So last month I did an interview with the band Buckcherry, and the interview piece I did was considered too feature like to publish, so it was changed in accordance with the magazine’s format. This sometimes happen and is not something I can be upset about – but gives me the chance to share with you my original vision for the piece here. Enjoy.
Listen to Buckcherry for about 15 minutes and you’d probably think the world had gone to hell in a hand basket. “All music sales have gone down the sh**ter” says guitarist Stevie D. It’s an interesting start to our discussion, but one I’m more than willing to explore further; “Yep, it’s the ‘age of streaming’ and recorded music has become the loss-leader, a kind of trail of breadcrumbs to the live show.”
Yet, despite the perceived negativity of this statement, there are actually a lot of positives. Why shouldn’t more fans get the chance to see their favorite artists performing in a live environment as well as the fixed impression traditionally immortalized inside the song? And nobody quite does live performances like Buckcherry. Although the band has seen a lot of change over the years, the one constant has been founder and lead vocalist Josh Todd, who has remained firm at the helm guiding the band through uncertain waters. Stevie agrees, saying “the one constant, and probably most important [thing], is Josh’s vision and songwriting in Buckcherry… It’s no secret there’s been a few different players along the way, some integral, some not, but the fact remains Buckcherry is one of the last, successful, uncompromised rock n’ roll bands out there.. And musically, it’s the best it’s ever been.”
Formed in California in 1995 the group has toured worldwide, releasing two albums before dissolving in 2002, being ‘re-imagined’ in 2005 and releasing the biggest crossover hit to date; ‘Crazy Bitch’ from 06’s ‘15’ – a song about as crazy as they come. Todd’s distinctive vocals are unmistakable, as unique as Chris Cornell’s or Axl Rose’s belong to those artists, and he once recorded with Guns N’ Roses Slash and Duff McKagan, in what was rumored to be the forerunner to Velvet Revolver featuring the late Scott Weiland.
Personally preferring the track ‘Lit Up’ myself, there’s something for everyone in this band, with Stevie reminding me of the multifaceted layer of their own performances; “One thing’s for sure, you’ll get the hits. We’re in rehearsals now for the Warpaint record cycle, and since the musicianship in this band is at an all-time high, I’d like to stretch out musically during the segues and solos…” proving, if nothing else, you’ll get a full night’s entertainment. Before we part there’s just a little time to talk about their support for the night, which comes in the form of fellow veterans Hoobstank (remember ‘The Reason’), as Stevie explains “I met them back in ’06 and would run in to them at festivals, and eventually we would end up doing shows together in SoCal. The singer Doug Robb is a downright kickass front man with a solid machine behind him”.
We can definitely agree with that. As if you needed another reason to see this band live. Sorry
“I definitely believe the next decade is going to be streaming plus vinyl – streaming in the car and kitchen, vinyl in the living room and the den. Those will be the two formats. And I feel really good about that.” Jack White, Rolling Stone
There’s been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about the death of music. 2019 is barely five days old and already I’m reading how it will be the last year in which we expect to buy physical formats on a large scale as consumers. Of course, it’s early January, so there’s no doubt an endless amount of copy that has to be written and the statistics published commemorating the achievements of the last year always seem like a good place to start.
According to the BPI, or British Phonographic Industry, 2018 has seen a decline of 23% in CD sales compared to the twelve months previous. Year on year this equates to a drop of 9.6 million but comparing figures from ten years ago, there’s been 100 million fewer CDs sold.
That in itself is easily explained. Changing consumer habits, including streaming services, have meant that we’re now far more likely to purchase digital downloads or a subscription than a physical product. Less cars feature CD players, of course, and much like its predecessor the cassette it’s simply not cost effective to produce them on such scale. Shrinking shelf space in supermarkets doesn’t help, of course, but HMV’s recent woes would suggest we seem less interested in actually owning our own music.
