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Baseball, Bruce Springsteen, Duran Duran, Entertainment, Football, Howard Stern, John Mellencamp, Music, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Uncategorized

Sports Explode as the Music Industry Fizzles

DSC02877I heard today that tickets for the World Series games at Fenway Park are going for an average of $2100.  That is not even the best seats!!! Most of these seats go to businesses or individuals who can write this expense off. Front row Rolling Stone tickets were going for $10,000 a clip on their last tour. I mean really. How out of control is this? It makes it virtually impossible for the average fan, or even most of the wealthy fans to attend games. In my opinion, you need to be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, to pay these prices for an event that you can sit at home and watch in the comfort of your living room. In HD!!!

GAME WINNING OBSTRUCTION PLAY WORLD SERIES GAME 3 http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_1419497835&feature=iv&src_vid=huh8oW4dEwA&v=Ghzgfv5hklk

Sports revenues are higher than ever. The Super Bowl has grossed over $400 million in the recent past. The World Series, only a quarter of that, at a measly $100 million +. The NFL grosses nearly $10 Billion (that’s with a B) with Major League Baseball coming in slightly under $8 Billion. Attendance in the NFL is essentially steady, despite concern from the league that the in-home experience will severely cut into game attendance in the very near future, thanks to HD TV. Major League Baseball attendance is down  only slightly, despite what appears to be a general decline in interest across the country, concerning the sport in general. A spector that is certain to raise its ugly head in the near future.

The concert business rebounded slightly in 2013, thanks in part to graying headliners. The iconic older acts are helping increase the gross, but charging much more for tickets.  In general the live concert industry brings in slightly more than one quarter the revenue of the NFL. Think about that. Football, was once a sport that took a back seat to other forms of entertainment. Now it is probably the largest grossing live entertainment entity on the planet.

While the sports industry is on the rise, the music business is struggling mightily. There are a lot of reasons for this. Here are just a few thoughts. The lack of exposure of new music on radio beginning as early as the mid 80s and the disappearance of music videos from MTV are just a few  of the reasons. The affects of these changes are being felt today.

For decades, with some exceptions radio airplay drove ticket sales and record sales. Back in the late 1980’s radio began to get more conservative. The trend continued and less and less new music was being played on the radio. Less new music, means fewer new artists break through. What is left is more and more of the same songs. Even on stations that play current music new acts never really get the chance to become classic anymore, at least not at any significant rate. It has gotten increasingly more difficult to get new music played on the radio for a number of reasons (probably another blog). When it does get played it gets played with less frequency and it is heard by far fewer people, as radio listenership continues to decline.

With the advent of “Classic Rock” the adult audience has gotten fed a steady diet of old music by icons. It has reached a point where the public has no taste for the new music from these acts. They just prefer to hear the same old stuff time and time again. McCartney, Springsteen, Mellencamp, The Stones, The Who and others release new music to an apathetic public. These records sell a fraction of the most successful projects from these acts. The new music from these bands get minimal play and then only on a handful of rock stations that play current music. The smart bands such as Pink Floyd and U2, remain on the sidelines and watch the carnage. “Classic Rock” has ruled the rock world for such a long time, it has unintentionally strangled its young.

“JUMPING JACK FLASH” LIVE 2013-  THE ROLLING STONES-People still paying big bucks to see this.


Top 40 plays no old music. These stations just play the biggest songs of the day. You never hear “Thriller” on a Top 40 station. That audience has moved on. As a result, these stations have young active listeners. Unfortunately, with listenership down and with the advent of streaming and Itunes, sales have dwindled to a fraction of what they were at the end of the 90’s. It looked like the good times were never going to end, but they ran into a brickwall at the turn of the century.

MTV changed the landscape in 1981. While record sales had plateaued at the end of the 70s the invention of the CD and the success of MTV gave the industry a much-needed shot in the arm. First of all MTV HAD NO OLD VIDEOS to play. There was no such thing as an old music video, so MTV played currents and only currents. Record sales soared. Eventually they had enough of a library to start playing recurrents, but they still remained dedicated to playing lots of new music. Instead of playing “gold” or classic videos, they invented VH-1 for the more mature viewer.

“LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER” -The video that made Bon Jovi superstars and saved Mercury Records


“HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF”- DURAN DURAN- One of the most successful videos in the early years of MTV. See the first comment at the bottom of the video. It pretty much says it all.


