The Police cop out

by Beacon Staff • February 21, 2007

On the heels of the recently announced reunion tour of the British rock sensation The Police, sights are being set high in the music industry as insiders are already speculating that the trio's pricey international stadium tour will be the highest-grossing act of 2007.

But with all the numbers and statistics being thrown around, it's easy to get swept up in the hype and lose track of the depressing logistics behind the reality of the current music industry.

As more and more Social Security-eligible artists return to the stage, their baby-booming fans have consistently proven themselves willing to shell out excessive amounts of cash to see the bands recreate the soundtrack of their fans' youth.

It's fair to say that acts like The Police, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney are nothing more than breathing jukeboxes.

Unfortunately, these artists often fall short of jukebox quality given the realities of old age.

As The Police tore into their hit "Roxanne" to kick off this year's Grammy Awards, they worked hard to recapture the energy they were known for, but something was clearly missing.

Lead vocalist Sting could barely hit the high notes during the song's chorus. Rather than performing the song the way it was recorded, he sang a good deal of the tune a full octave lower as a means of avoiding the stress of hitting the high register.

As disappointing as the performance capabilities of these has-been rockers may be, any of the number crunchers at Pollstar, an online Web site that tracks statistics regarding concert tours, will tell you these acts are making more money per tour now than at any other point in their career.

All this may seem like heaven on earth for the concert industry, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

According to a recent article in Rolling Stone, ticket prices rose 8 percent in 2006 but attendance was down 4 percent.

Most concertgoers are dishing out more money per ticket, but as a result are avoiding their favorite venues.

There is no doubt that the steadily rising ticket prices contribute to the decline in attendance.

But rather than lowering prices to win back customers, concert promoters have continuously raised costs to make up for their short-term losses.

Whether we're talking about the record industry or concert promotion, the message is clear. If industry moguls were to ease up on costs and employ more of a customer-friendly approach, they would see their sales climb.

Unfortunately, due to the shortsightedness of their execs, they have taken the opposite approach.

Focusing on short-term profits and damning their own future, they've driven prices sky high, making big bucks off of The Police reunion tour and other narrow markets, while the rest of their business interests plunge.

The key players in the music industry seem incapable of adapting to the realities of the modern music market.

For example, rather than accept the fact that file sharing is here to stay, major labels such as Sony have been making CDs with anti file-sharing software.

When they should have lowered ticket prices and ease up on corporate sponsorship, major concert promoters have decided to suck the last drops of blood from their dying market.

Unfortunately for the big shots making these poor decisions, their CEO status doesn't grant them market security. The help of big names like The Rolling Stones and The Police will only go so far.

The executives running the music industry have continuously failed to adapt to the realities of the new markets.

Just like the weakest link in a world of economic Darwinism, if they cannot adapt to the realities of their environment, then they're all destined to fade away with every breath they take.