Last night I spoke with a friend and commented that, aged 17, it would have been abhorrent for me to think of being a fan of a band and not owning the majority of their albums at that time. Singles, EPs, Albums, live releases, you name it – I would have wanted it – and yet nowadays the proverbial snowflakes of the generation are probably uninterested in purchasing and acquiring such physical content. Almost 17 years later it seems that my way of expressing interest in a band is simply not the same and this change can easily be seen.
According to the BPI, however, there is hope in some areas. Vinyl sales have grown just 1.6%; and although this is not an astronomical rise, it is a rise nonetheless – with 4.2 million records sold. That in itself is a rise upon previous years sales and means sales have yet to stagnate or even decline. Considering this format was originally abandoned due to its ‘impracticality’ I would still equate this to ‘new’ Vinyl being a successful format.
A younger music fan I met recently in HMV was heard to remark to her friends that she wanted to own only Vinyl albums, with the artwork and design being the main reason for doing so. From a practical point of view, they also make excellent mementos, should you be lucky enough to get them signed or obtain a limited ‘colour’ edition upon release. Some record labels, such as Germany’s Nuclear Blast, will regularly release the same album in several variants from popular artists – and it’s not uncommon for hard-core fans to want to purchase every single one. I mean, somebody has to be buying them, right?
It’s certainly true to say that we’re becoming more consumer conscious, watching everything from our weight to our spending habits, and choosing things a lot more carefully than the generation before. Even so called ‘luxury’ items or disposable income simply isn’t as clear cut as it once was. Ed Sheeran’s album ‘Divide’ definitely divided fans, with 59% purchasing the album digitally and yet 40% purchasing the album physically; making it one of the UK’s biggest selling albums of 2018. The biggest, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the soundtrack to ‘The Greatest Showman’.
The film stars Hugh Jackman as PT Barnhum, an American showman, businessman and politician who perhaps equates more to Donald Trump and Vince McMahon today as he does to the actor who plays him. Sales of this film – whose soundtrack remained atop the UK Album Charts for 23 uninterrupted weeks – led to record breaking sales. Christmas week alone, it’s 22nd week, the soundtrack sold 57,000 copies alone with 48.7% Digital and 51.3% physical confirmed sales across 2018 in the UK. This soundtrack hasn’t left the Top 5 of UK Album Charts all year and is just one reason why Hugh Jackman is one of Hollywood’s hottest properties.
The picture is the same in America, where CD sales have fallen 80% in the last decade, from roughly 450 million to 89 million. “Lots of us have changed the way we consume music and film, and more people are streaming from Netflix or Spotify,” Kim Bayley of the Entertainment Retailers Association recently told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“But I think we should remember that [physical music] is almost a £2bn business. Even HMV has sales still of a quarter of a billion pounds, so that’s not a small business.” Others see it differently;
“I don’t buy it that physical music is necessarily competing with streams. We all access music and film on the internet, and that’s fine and healthy and valid, but you wouldn’t look at the Mona Lisa on your phone and think it’s the same thing as going to see it in a gallery.”
“The reason vinyl sales are at a 25-year high is because people are rejecting this part of modern society where everything is immediate and nothing means anything.”
Jon Tolley there quoted from a BBC article, who runs the independent record shop Banquet Records in London, arguing that perhaps Vinyl is a way for consumers to rebel against a disposable society. A novel concept, if not somewhat expensive.
Perhaps the most surprising statistic, however, is Vinyl’s effect on sales in 2018. Of course, we all know Vinyl has made an impact, but the artists who make the biggest sales – Nirvana, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Oasis, David Bowie and Amy Whinehouse are either well past their critical peak or long since departed. These are artists who are appreciated for their sound, their legacy, and whom many fans (young and old) can collectively appreciate as not just a flash in the pan. Which would seem to support the idea of a “rebel rebel” philosophy.
On the other hand, cynicism might lead one to suspect it’s because Vinyl is only released in such large quantities through albums that can be assuredly guaranteed sales, with Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ at my local Tesco for a tenner and Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ not far behind it. Vinyl is, by a large margin, an expensive format – so selling classic albums for cheaper is bound to encourage those looking to build their collection for an affordable additional purchase.
