Screw the Crew, Screw the Artists Too!

At one of the big international live music festivals I was working in every year for almost a decade, the atmosphere on stage was quite militant. I was faced with an angry stage manager who thought the crew are his soldiers and the stage is the battlefield. He abused anyone whose face he didn’t like. Being reduced to tears, I complained to the boss after the festival about the attitude I experienced.

I asked whether a militant attitude is necessary in a place that supposed to bring people together to enjoy music and art. I was quite surprised by the answer – “It has too, there is too much money involved.”

I refused to work for the festival again. I had my share of military service, and while there are some function the army is good for such as rescue and defence, much of what goes on in the army is senseless, organised, state funded murder and weapon deals. I was hoping to find peace in the music industry. But as it turns out, similar considerations are infecting the music business. Just shy of actual murdering, the industry is plagued with depression and high suicide rates – just like the military. But most of all it is the greed that make me furious.

Using music to squeeze emotional response from unsuspecting audience is not a new trick. 

Composers and performers have been using it for millennia.

Over worked crew and newbies to the industry are made to feel as if someone is doing them a favour for letting them be close to where the magic happens. 

The video campaign called “Crew Nation” is promoting a Live Nation initiative to “support” crew. It made me cry when they released it in April – the touching music, the emotional montage of hard working techs on stage complete with sad titles about people losing their jobs. This was all skilfully put together – I cried for my fellow entertainment workers. Until I realised who is behind it – then the tears turned to anger. 

Live Nation, the company which merged with Ticketmaster in 2009 and monopolised the live music industry was asking me and everyone else to donate to those poor crews impacted by the pandemic. Many of them my friends. Live Nation heroically declared they are donating ten million to the cause. I’m glad I didn’t donate, as the money was not at all going to get to crews who actually struggle.

Live Nation was just taking advantage of the situation and instead of taking responsibility for the canned gigs by digging into their deep pockets, they tried to squeeze the emotions of their costumers so that they will not have to pay.

Fast forward two months, the awful reality of the robbing and extortion of live music, hard working crews and artists by large corporations again presented its ugly face through a press release by Live Nation. I held my tears this time and instead I channel my energy into good old shaming. 

The CEO of Live Nation enjoys a salary in excess of 70 million US dollars per year.

(Simple maths, means that the 10 million “donation” is not even close to a quarter of the CEO annual salary. The donation, and this is a wild guess, didn’t come from the CEOs pocket). 

The company itself, Is a spinoff on top of a spinoff of other mass media companies, dodgy partnerships with alcohol companies and near total control of major events worldwide with annual revenue in excess of 10 billion. They have now added insult to injury released a statement that essentially screws the very artists and crews they are “helping” with their Crew Nation campaign.

The new memo has no fancy name or website with a red heart. But maybe it can be called “Screw the Crew, and Screw the Artists Too!” 

Some of the Live Nation “helping” for 2021 includes:

  • Artists now need to pay their own airfares and accommodation
  • %30 of all merchandise sales will now go the the purchaser – (The Crew Nation Campaign website urges prospective donors to buy merchandise) 
  • Artists must consent to the streaming of their concerts
  • Artists guarantees will be adjusted downwards by %20
  • And much more…

So, the next time someone says they are going to watch live music to support the artist, I will ask where they purchased their ticket from, and whether the event is promoted by anyone connected to Live Nation. 

If it is, I will politely decline to participate, advising that what they are going to support is musical greed. Artists and crews imprisoned (sometimes with consent) by promoters and ticketing conglomerates. 

Live music is not dead, it’s just held prisoner by companies with too much cash and power.

Long live the artists and crews who resist the greedy douches at the top and hold them accountable.

My heart and dollars I have left in bank after this pandemic will forever go to small venues and independent artists who perform locally and refuse to participate in the arms race of the music industry. 

Even Bruce Springsteen reckons they are greedy douches, in an interview from 2009 about the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation he said: “A final point for now: the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing,” Springsteen writes. “If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.”

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