But then reality hit! MTV was a TV station being used like a radio station. Viewers would change the channel when something they didn’t like came on the air. Therefore the network ratings were in the tank. They were getting pressured to raise revenue. They had a very loyal, but small audience. But that was not enough to keep Sumner Redstone happy. Long form programming was instituted to change this trend and music videos slowly disappeared from the airwaves of MTV. A severe blow to the music industry.

Howard Stern was perhaps one of the first and severest blows to the music industry. Stern was so good and got such great ratings that hundreds of imitators appeared. Local stations stopped playing music in morning drive and added “personality” to their airwaves. Morning show teams popped up everywhere with an accent on comedy and pranks and less emphasis on music. The biggest audience radio could deliver was no longer hearing new music in the morning. The affect of this was devastating.

BUBBA THE LOVE SPONGE-A juvenile Stern rip-off, who fills the morning airwaves. There are lots more like him.


Couple these problems with the fact that the record industry started signing acts not based on the long range potential of an act, but merely based on the potential for short term success. The companies, now owned by huge conglomerates who relied on them for vast sums of income, now insisted that they deliver quarterly earnings. Record companies made money in the past, but they were allowed time to develop acts. When CBS owned Columbia and its other label groups they were looked at as an add-on. Paley viewed the “music people” as curiously creative creatures that often made problems for the mothership. They were a curiosity, and having artists like Sinatra, Tony Bennett,Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and Barbra Streisand associated with the network was a good thing. But the labels  were never really counted on to deliver big profits every quarter. Anything they could provide was gravy. Things changed as Columbia and the other major labels were purchased by huge conglomerates. The labels were now cash cows. Sony saw the success of the labels as a an essential element in the success of their hardware business. Other companies had their own needs and the labels bailed them out. We will begin to see the major record labels dismantled, as their owners can no longer tolerate the significant losses. It no longer will make sense for a major corporation to own a record label that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line.

Sports entrepreneurs are enjoying record profits, while the record industry in essentially dying on the vine. It is difficult to blame any one, or group of people for the demise. It has been a series of things that has brought the industry to its knees. However, all of them can be tied directly to money. Art is no longer a concern.

The music business has always been about money and excess. Now there is no more room for excess. So industry people are working their butts off for little reward. It simply is nowhere near the fun it used to be. Although earning money was always the main goal of a label, it was well hidden. People like Ahmet Ertegun, Mo Austin, David Geffen and others were lovers of music first, business men second. They loved music, but knew how to make money with it. It was a perfect marriage. That is no longer the case. Label heads can no longer keep their bosses at bay. They don’t have the luxury of putting out music they love. They have to come up with a rainmaker or two every year. That is extremely difficult to do when you are selling music at $1.29 a track on iTunes. Sadly it is only going to get worse, not better. Score it Money Moguls 1, Artists 0. Game over.


About jimdelbalzo

As the former Senior Vice President of Promotion at Columbia Records and now founder/helmsman of the artist management company-Jim Del Balzo Entertainment, Jim has managed, consulted, and developed/executed the promotion and marketing plans for some of the planet’s most beloved musicians. He has guided the careers of artists/acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Alice In Chains, James Taylor, George Michael, Soul Asylum, and System of a Down; to name just a few. Jim also does consulting for labels and publishing companies including Columbia Records, Warner Brothers/Reprise Records, Hear Music/Starbucks, EMI Music Publishing and several other entertainment entities. Jim Del Balzo Entertainment clients include,  John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, LL Cool J, Burt Bacharach, City Sleeps, Buddahead and Since October.     Jim’s highly successful career and great service to the music industry has earned him a number of accolades and awards over the years. Namely, he was voted one of the Top 25 Most Important People in Rock Music (2000) and Promotion Executive of the Year (5 times) by Album Network—from which he also received a Lifetime Achievement Award. And Clear Channel twice honored Jim with the Executive of the Year Award while Friday Morning Quarterback and Radio & Records named him Top Industry Executive 7 times combined.   Today, Jim Del Balzo takes his talent to the microphone, adding voice work to his remarkable repertoire. His promotional expertise and attuned top executive instincts-combined with his richly unique sound- delivers VO that is truly somethin’ else.   Jim Del Blazo VO.  Like nothin’ you’ve heard. Like nobody’s business.   Jim lives in Saddle River, New Jersey with his wife Mary Beth, daughters Jessica and Julia, and their two golden retrievers.


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