But Vinyl’s strength is not just limited to a private collector and his secret stash.
I attended a Vinyl night in 2017 that has gone from strength to strength ever since in Newcastle, England. Hosted at the Tyneside Cinema, Drayton’s Record Player invites fans to enter a darkened room and listen to a Vinyl album uninterrupted (except briefly pausing to change sides, of course) – paying for the privilege. It’s an interesting concept, though not unheard of to physically pay money to do something you could do for free, simply to feel committed to take the time needed to achieve the act in the first place. Yet at this point I’m willing to admit Vinyl is nothing if not surprising, revisiting 2018’s highest selling albums in the UK on the format, with The Greatest Showman’s Cast Recording easily the youngest and second placed record on the list. Doubtful that I am Drayton would play it.
Of course, streaming services have yet to eradicate the reflex nature, or whatever phenomenon it is that prevents Now That’s What I Call Music records from dominating sales across the country. Volumes 99, 100 and 101 make up a large part of the biggest albums sold in the UK in 2018 and other entries (like the Greatest Showman) are Cast Recordings from musicals and motion pictures that have dominated cinema attendance.
Nostalgia serves a huge part in our consumer habits, as does affordability and ease of access, so there are many reasons to see why these albums prevent such an attractive purchase. Whatever people’s reasons for purchasing them, it’s unlikely that our obsession with Vinyl is likely to go away, especially as CD now ironically becomes the obsolete format.
The fans of Ghost certainly believed in Santa Claus. And Papa Emeritus. They kept the myth alive even when others attempted to defrock the fabled front man as Tobias Forge. It didn’t seem to matter, because ultimately, Forge was creating something theatrical which people enjoyed.
All this changed in 2017 when several members of the band were named in a lawsuit which challenged Forge for withholding monies owed. This has led to no less than 10 musicians, prominently all male Swedish male musicians, stating to have (at one point or another) been a member of Ghost from 2009 to 2016. It also defrocked Forge as the groups lead vocalist (a fact previously confirmed by the Swedish Record Industry) and left the band in a somewhat state of uncertainty.
Prequelle is the groups fourth album, which sees (presumably) newer members and also the addition of a second named member – Papa Nihil – return to reclaim their throne. Whether Forge and some of his former bandmates have settled their differences is relatively unclear, and how much work previous band mates gave to the overall project is obviously a question for debate, but this new line up is certainly something of a revival.
Put simply, Prequelle is without question the album of 2018; it’s phenomenal music radiates from start to finish to produce an album of electricity. Previous favorite like ‘Ritual’ and ‘Elizabeth’ focused on choral choirs, thundering bass and Blue Oyster Cult inspired guitar work; whereas improved production and tuning now gives the band a more macabre Queen-esque 80’s sound.
If ‘Opus Eponymous’ was the 1970s, then the 80’s have well and truly arrived.
Of course you could argue that Ghost are ripping off things they’ve heard decades ago. The problem you’d have there, is that they’re doing it better than the original composers. ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘See The Light’ give tinged ballads and rock licks a run for their money while instrumentals like ‘Miasma’ confirm the talent isn’t just in the vocals. The saxophone work on the latter track reminds me of Axl Rose introducing the band during ‘Move to the City’
Just stop reading this and buy the album. Now.
“Dance Macabre,” already with 15-million Spotify streams, is the second music video and radio single from the Grammy-winning rock/pop band’s most recent album Prequelle (6/1/18 (Loma Vista Recordings /Concord Records). Simultaneously apocalyptic with catchy, contagious hooks, the song tells of how some people coped with the devastation of 14th century Europe’s Black Plague that wiped out millions – by dancing and partying and seducing until they dropped. The music video puts its own twist on the celebration of the End of Days and beyond.
