Now That No One’s Buying Music, Bands Are Selling “Experiences” Fans Used to Get for Free

beyonce

(Reprinted from Flavorwire)

by Tom Hawking

You may have been delighted to learn this morning that for a small notional fee of just $25,000, you can invest in the the once-in-a-lifetime experience of meeting globe-conquering pop overachiever Beyoncé Knowles. But wait, your $25k doesn’t just buy the chance to meet her. Oh, no. You also get to work for her “style team” for a day. Yep, that’s right — you can pay $25k for the privilege of working for Beyoncé for a day. Who could possibly say no?

The person this immediately brought to mind was, yes, Amanda Palmer — she of the “Hey, it’ll be a great experience to play in my band for free” — but then, not even she had the temerity to charge for the privilege of not getting paid. Beyoncé’s “people” would no doubt argue that the money goes to a good cause — the chance to get ordered around for a day is Beyoncé’s “contribution” to a charity auction, a fact that reveals a great deal more about Knowles than the entire “documentary” that aired a few months back. But come on, seriously, why not just donate the cash? Why does someone have to take up the “opportunity” to work for Beyoncé and her mother for a day in order for her charity of choice to benefit?

In the case of Beyoncé, it’s probably a case of a megalomaniacal pop star whose ego precludes the very possibility that anyone might see the prospect of basking in her august presence as anything other than a privilege worth every penny of $25k. It’s all symptomatic of a more pernicious trend, though. More and more often these days, you see bands charging fans for “access.” In an era when making a living out of selling your actual music appears less and less viable, bands are selling… well, themselves.

Bandpage recently launched a whole section of its website devoted to “experiences,” suggesting that this idea has become increasingly popular. Some of the things on sale are endearingly strange — having Yoni Wolf of Why? cook you dinner (yours for $500!), for instance — while others are just kinda sad (“unlimited music for life” from one Bryan Fuente for a whole $25.) A lot of it, however, is just stuff that bands used to do for free, often for fan clubs or just people who had to be in the right place at the right time: giving away setlists, meeting fans, autographing CDs.

You could argue that bands have always charged for merchandise, and that this isn’t in principle any different to charging for, say, a T-shirt or an autographed CD. Clever bands have also pushed their merchandising further — The Polyphonic Spree selling robes, for instance, or Wavves selling weed grinders. (The best bit of merchandise I ever got was from a band called Pornland. It was a frisbee with their logo on it, and it was called “The Flying Fuck.”)

But there’s a fundamental difference here. T-shirts and CDs are tangible products, things you can take away with you, objects with practical utility — you can wear a T-shirt, or play a CD, or throw The Flying Fuck down at the park. What bands are selling more and more these days is a sort of abstract experience. In general, there are no goods changing hands, only time and money — what you’re essentially paying for is your favorite band’s precious time, and the experience of feeling like you’re part of their world, if only for a rather fleeting moment.

The other notable recent example of this has been emo also-rans Hawthorne Heights, who caused an almighty backlash earlier this week when they offered “lucky” fans the right to photograph them on the Vans Warped tour. For $150. Unsurprisingly, this went down like a sack of shit with professional photographers — the idea of being charged for access doesn’t exactly set a good precedent, nor does the idea of a kid who’s shelled out for such access wandering around taking pictures on his/her iPhone when you’re trying to work — but it also inspired a fair bit of debate among fans on Hawthorne Heights’ Facebook wall.

Some fans were also less than enamored with the idea, but others were predictably keen to decry those complaining as “haters” and etc. To their credit, the band members themselves seemed rather aghast at the fuss they’d caused, with singer J.T. Woodruff explaining, “we had no idea that something that was meant to be fun would be perceived this way. It was really meant as a special way to watch a band from the stage, hang out with the band, and photograph your experience. Not, pay to take pictures for us, which we would keep. That was not the intention at all… we didn’t even consider that this is how it could come off.”

Perhaps the most revealing post, however, came when he explained that “the biggest bum out, is that we try so hard to invite people in. Give them cool experiences. And not rip them off. I’m bummed.” That’s laudable, but there’s still something more than a little mercenary about this. In the past, bands rarely viewed such experiences as any sort of commodity — they either liked hanging out with their fans or they didn’t. Some bands would happily carouse with audience members backstage after shows, whereas other, more socially awkward, types would rather hide under the bed than meet the public. Either way, though, the process wasn’t commodified. (Rock ‘n’ roll legend dictates that yer Led Zeppelin type bands — and their gatekeepin’ roadies — charged for “access” in, ahem, other ways, but that’s a rather different topic.)

It’s understandable that bands want to explore alternative ways of making money, and considering that Hawthorne Heights funded their last album via a crowd-funding site, it could very well be that emo isn’t as lucrative as it used to be. But ultimately, it seems a bit depressing that fewer and fewer bands are prepared to “meet and greet” their fans — the people who pay their wages, after all — without charging for the “experience.”

Songs You May Have Missed #391

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Solange: “Losing You” (2013)

Solange Knowles, younger sister of megastar Beyoncé Knowles (although rumors have suggested she’s actually Beyoncé’s daughter) is a singer of much more modest success than her sibling. Two LPs and one EP into her career, she has yet to chart a pop single in the U.S. Perhaps recording for a label named Terrible Records is tempting the hand of fate a little too much…

solange

Still it’s not like Solange hasn’t released some interesting material. 2008’s “I Decided” topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, and follow-up single “Sandcastle Disco” was another dance floor hit, despite the lack of pop crossover success.

