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Jam Bands Redefining Economics of Music Industry

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In today's marketing-driven music industry, where rising ticket prices, conglomerate-controlled radio stations and lawsuits are the norm, a segment generally referred to as "jam bands" has emerged and is redefining the economics of the music business by generating most of its profits through concert revenues instead of record sales. Pioneered by the ideologies of the Grateful Dead thirty years ago and refined by Phish in the nineties, this new model doesn't depend on radio play, music videos, publicity stunts or even records sales, but instead relies on what these performers do best...play live music.

(PRWEB) July, 2003 -- In today's marketing-driven music industry, where rising ticket prices, conglomerate controlled radio stations and record industry lawsuits are the norm, a segment generally referred to as "jam bands" has emerged and is redefining the economics of the music business by generating most of its profits through concert revenues instead of record sales.

Pioneered by the ideologies of the Grateful Dead thirty years ago and refined by Phish in the nineties, this new model doesn't depend on radio play, music videos, publicity stunts or even records sales, but instead relies on what these performers do best...play live music.

The debate is over: The recording industry is under siege. According to Nielsen SoundScan, album sales fell for a second straight year in 2002, decreasing by 10.7 percent. The Recording Industry Association of America blamed the decline mainly on illegal downloading of music off the Internet.

Meanwhile, concerts sales in 2002 increased 20 percent, and achieved record sales for the fourth straight year, according to Pollstar. While eight of the ten top acts were veteran artists like Cher and Paul McCartney, there is a changing of the guard underway in the live music scene, and jam bands are leading the charge.

These grassroots artists, who mostly operate on the fringes of popular culture, are the unassuming champions of a business model that shatters standard practices of the mainstream music industry. Using non-traditional strategies to market and promote their music, artists such as Phish, Widespread Panic and moe., have centralized all aspects of the business in-house and predominantly survive on a tireless schedule of live shows.

They attract and secure fans mostly through word-of-mouth and the Internet, rather than radio-play and record sales. To their pleasant surprise, they have discovered a welcoming and growing niche of music lovers along the way, eager to support their artistic individuality and innovation.

"The once small, neo-hippie scene that developed throughout the U.S. in the nineties has matured into a large-scale community that is self-sufficient, educated, and spends a healthy portion of their disposable income on music. As a result, the jam band genre has been relatively unscathed by the recent downturn of the industry at large," says Eric Ward, co-editor of Glide Magazine (http://www.glidemagazine.com/). "And these bands are on the forefront of using technology and the Internet to promote themselves," Ward adds.

Take Phish, the jam band poster child, as an example. In December of 2002, after a two-year hiatus, the band launched www.livephish.com, a first-of-its-kind web site that allows fans to download high quality copies of live concerts within 48 hours of the actual performance. Since its launch, fans have downloaded over 100,000 concert copies at $10-12 a pop. Compare this to sales of almost 200,000 copies of their most recent studio album, "Round Room," and the new profit opportunities are glaringly apparent.

One challenge for traditional music industry marketers is that the jam band genre is difficult to define. However, one characteristic that permeates from its core is a policy that allows fans to tape and trade copies of the bands' live concerts, as long as they don't profit from it.

While this practice is unheard of in the mainstream music industry, it is the driving force behind the jam band model and has evolved into its very lifeblood. Through the viral nature of the tape trading community, bands are able to reach thousands of fans for virtually zero cost.

"Phish has really led the charge in redefining the industry," says Ward. "They are always among the top grossing US tours [with ticket prices generally in the $40 range], their growth in the nineties was directly related to their presence on the Internet and their taping policy, and they have perfected the art of the multi-day festival."

At this summer's Bonnaroo Festival—one of the largest multi-day festivals of the year and deemed the king of jam band events—promoter Superfly Entertainment sold over 80,000 tickets in 16 days, with a minimal amount spending on traditional marketing. The event was marketed almost entirely through the Internet and other free publicity techniques.

How is this possible? "Jam band fans are the most Internet savvy music fans around. They spend hours a day chatting online with other fans, critiquing live performances, and downloading and trading legal live music," says Ward. "As soon as one person in this community learns about an event like Bonnaroo, the entire community knows about it in a matter of hours."

With declining record sales and rising legal costs, the mainstream music industry is headed for a crossroads. Artists loosely defined as "jam bands" have carved out a niche in a homogenized market that is causing the industry's old guard to stand up and take notice.

Will jam bands emerge from the ashes? "I think this is the direction the industry as a whole is heading, " says Ward. One thing is certain, the groundwork has been laid and these artists are poised to cash-in on a revamped industry model — by staying true to the music and treating their audience fairly.

About Glide Magazine

Glide Magazine (http://www.glidemagazine.com/) is a monthly online publication that focuses on the eclectic culture embodied by live music. Glide covers the most progressive and innovative artists playing today, including The Flaming Lips, The Jayhawks, Guster, Rusted Root, Robert Randolph, Rich Robinson, Vue, Yonder Mountain String Band, Jazz Mandolin Project, The Samples and Steve Kimock.

In addition to comprehensive music coverage, Glide Magazine also features stories about hiking, mountain biking, skiing/snowboarding, the arts, and other creative outlets intertwined within the live music culture.

--www.prweb.com (July 18, 2003)--

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