It’s a Delicate Balance

From what I’ve read everywhere this morning, it sounds as though the Nokia Theatre show here in LA last night was a success.  The encore appeared to have been beefed back up to it’s normal standards, and I’ve yet to hear any concerns about Simon’s voice.  (Just so everyone understands – I am just as tired of typing those words as you might be to read them.  I’d love to move on and forget all about the past 6 months.  Trouble is, right now it’s still a very big deal.  They can’t tour with out his voice.  They can’t really be Duran Duran without Simon.  So I report what I read and hear.)  I did catch some video and they looked as though they were on fire, and for the LA crowd – that’s important because as you all should know, it’s an industry show.  People from “The Business” are there, along with 7,000 other people that actually make a difference as to whether or not the band gets any kind of visibility here in LA or elsewhere.

As I was doing my morning reading, I came across a discussion about ticket sales.  On one hand, there were people declaring that the tour isn’t selling well and that everyone should be worried.  On the other, there were a couple fans declaring that any tour is a good tour.  

This is a delicate subject and a balance has to be struck somewhere.  Of course having the band tour is a great thing.  I don’t think anyone would disagree – except for those who enjoy playing the devils advocate for whatever decision the band has made most recent.  Any fan wants the band to tour, naturally.  That said, in order to continue touring, ticket sales must be made.  Shows do need to sell out or come very close to doing so.  I hate knowing that.  I would much rather be a cheerleader for just being glad they’re here, but I also want them to be able to continue, monetarily speaking.  I’m sure we’ve all seen where entire tours for other artists have been scrapped simply because ticket sales were not where they should be.  Typically in a touring situation, a band works with a promoter, whose job it is to get the band booked.  Promises are made, deals are struck, contracts are signed between venue and the band.  The band makes money no matter how many tickets are sold (typically)….within a respectable preset limit between the promoter, the band and the venue.  However, if a band doesn’t sell enough tickets, and the promoter has to go back to the venue saying that only a certain percentage has sold, the venue may back out of future deals, and I believe in some cases they can even cancel that particular date if the percentage sold is low enough. Since bad news rolls downhill, when it comes time for the band to do a new tour, they might have trouble finding a promoter that will work with them.  Of course, this is a very simplified version of what happens and there are a million “what ifs” here, but this is the very basic idea.   Album sales have gone down across the board for every artist – Duran Duran most definitely included in that – and as such, they make their money touring.  They need to be able to fill shows, and if they are booking places that seat 7,000 but are only selling 3,500 tickets – that’s not good.

So where is the balance?  It’s finding the sweet spot between booking great venues that hold a fair number of people, knowing that those tickets will sell…and providing just enough shows on a tour to create a demand for those shows.  If they’d booked 3 nights in a row at Nokia Theatre, would those tickets have sold well?  Those are questions that have to be answered to find the balance.   Yes, it is great to have the band tour.  I’m not in the camp that believes they shouldn’t have come back to the states so soon – quite honestly ticket sales weren’t that much better for them here in the spring, and yet they were doing smaller theaters then as well – to dictate to me that it was too soon to return.  My suspicion is that perhaps they need to be booking smaller theaters next tour.  Nokia seats 7,100 which is pretty large.  I think Valley Center on Saturday is going to be quite a bit smaller than Nokia, but LA is a very big city and could support selling 7,000 tickets – although I don’t believe that show sold out completely.  I still don’t think that the Valley Center show is close to selling out and I think that theater has a capacity closer to the 3 or 4,000 range. In April I believe they stuck to places between 3,000 & 4,000 – and I think if they tour with that being the highest capacity for the largest cities, then smaller cities having smaller 2-3,000 capacities, that would probably work well for them.  Yes, it’s great to have those huge arena shows.  It’s also not 1984.  Let’s be glad their touring AND wish for great sales.  It takes both.

-R

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