The most distinctive characteristic of Solange’s music is the hip infusion of throwback sounds. Her 2008 album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams was filled with  60’s and 70’s R&B cues (Motown, early Natalie Cole and Pointer Sisters) while 2013 EP True channels more of an 80’s synth-soul vibe. As for the single “Losing You”, it has the engaging sound of an early Madonna single.

Presumably we can expect a 90’s soul montage on her next outing?

It Takes a Village to Write a Lyric This Bad

beyonce

Adding a layer of irony: that’s four male producers and five male writers plus Bey herself, the extent of whose “writing” role in this anthem of feminist empowerment may reasonably be questioned.

So You Thought THAT Was Unflattering, Beyoncé?

Beyonce’s ‘unflattering’ Super Bowl photos just got funnier

(Reprinted from MSN)

Beyoncé might have earned more Super Bowl raves than the two football teams involved combined Saturday, but that didn’t stop her PR team from asking websites to remove so-called “unflattering” shots” taken during the halftime show. Once the Internet was done laughing, it got to work doing what the Internet does: making memes. Many of these images “celebrated” a shot of Bey looking like a super-tough American Gladiator in leather lingerie. Memo to Beyoncé’s PR team: Sometimes you just have to leave well enough alone.

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Beyoncé Super Bowl Costume Gets Under PETA’s Skin

Beyonce Super BowlBeyoncé angers animal rights activists for the second time in under a month, with costume made of python, iguana and cow

(Source: Guardian Music News)

Peta has come down strongly against Beyoncé’s recent Super Bowl appearance, complaining that the singer’s scanty costume was made of python, iguana and cow.

“[The] game was great,” animal rights activists announced, according to the New York Daily News. But officials at Peta were much less happy with Beyoncé’s half-time appearance – not because of the pyrotechnic electric guitar, the subsequent power outage, or even her decision to skip the song, If I Were a Boy. They’re angry about her bodysuit.

“We would take a bet that if Beyoncé watched our video exposés, she’d probably not want to be seen again in anything made of snakes, lizards, rabbits or other animals who died painfully,” Peta said in a statement. “Today’s fashions are trending toward humane vegan options, and Beyoncé’s Super Bowl outfit missed the mark on that score.”

The singer’s skintight spectacular was designed by Rubin Singer, who took inspiration from his forthcoming Fall 2013 collection, Valkyrie’s Dominion. The multi-piece jacket, leotard and skirt required 200 hours to assemble, E! reported, and incorporated python and iguana skins, trapunto-pick stitched leather, nylon, metal, plastic, silk and Chantilly lace. The only thing missing would seem to be the feathers of Baltimore ravens. “It’s the biggest moment of my career,” Singer told the New York Times.

This is Beyoncé’s second animal rights scandal in under a month. Following the singer’s appearance at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, activists criticised the singer’s decision to wear a mink coat. “What does it mean when one of the most popular musicians in the world endorses the fur trade in such a dramatic way?” Peta wrote. The group has pointed out that first lady Michelle Obama does not wear fur.

Oh, I Get It…

tinaBeyoncé was doing a Tina.

(Except Tina had better legs.)

Beyoncé Practices Singing Until Her Feet Bleed, Turns National Anthem Into Self-Serving Stunt

super bowlRolling Stone reports:

Beyoncé Sings National Anthem Live at Super Bowl Press Conference

‘Any questions?’ pop star says with a laugh

Beyoncé opened a Super Bowl press  conference on Thursday afternoon in New Orleans with a rousing rendition of the  national anthem – and this time it was definitely live. After a rapturous round  of applause by the media in attendance, the singer took questions about her upcoming Super Bowl gig as well as her controversial  lip-syncing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Obama’s second inauguration last week.

“I am a perfectionist. One thing about me, I practice until my feet bleed, and I did not have time to rehearse with the orchestra,” Beyoncé said. “It was a live television show and a very, very important, emotional show for me – one of  my proudest moments. Due to the weather, due to the delay, due to no proper sound check, I did not feel comfortable taking a risk. It was about my president and the inauguration, and I did not want to take away from that. I decided to go  with a pre-recorded track, which is very common in the music industry. And I am  very proud of my performance.”

Beyoncé added that  she will be “absolutely singing live” at her Super Bowl performance this coming Sunday. “I am well rehearsed. I will absolutely be singing live. This is what I was born to do.” 

It’s bad enough that our National Anthem is turned into an episode of The Voice on a regular basis–merely seen as a chance for singers to showcase their abilities of song embellishment. But here it was actually used merely to make a point–to give the media the finger in reaction to criticism the singer received for her previous lip-synched performance.

I guess the song really isn’t as sacred as I grew up believing. Because contrary to its lyrics, which suggest it’s a song about pride in the brave, indomitable American spirit, it’s usually rendered with all the faux agony and ecstasy of a breakup song or Marvin Gaye seduction anthem.

If we do need a new National Anthem, as some suggest, it’s because we need to start from scratch. We’ve added too many superfluous spangles to the current one.

Yes, I have a question, Beyoncé: What’s up with rehearsal causing bleeding feet? Does that happen when you sing with too much sole?

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