Glorified cover bands still earn top dollar in a down economy

by chris on October 14, 2009

We are in a period of major music industry shake up. Labels are struggling to sell their products and survive while they are trying to figure out how to adapt to the world of digital music.

Yet there are consumers willing to pay top dollar for live music. Here are the top tours from 2008:

1. Madonna ($105 million)
2. Celine Dion ($94 million)
3. The Eagles ($73.4 million)
4. Kenny Chesney ($72.2 million)
5. Bon Jovi ($70.4 million)
6. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band ($69.3 million)
7. Neil Diamond ($59.8 million)
8. Rascal Flatts ($55.8)
9. The Police ($48 million)
10. Tina Turner ($47. 7 million)

 Glorified cover bands still earn top dollar in a down economyWhat interested me is that another tour, not in the top 10 list above, from 2008 grossed $35 million. The combined tour of Heart, Cheap Trick and Journey. Journey? The Steve Perry-less Journey? Obviously people are willing to pay top dollar for Journey even without their world-class frontman.

Another 1970-80s mega-band, Foreigner, is also still touring and charging $45 for a regular ticket or a whopping $129.50 for a “meet and greet – VIP Reception”.

Wait a minute. $130 for a meet and greet? This touring version of Foreigner only contains one original member, the guitarist. Everyone else is a hired hand from other somewhat famous bands. Are the fans aware of this? I’d like to poll these concert attendees afterwards to see if they knew that going in. If not, when did they realize it? (assuming they did figure it out) Perhaps they mention this during their set. Did they feel duped? Didn’t care and loved it anyway?

There is a Journey tribute band, called ‘Frontiers’, that charges $10 a ticket and plays at venues such as the House Of Blues in New Orleans.

220px Foreigner2009 Glorified cover bands still earn top dollar in a down economyWhy are fans willing to cough up this kind of money? Is it for the sake of nostalgia? Years ago, around 1998, when I was working in San Rafael, California, we saw Night Ranger at the local bar with all 5 original members. We went because they were famous and because they were playing at a local small town bar for cheap. That’s special and nostalgic! Seeing a famous guitarist with a few semi-famous musicians from other bands isn’t the same. They didn’t write or record the songs. They can’t share meaningful stories about the old days and what the songs were about that warrant me sitting 100 yards back and paying for it.

I’m not saying these bands aren’t worth seeing at all. I just don’t understand the desire for anyone to pay premium prices when you can go see a local cover band for 1/10th the price that probably sounds just as good and stand 10 feet away. They would probably “meet and greet” with you for free and be delighted that you even showed up.

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