the fastest growing artists in touring. From 11 tour dates they had in 2007, to 140 in 2010.

According to a songkick.com report, long-tail artists tour more than the most popular artists, and Every Avenue is just an example.

Their report divided artists into quartiles based on their site internal popularity ranking, which is the number of users who are tracking that artist and want to see them live.


long tail artists tour more
source: songkick.com / Long tail artists touring more


The result shown in the graph above is clear – not only that the long tail artists tour more than the popular ones, they also present a very big growth in their touring.

In their blog songkick also mention a research that was conducted by Julie Holland Mortimer, Chris Nosko and Alan Sorensen in 2010: “Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performance”

While file-sharing may have substantially displaced album sales, it also facilitated a broader distribution of music, which appears to have expanded awareness of smaller artists and increased demand for their live concert performances. Concert revenues for large artists, however, appear to have been largely unaffected by file-sharing. Music for large artists was likely widely available prior to file-sharing, and as a result it is not surprising that demand for those artists’ concerts would have been largely unaffected by file-sharing. Similarly, the decline in album sales is much more pronounced for large artists than for small artists. Again, for small artists, file-sharing may have increased awareness of their music and encouraged some additional album sales from a larger fan base even as it displaced album sales to others.”

David bowie - Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity

By the way, one famous artist who had it all figured it out already in 2002 said back then: “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity… You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left. It’s terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what’s going to happen.”

The artist is David Bowie and we will be getting more meaningful and wise quotes from him in later posts.

These 2 reports teach us that the less popular long-tail artists tour a lot and that there is more demand for their concerts. That is supposed to be encouraging for the long tail musicians, right?


If that was the case, why would Every Avenue, who toured all over the place, break up after 10 years and complained about the “industry”?

If you have read my previous posts you probably already know the answer.


the short head of live music

Again, it is all because of the short head.

It seems that although the indie and less popular artists travel a lot and perform more than before, the short head rules in the live music arena in terms of money.

“The music industry is a microcosm of what is happening in the U.S. economy at large. We are increasingly becoming a “winner-take-all economy,” a phenomenon that the music industry has long experienced. Over recent decades, technological change, globalization and an erosion of the institutions and practices that support shared prosperity in the U.S. have put the middle class under increasing stress. The lucky and the talented – and it is often hard to tell the difference – have been doing better and better, while the vast majority has struggled to keep up.

These same forces are affecting the music industry. Indeed, the music industry is an extreme example of a “super star economy,” in which a small number of artists take home the lion’s share of income.”

These words were said by the Chairman of White House Council of Economic Advisers, Prof. Alan Krueger, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on June 2013, The theme of his talk was: “Land of Hope and Dreams: Rock and Roll, Economics, and Rebuilding the Middle Class”.

Prof. Krueger, who also teaches Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, likes to explain economics using examples of the rock ‘n roll industry.

In 2004 he published “The Economics of Real Superstars: The Market for Rock Concerts in the Material World“.

He found out that 1% of the performing artists in 2003 took 56% of all concert tickets revenues in that year! The top 5% of all artists took almost 90% of the revenues! The remaining 95% took only 10%.

The short head of live music concerts is significant.

His research also showed the change throughout the years since 1982. In that year the short head of the artists, meaning the 1%, took only 26% of the revenues of all concert tickets. The top 5% took 60% and the remaining 95% took 40%.


the short head of live music - The bigger got bigger and the smaller got smaller.
source: The Economics of Real Superstars: The Market for Rock Concerts in the Material World

The bigger got bigger and the smaller got smaller.


The superstar economy beats the long tail economy

So what has happened since 2003?

According to Prof. Krueger it hasn’t changed much. The “long tail” economy didn’t affect the the live concert industry, or as the wired magazine article well said: “We Listen to Indie Bands Online, But Pay to See Madonna”.

Krueger told Ryan Tate of Wired that based on his latest research update, from February through June of 2013, the top 1% of artists garnered 56.3% of total concert revenue and that “These numbers bounce around from year to year, but I see no evidence that it has become less of a superstar economy since I last published on it”.

We will discuss the reason why in future posts.



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