UK Tour – November – December 2014

Introduction

This piece will focus on the experiences gained whilst touring and booking shows in 2014 with UK based garage-rock/rockabilly band, The Caezars (2015). At the time, the band were in their fifth year, had released two studio albums, and had attracted underground radio play and press attention globally. They had also headlined many large genre-specific Rockabilly festivals throughout the world including The Rockabilly Rave (UK) (2015), Viva Las Vegas (USA) (2015) and The Hultsfred Hayride (SE) (2015) yet were unsigned to a record label. The band had now secured a supporting slot on tour with Imelda May (2015) a more commercially successful artist in a similar genre, in 1,500 to 3,000 capacity venues*. The successes and failures of this tour will be critically analysed in order to identify areas of improvement for the future and to assess the impact the tour had on the band.

AA UK & EU Nov & December tour 2014

The Tour

The bulk of the tours shows were secured through The Caezars forming a good relationship with Imelda May (Universal Records, 2 Gold albums) (BPI 2015) throughout the bands career and took place between November 14th and December 13th 2014*. Other shows included on tour were smaller, self-booked headline shows and a main support show with Adam Ant on November 23rd* as part of his tour celebrating the Gold Certified album, “Dirk Wears White Sox” (BPI 2015). Tom Baker (2013) of Eat Your Own Ears, states the importance of support shows; “If you get bands that work really well alongside the headline, it will create a whole new scene. It’s really exciting when things like that happen.”

One of the main issues that arose on the tour was that certain venues were charging a 25% + VAT commission on the sale of merchandise. This resulted in a drop in sales at The Leeds & Sheffield Academies, and London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, all owned by the telecommunications brand O2 (2015). At other venues such as The Cambridge Corn Exchange & Sage Gateshead, this was negotiable, as it was deemed unfair for the support act to be charged a sales commission if we were selling the merchandise ourselves**.

The reason for this 25% charge is the increased importance of merchandise sales to artist’s income in the 21st century. Therefore, venues can charge the act for the privilege of selling items at their venue (Lindevall, 2008). The value of merchandise can further be seen with artists such Young Guns, who turned down the chance to sign to major record labels and opted for a deal with PIAS, a label services group. Label services deals through companies like PIAS and Kobalt offer bespoke record deals that are free from exclusivity, don’t force artists to relinquish their copyrights, but usually offer no advance payment upon signing (Harrison, 2014, p. 175) This enabled them to keep their copyrights and “money-spinning merchandise sales” (Musicweek, 2010), that would have been controlled by the label had they signed a 360 degree contract.

A real positive to take from the tour was that the CD stock sold out and the tee-shirts sold well which showed the groups appeal. A review from the London show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire further echoes this:

“It’s fair to say that in this circle of music, May couldn’t have picked a better support if she’d tried, with The Caezars adding way more depth than most support acts could.” (Gravelle, 2014)

Unfortunately, the CD stock selling out was also a negative side to the tour as it meant that potential revenue was lost. However, when the stock was running low, the decision was made to collect e-mail addresses for a mailing list, to keep in contact with new fans. This is because, as Herstand (2014) states; “The mailing list remains to be the best way to communicate with fans. All the contacts on your email list you own. All the likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter or Instagram you rent

The email addresses collected would then be used to try and generate sales through a direct to fan sales platform. Bandcamp (2015) is an example of a direct to fan web service that offers artists direct to consumer sales, interaction and data collection. In a 2014 article on digital music news service Hypebot.com, Emily White (2014) stated that “what Bandcamp is doing makes the most sense for fans, artists and the industry at large with regard to modern music releases“.

In a music industry where online databases are a highly prized source, it could be argued that the e-mail addresses gathered in this exercise were more important than the CD sales themselves with A&R departments increasingly looking to social media metrics on services like twitter to evaluate new talent (Pakinkis, 2014). Pledge Music’s founder Benji Rogers (2013) believes bands are failing in the way they give fans access to music; “Buy the CD, buy it on iTunes, stream it, that’s about the extent of it so that’s a terrible experience for the user, it’s a consumer experience”. The Pledge Music platform allows fans to be involved in the making and releasing of a record from day one and provides them with what he feels is a better overall experience for fans. This is an alternative to a major record label deal known as “crowd funding” (Baskerville & Baskerville, 2013, p. 411). However, Berger (2013) believes that crowd funding schemes suffer difficulties “without a very consistent fanbase, a serious work team and a strong marketing and media broadcasting basis, things won’t get very far.”

Doing the same tour again

Because of a lack of funds, there was no tour manager for the band, no road crew and no sound or light engineer. The band had only the services of the trainee sound and light engineer that was part of the headline acts touring team. This was apparent when reading some of the reviews of the shows posted online at Ticketmaster (2015) such as; “support act was good I think but the sound quality was poor, maybe too loud or levels not right sort of ruined it” (10ccfans, 2014). Darren Smith (2015), sound engineer of Imagine Dragons and other acts says that “the best performances are when a sound engineer knows the music, and can almost be a fifth or sixth member of the band”.

Although recorded music sales are continuing to fall, one of the most important things a band can have whilst supporting a more successful artist is a physical copy of their music to sell at the shows. Information is Beautiful (2015) found that the average artists needs to sell just 105 self-distributed CDs at shows to earn the US minimum wage, compared to 457 when signed to a record label under a traditional label deal.

The biggest mistake the band made on the tour was not having a new product out in time to sell on the road. Although current CD sold well, a new single or EP would have generated more coverage combined with the live show. This would have to be rectified before embarking on a similar tour in the future, in order to maximise the potential reach the gigs give the act.

Reference List

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