Twenty-eighteen has been a good year for Ghost. “Rats,” the first single from Prequelle, held the #1 spot at Rock Radio for a record-setting nine consecutive weeks. In North America alone, “Rats” has been streamed more than 14-million times, its companion music video has racked up more than 13-million YouTube views, and Prequelle has accumulated nearly 49-million streams. Ghost recently sold out the very prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, and Metallica just announced the band will be Special Guest on its 25-date European stadium tour next summer. Ghost will headline its two-act “A Pale Tour Named Death” Fall North American tour that starts in Dallas on October 25. The North American trek includes two headline arena shows, The Forum in Los Angeles, and New York City’s Barclays Center.
Ghost will play Twickenham Stadium, London, on June 20th 2019 as special guests to Metallica.
The other day I found myself in HMV while my parents visited in the run up to Christmas. As it was a festive occasion, my parents had suggested we purchase a gift, something they could enjoy wrapping and leaving under the tree for me before their return to France. Not being one to ever miss out on a present I gladly accepted and proceeded to rummage through a number of my mental ‘wish lists’ attempting to come up with something I’d like to physically obtain.
As I proceeded to leaf through the copious amount of Vinyl on offer I realised just how far HMV have evolved. December 2012 seems like a distant memory, but more tenured employees of HMV will remember the time well, as it spelt a certain end to the company. At the time, economists took great pride in appearing on news programs, telling us just how obsolete a store like HMV was in today’s marketplace. And yet, it remains. The store I was standing in, in Gateshead’s Metro Centre, had recently located to a more premier retail location and a new store, in Boston Lancashire, opens its doors in the very unit its predecessor was forced to close in March 2013.
In many respects, it’s hardly surprising that HMV has managed to remain, but commendable and worthy of praise all the same. It’s current business model meant that more high priced items like phones, electronics and games took a back seat; while shelves were recently filled with comics, collectables and even Vinyl. Having worked for the company briefly in 2009 and again in 2013, I defiantly experienced some of this change first hand. Vinyl itself presented something quite unique; as if we’d suddenly travelled back in time and embraced a format which should – by all rights – be extinct. Just as many analysts argue HMV should be.
Compact Disc has been a regular fixture in the marketplace since the late 80s, swiftly seeing off competition from Mini Disc, VHS and even Laserdisc; they even buried Vinyl considerably in an episode of Tomorrow’s World recorded around 1992. Whereas a lot of music fans have embraced the digital revolution a decade ago, retailers are limited in their selections, admitting that embracing MP3’s and Spotify subscriptions would leave them out of a job. So CD has found a bizarre and unchallenged equilibrium; until the return of Vinyl. Asides from their popularity with collectors, their physical appeal, their openness to customisation (who doesn’t love a good picture disc?) there’s also an exceptionally unique quality to Vinyl which makes it a more attractive proposition for retailers; it’s practically impossible to steal.
Consider for a moment walking into a store on a cold Christmas day and shoving a cassette tape into your pocket. Even a CD would fit snuggly into an inside pocket without much effort. Vinyl, on the other hand, presents twelve inches of self-resistance to petty theft; for both customers and staff alike, making it the perfect product. In 2017 HMV predicted its most successful year of Vinyl sales in almost 20, thanks in part to the efforts of mainstream artists like Ed Sheeran and Noel Gallagher embracing the format, with UK sales for that year topping four million.
In 2018 this trend continues, with the average purchase of Vinyl made by a consumer younger than those purchasing CDs, according to information from the website Kantar. According to their estimates, the overall value of the vinyl market in the UK for the latest quarter (in the 12 weeks to 1 July) was £25 million. 420,000 people bought a vinyl record in this period, up by 6.6% vs. Q1 (that is, the 12 weeks to 1 April). And this is despite the evident proof that not all collectors of Vinyl have the means to play them.
What might be even more remarkable is that this trend has led to a number of other ‘Grave Formats’ returning to the fold. Swedish band Ghost released their latest album ‘Prequelle’ as well as their live compilation ‘Ceremony and Devotion’ on Vinyl, but perhaps more surprising is their choice to release it on 8 Track Cassette. Although a limited release, initially available through the bands website and the result of Spotify giveaways, their operations are not unique to just cult bands – with Metallica remastering their classic ‘And Justice for All’ album and releasing a special cassette version; which is available to purchase through Amazon and was also stocked in HMV alongside a Nirvana cassette release earlier this year.
