Thursday, July 2, 2009


During his 1993 Super Bowl Performance of Heal The World, Michael Jackson elevated the mood of an entire stadium with just a single song. That’s the power of live music. To excel, artists today and tomorrow will have to carefully cultivate the same art of carrying the audience along for the musical joyride...

11 tickets per second! That was the selling rate of tickets for the ‘This is it’ tour at the O2 arena in London of the legend called Michael Jackson. All shows were sold out in a matter of minutes. According to its organisers ‘This is it’ became the fastest selling tour in history with people as far away as Japan, Belgium and Dubai, queuing up to purchase tickets, some even willing to pay up to $700 for tickets bought from secondary markets. This, inspite of knowing that the tickets are non-refundable even if the shows got cancelled. Michael Jackson’s planned 50- show run at the O2 Arena in London would have been the highest-grossing single concert ever. More than $85 million worth of tickets had been sold for the shows, which were to begin July 13. If staged as per schedule, they would have been Jackson’s first solo shows in twelve years.

Yes! For many of us, who have been crazy fans of Michael Jackson since his “Thriller” days, the world of music has altered forever. But it is true that the music world has also changed in more ways than one. Music used to be heard on gramophone records, then on cassettes, which gave way to CD’s. Now, of course, is the era of digital music with the iPod and the internet playing a big role in the way music is distributed and heard world over. Digitisation got with it a new evil – the rise of “pirated” music. Piracy is so rampant and pirates are so good that there is hardly any difference between the original and pirated versions of music scores. In fact, pirating is so prevalent in China that legitimate stores too sell pirated CDs. Chinese artists today hardly make any money from CD sales. Not just in China, but world over, artists are not making money from CD sales, although CD sales in themselves are increasing. The moment an original CD is made, pirates are already out on the streets with their cheaper and equally good quality version. So much so that musicians today consider CDs as just another way to promote themselves and their music. If their music is liked, then they have a chance of making money via other means. Their popularity could get them product endorsement deals and a chance to appear in commercials. More importantly, artists, musicians and rock stars these days are relying more on live shows to earn money. Think about it. Back in the 1940’s musicians had protested that recorded music would ruin the live concert business, then the largest source of revenue for the music industry. Today, once again, live concerts are proving to be their biggest revenue earners. The business model of the music industry is changing fast. Internet downloads and pirated CDs have brought down the perceived value of music. Eventually recorded music will make no money. Live concerts, on the other hand, seem to be back with a bang and are here to stay. Live music, and the experience it guarantees is difficult to replace. The feeling of the beats on your chest, the screaming fans, the crazy hysteria, all of these are things you cannot pack in a CD. It was this ‘hysteria’ that fans wanted to be a part of when they heard that Michael Jackson would be performing for the world – one last time. This was truly the last opportunity for many to experience the thrill of listening to the century’s greatest rock star – live!

The most exciting thing in life for a music fan is seeing his or her favourite band live. It’s this excitement and thrill that many companies are using to earn moolah for themselves. With live concerts becoming the lifeline, many artists are now moulding their careers differently. Instead of signing record labels, they are signing up with concert promoters like ‘Live Nation’, which today has become a major rival of music companies like EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music Group, et al. Famous artists like Madonna, U2, Shakira, choose to sign deals with ‘Live Nation’ rather than music companies, making the former a powerful force to reckon with. In February this year, ‘Live Nation’ merged with another giant Ticket Master to create ‘Live Nation Entertainment’. The two biggest names in live entertainment have not just created history, but a monolithical empire that would monopolise the business of live entertainment. Of course, a lot of eyebrows are being raised, but it just goes on to prove how important concerts have become today. According to Nigel Parker, author of the book Music Business, many consumers now seem more inclined to regard live performance as the defining experience of modern music. According to Parker, “The importance of live performance is underlined by the fact that the biggest-grossing live performers of recent years include veteran seventies performers such as Eagles, Rolling Stones & Pink Floyd, whose record sales no longer match their capacity to draw huge live audiences.” Before the business of recording sound started it was live music, today ‘live’ is back in business.

Yes, concerts are money spinners for all and sundry! Now big artists are bypassing recording companies to associate themselves with concert promoters. Madonna entered into a $120 million contract with ‘Live Nation’, becoming the first major artist to endorse the auction and resale of her concert tickets on the internet. Shawn Corey Carter, better known by his stage name Jay-Z decided to end his long time relationship with record label Def Jam and made another $50 million deal with ‘Live Nation’ – creating a record of entering into one of the biggest music contracts ever awarded. Michael Rapino the CEO of ‘Live Nation’ foresaw the future of the music industry and today sits on a very successful business model. He started it as Clear Channel Communications and discovered the benefits of “Instant Live” recordings in 2004. A live performance was recorded directly during the show, burnt on CDs and sold to the audience as they left the venue. And so ‘Live Nation’ was formed in 2005 as a spin-off from Clear Channel Communications.

Today, there are websites offering you subscription services where you can listen to and experience live music concerts happening anywhere in the world, right on the computer screen in your bedroom. Surely, nothing can get bigger and more glamorous than a live concert. Who can forget the Live 8 concerts? Three billion people watched Live 8 in July 2005. It was the greatest show on earth. It promised to make poverty history and the world sang together in hope and happiness.

The future of music is indeed ‘Live’ and no one can prove it better than Michael Jackson himself. The mere announcement of his concert had the power to send the world of music into a tizzy and people over the world united to hear their favorite performer (in person) one last time. To excel in the business of music today, you need to have the persona to carry the audience with you during a live performance. You need to be a Michael Jackson who knew exactly what it took to drive his fans crazy – be it his moonwalk, his white gloved hand, his hair or his dance moves. This is it!


  1. I have heard that in Music Industry Mafia rules.

    Recently there was Death of a Indian VOI contestent in very suspicious circumstances in a swimming pool.

    Even MJ was worried of his life before he died.

    So where there is money there is Mafia, be it corporations or Music Industry.

    Even in a country like India you get phone calls if youi have a couple of crores.

    Maybe IIPM will take a lead and start a course on growing without enervating Underworld.

    Rajeev Vashisht

  2. You always write practically dost


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