Are Music Videos Cheating?

You're not going to make very much money in touring. Not when you're first starting out. The peak money in touring is normally found about 20 years after breakout success, regardless of the era.

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I came across an interesting comment when I was reading an article about the money involved in touring. The writer made a comment to the effect that music videos were cheating in short that newer acts would never see the level of touring success that their forebears had seen, largely because the legends of the touring industry had built up their massive success through constant touring. Newer acts had supposedly used music videos to create a much quicker and less permanent relationship with their fans. I went and pulled some data on the top grossing touring acts of the decade, and grouped them by the decade in which they achieved their breakthrough, i.e. their first large commercial success.

Top Acts of the Decade (# of shows/millions of dollars grossed taken from Billboard's website):

60s

  • The Rolling Stones: 264/$869
  • Neil Diamond: 288/$264
  • Cher: 383/$257
  • Paul Mccartney: 106/$238
  • Rod Stewart: 281/$233
  • Tina Turner: 168/$212

    70s

  • Elton John: 541/$603
  • Billy Joel: 241/$418
  • Bruce Springsteen: 403/$688
  • The Eagles: 240/$347
  • Aerosmith: 320/$292
  • Jimmy Buffett: 196/$215

    80s

  • U2: 288/$844
  • Madonna: 248/$801
  • Bon Jovi: 249/$419
  • The Police: 144/$361
  • Metallica: 187/$227

    90s

  • Celine Dion: 597/$536
  • Dave Matthews Band: 547/$505
  • Tim Mcgraw: 388/$303
  • Kenny Chesney: 622/$477
  • Toby Keith: 542/$271
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra: 728/$203

    2000s

  • Britney Spears: 255/$216
  • Rascal Flatts: 401/$222

    Now, music videos came into their own in the early 80s with the advent of MTV. Prior to MTV music videos existed as an art form largely bereft of any large commercial impact, but MTV brought the medium to a large audience. Any band that broke through after the launch of MTV owed part of their success to the commercial opportunities that the new medium brought. So taking another look at that list, we can see that there were six acts from the 60s, 70s and 90s, five from the 80s, and two from the 2000s. So the 90s have the same representation on the list as the 60s and 70s, and the 80s are almost identical; music videos must not have a detrimental effect on the fan base.

    The next thing to look at is price per show. Every single one of the acts from the 90s and 2000s pulled in an average of less than one million per show, while three of the five acts from the 80s averaged over two million a show and the rest topped a million. Then something interesting happens when we get to the data from the 60s and 70s. In the 70s one of the acts averaged less than a million per show, while in the 60s a grand total of three acts averaged less than a million per show.

    Allow me to translate all of this for you: you're not going to make very much money in touring. Not when you're first starting out. The peak money in touring is normally found about 20 years after breakout success, regardless of the era. It's entirely possible to fill seats like Led Zeppelin and the legends of old. The music industry is one big pyramid scheme that screws over those at the bottom, where success is reserved for those that survive. So don't get discouraged if you don't find success right away, or even after a year or two of touring. It took bands like the Police four years to even put out a record. Survive, and the peanuts you're living on turn into more kingly fare, but it's up to you and your own personal quest to figure out how.

    Ben Histand is a fourth-year Business student with an interest in finding out how pop culture works, and has spent entirely too much time finding out how Marvin Gaye is the same as Led Zeppelin, and why Led Zeppelin sold a whole lot more albums.

    Dotted Music 2010

  • 12 comments sorted by best / new / date

      westernfilet
      If you're in a band and think you'll make millions, you're in the wrong industry. Stay in college, and work on Wall St for the money. Stay in a band and record music if you want to have a life-long love fulfilled.
      Sparky-MMA
      music videos are a great way of getting your music out there. if you have a video that people will want to watch then your music will be heard. they may not like it at the moment but they'll remember the video and maybe in the future like your music.. its hit and miss. my old band were asked to be the band in an MTV style creating the video project for my friends final project at university. she premiered it at her universities short film festival and afterwards although some of the audience didn't like the music we played they said they thoroughly enjoyed the video and thought that we had some good ideas as to what would work for the song we chose, and some of them even asked if we had an EP for sale so they could have a copy just in case. They aren't in the slightest part cheating. it gives an amazing first impression to people. your video is accessible in so many ways. it allows people to hear your music (which is the most important thing for a band) see you (face to name and all that) and gives them a view of what your like to watch live (depending on the style of video). The video we shot was like a mixture between beast and the harlot by Avenged Sevenfold and Right Side Of The Bed by Atreyu, so a mixture of live footage and a bit of acting on the side. people really enjoyed watching it and said even if they didnt like the music they would like to see us live because it looked like we put on one hell of a show for a fans. which we did. Its all perspective. if the fans like what they see they'll buy your music and come see you live. if they don't at least you tried. theres no right or wrong answers in music. its all perception
      Jondy
      when i read the title i thought this was going to be about lip syncing. quite frankly i've seen some videos where it's like they didn't even try to sync.
      theway1966
      Music videos were a great way to get recognition. However, they will never replace live shows
      Gh.
      Imo you waay to simplified it. Between 60s and 00s happened much more things that were relevant for the amount of the money one can earn by touring. We could start from the internet to the fact that people percive and treat music differently then years ago(imo, especially the fact that none record company can build up such enormously popular acts like eg. the Beatles. Nowadays bands gather lesser fan-bases due to the diversity of musical tastes). All in all that doesn't change the fact that today touring is the best way to earn money in music. Due to piracy and internet noone would be able to live off only selling albums(like Beatles did in late 60s). Of course, one may say that making commercials and etc.(like eg. Beyonce) is a great way to earn decent money. But we are talking about living off music, not famous face. All in all, it's an interesting subject to discuss, but needs deeper analize.
      IROn 5L1nKY
      I also believe that the article had some really interesting thoughts and concepts behind it, and it's obvious that research was done to prove the facts here. I also think, however, that some more bands from the 00's and some more in-depth study of extraneous factors that affect the sales and quantity of live shows leading to money grossed would have been an excellent idea.
      ragingkitty
      A good article, although I suspect that it is somewhat lost on a majority of UGer, however, like Gh. and Iron 5l1nky, i would like to see deeper analysis on the subject.
      tom1thomas1
      Ben Histand is a fourth-year Business student with an interest in finding out how pop culture works, and has spent entirely too much time finding out how Marvin Gaye is the same as Led Zeppelin, and why Led Zeppelin sold a whole lot more albums.
      lol
      DeadxEndxEmpty
      The problem with this article is that it follows popular music. Typically as the decades have passed, pop acts are people that don't even sing or play live anyway, making it no different than a music video. The first acts on this "enlightened" list posted were actually MUSICIANS for the most part.