The introduction of the cassette tape by Philips in 1963 would lead to it becoming one of the most influential ways people consume music for over 30 years, and yet, it was somewhat ironically never intended never to rival the audio quality of the existing larger tape formats. Once Sony released a portable cassette player called the Walkman in 1979, such anti-taping arguments were more or less dismissed by the general public. Complete with portable headphones, the Walkman encouraged a generation of music fans to take their sounds with them wherever they went, and the advent of the boom box, which featured dual cassette decks, provided portability and seemingly encouraged music duplication through its design. By 1983 it was cassettes which outsold Vinyl.
And yet, as I made my selection that evening in HMV, my father looked on slightly baffled as to why – at 63 – it was his 33-year-old son who was purchasing albums on Vinyl, Cassette and 8 Track in 2018. Everything it would seem, has its place.
Plus Booking Fee…Goodbye Yellow Brick Road… by Wayne Madden
On Wednesday July 2nd Elton John (and his band) is set to perform at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. The website quotes that he is “undeniably one of the most acclaimed and adored solo artists of all time” and you’ll get no argument from me. His career success parallels few artists of any genre and his recordings are, quite literally, embedded into popular culture.
Tickets for the event are listed at £55 and £75, a look beyond the home page and prices have now risen to £62.75 and £83.75 respectively with the click of a mouse. The rise in price equates to a booking fee of £8.75 for purchasing tickets online, with an optional “missed event insurance” of £3.75 and a further, mandatory, minimum mail or venue collection charge of £2.50 – none covered in the previous charges.
England, like most other first world countries, is a market economy. In a world where we’re more readily checking our pockets and bank balances it seems unusual to pay an additional £2.50 for sending a letter by first class post. Even more unusual when the £8.75 booking fee doesn’t, on its own, include any form of insurance and is more than what you’d be paid for doing an hour’s work on minimum wage.
With new rules introduced in April 2013 by the UK Government to cut down on credit card surcharges, Booking Fee’s for performances have remained unaffected, with Elton John’s performance at Nottingham Arena also demanding a £9.25 fee atop a £75 ticket price via Ticketline. This is far from a regional occurrence.
In 2013 Ticketmaster UK appointed Chris Edmonds as their new chairman. He’d spoken to the BBC about ticket pricing as managing director, in Dec 2012, saying that “there’s a misunderstanding about what the fee’s are for…in reality we wouldn’t see any share of the actual ticket price. That would be shared between the promoter, venues and the artist” and went on to say that “the actual per ticket fees that we charge to our consumer are our sole source of revenue…in some instances some of those may be shared with the actual event organiser” By that logic, the Metro Arena has already been paid prior to Booking Fee; a quick survey of their website informs us that all online sales are powered by Eventim.co.uk – the English branch of CTS Eventim AG, a German registered company who purport to be the largest ticket seller in Europe and who reported a turnover of €520 million in 2012. What it doesn’t tell us is why £8.75 per ticket is being charged for simply clicking a few buttons. Do we blame the Arena, Eventim, MasterCard, Visa or Elton John?
So, how can you save money? Phones4U Arena in Manchester is just one venue who informs consumers – through its website – that all tickets purchased from the venue box office, and with cash, will not be charged a booking fee. It might seem like small consolation but if you live near the venue and don’t believe the gig will sell out within moments of tickets going on sale then the advice is clear, visit your venue and purchase tickets in person. Organise a pooling system with friends or relatives.
There is also hope for the future on excessive booking and admission prices as the EU plans to crack down on credit card surcharges and online fee’s, calling for them to be more representative of the services offered, though it’s unclear just what changes it will have for companies like Ticketmaster and Eventim who often register business roots outside EU market zones and avoid such laws.
As part of this article I attempted to contact the Metro Radio Arena and speak to someone about the Elton John example, but nobody was available for comment.