Miércoles 14 de Septiembre de 2005, Ip nº 126

Records & the road: an unreliable relationship
Por Deborah Wilker

While fans have been shelling out incredible sums this summer -- from $250 to $450 a pop face value -- for choice tickets to see the Rolling Stones' current tour or Paul McCartney's upcoming trek, a similar fervor is unlikely to greet the superstars' new albums when they hit stores within days of each other this month.

Not surprising, of course. While top tours and hot records often go hand in hand, just as often they do not.

While the disconnect between retail and the road is often exemplified by the lack of FM play and modest CD sales of new material from heritage acts, it's a trend that's long been seen elsewhere in the business, most notably in rap and pop -- only in reverse. Moving millions of records is often no guarantee of equivalent touring success: Just ask Mariah Carey or 50 Cent.

While multiplatinum sellers Eminem and 50 Cent did respectable business this summer, rap in particular -- with its higher security and insurance costs, skittish parents and one-note tone -- has historically been the chief nonstarter on the road, even when albums (and now downloads) dominate the charts for months on end.

Scenarios abound when it comes to the disparity between chart and box office numbers -- figures that rarely tell the whole story. In some cases, like with the old guys, it's that millions and millions of records have already been sold over decades, and fans feel that they have what they need.

And certainly there are acts who do sell tickets and tours with equal fervor, among them (lately) Coldplay, a resurgent Green Day, the Killers and Josh Groban.

But sometimes, as with many of the big jam bands, it's simply the live work that truly drives the train.

Often bands that do best live "don't sell a lot of records," says tour analyst Ray Waddell, senior editor at Billboard, a sister publication of Amusement Business. "And maybe that's why they are doing so well (on the road). Also, on the jam band scene and the metal scene in particular, these bands aren't on the radio or on MTV, so if you really wanna connect with them, you do it in a live format."

Also keeping the live side dominant is the fact that many such bands -- among them Widespread Panic, Phish, the Allman Brothers Band, Dave Matthews Band and the Grateful Dead -- are and were known for long, improvisational sets that couldn't be found on studio recordings. Additionally, their fans were encouraged to record and share their live concert tapes.

"But with rap, there's always been a sense that it's a producer's medium that doesn't stand up as well in concert," veteran music analyst and journalist Paul Grein says.

Adds Waddell: "Rap is simply more compelling in a club or on disc or video. I don't want to be too harsh on them, but how exciting is it to see a guy with a microphone onstage with video behind him and a few guys walking around? It's not like having a band up there with guitars and drums."

For at least 20 years now, the industry's pre-MTV heritage acts have been doing just fine on the road without new material, or with very little radio play when they do release new stuff. Clearly all the new music in the world is unlikely to affect sales either way this year for such icons McCartney, the Stones and Neil Diamond, who collaborated on his upcoming album with Rick Rubin.

Nevertheless, these stars keep plugging away in the studio, creating what most often turn out to be little more than snack-bar songs -- those that serve as an opportunity for concertgoers to grab a beer and ostensibly miss nothing. Even when the new material is good, and often it is, many fans just aren't interested.

Alan Miller, founder and editor of Filter magazine and http://www.filtermini.com, theorizes that such releases -- no matter their content, level of airplay and sales figures -- still play an important role because they keep stars "present" in a cluttered world.

"It definitely behooves everyone to put a record in the marketplace," he says.

Just seeing a display in a music store or outlets like Best Buy and Borders jogs the memory, he says, "and you remember, 'Oh, I liked this song, or I forgot about this song,"' and that alone can fuel tours.

  30/08/2005. Yahoo News.