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Clear Channel: Here Come the Boots

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I’m as critical of Clear Channel’s domination of commercial radio and concert promotion as anyone: homogenization of culure is a bad thing, but an instant CD of a live concert you have just attended is a great idea that benefits everyone involved:

    The venture, Instant Live, will enable a band’s still-sweating fans to leave with a musical souvenir instead of say, a pricey T-shirt or a glossy program.

    Although initially modest, involving only small-audience clubs and theaters in the Boston area, the venture could eventually extend beyond radio and concerts into music distribution.

    ….Clear Channel executives say Instant Live is not so much a foray into the CD business as it is a way to wring further revenue from live music events. And they note that it is simply a continuation of the trend among various bands and start-ups in recent years to sell authorized recordings that are available on CD or as Internet downloads soon after the event. This practice can generate additional revenue for musicians and also thwart illicit concert recordings, they said.

    “We’re not interested in signing artists to exclusive recording contracts,” said Steve Simon, an executive vice president in Clear Channel’s concert promotion unit in Cambridge, Mass.

    The Instant Live venture adds an element of immediate gratification for music consumers, with towers of CD burners turning out multiple copies of the digital recordings.

    “They would look at it as another trinket to sell to concertgoers when they’re at their venue, whether it’s a T-shirt or an instant bootleg or a hot dog,” said James M. Marsh, a broadcasting analyst at the investment bank SG Cowen Securities.

    And at least one long-time manager of rock bands, Irving Azoff, said he was enthusiastic about the Instant Live concept, especially at a time when concert concession sales are declining. “I, for one, would rather have a live CD of the show that I can take home than a T-shirt,” he said. “So I think it’s the future of the touring merchandising business.”

    ….Mr. Simon said Clear Channel would hold as many as five Instant Live concerts a month at small clubs in the Boston area. He said the venture would expand to larger venues and other cities. Clear Channel also has an exclusive distribution agreement with the Best Buy consumer electronics chain to sell Instant Live CD’s in eight of its Boston-area stores and, beginning in mid-May, through its Web site.

    So far, the Instant Live performers have been bands like Spookie Daly Pride and Bomb Squad that do not have major record deals. The larger labels would probably frown upon a flood of Instant Live discs competing against their own official releases.

    But Mr. Simon said that Instant Live’s success did not depend on adding big-name acts from major labels. “It would be disingenuous to suggest that we don’t want to expand the universe and do it with signed acts,” he said, “but it is a business regardless.” He declined to make sales forecasts.

    ….because Clear Channel’s four Boston stations do not play alternative rock music, Mr. Simon is working with two non-Clear Channel stations to promote the Instant Live acts. Mr. Simon declined to discuss how the Instant Live venture might complement Clear Channel’s radio programming other than to say, “There’s a panoply of alliance and bundling opportunities that this product would offer.” Translated, this might mean that stations could someday offer an “Instant Live Hour,” or some such program, that would promote the discs. [NY Times]

I think the main market for this is at the venue, taking advantage of impulse buying and identification with THAT PARTICULAR SHOW: “I was there, I am a part of this, you can hear me screaming after the third song!” I would think making the CDs available via retail would reduce sales at the events themselves – “I’ll just get it later at Best Buy” – and that “get it later” option may never translate into sales as the glow of the show drifts away.

But I can’t tell you how many shows I would love to have a permanent copy of, to literally relive again and again.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Michael Croft

    This is nice for getting songs that may not make it onto releases. Covers, alternate lyrics, the stage patter.

    I wonder about two things:
    1: Royalties. Both to the band and to anyone whose work they cover.
    2: Quality. little or no mixing. No mastering. Definitely better than a bootleg from a hidden tape, but not the quality of a released CD.

    Still, there are concerts I wish I had a disc of.

  • Mark Saleski

    The larger labels would probably frown upon a flood of Instant Live discs competing against their own official releases

    …just another example of how clueless these people can be. are there no fans of music working for major labels?

    i just don’t think that these instant live cds ‘complete’ with the rest of the band’s catalog…real fans want everything that comes out. new fans may listen to the instant live cd…remember how cool the show was, and then check out stuff from the rest of the catalog.

  • Zanzi

    “But I can’t tell you how many shows I would love to have a permanent copy of, to literally relive again and again.”

    Just a clarification: You won’t ever “literally” relive anything, concert or otherwise. Virtually relive — yes, that is a possibility with these new CDs.