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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Time for Corporate Sponsorships?

Sponsored by Nobody beer
"This Note's For You" music video frame

Once again -- a few folks have had some very strong opinions on tickets for seeing Neil Young on the upcoming Twisted Road concert tour.

One modest proposal suggested the time had come for Neil to consider corporate sponsorships for his tours.

Naturally, that's a pretty breathtaking concept given Neil Young's stance on the subject as encapsulated in the 1988 song "This Note's For You". The video for the song "This Note's For You," was a very pointed punch at corporate sponsorship in the music industry. The song and video came about the time that Eric Clapton went on tour sponsored by Budweieser and featured banners around the stage for beer products.

Ironically, the video for "This Note's For You" was banned by MTV, purportedly for its portrayal of Michael Jackson going up in flames in a recreation of a recent accident he had expereinced. More bizarrely, MTV turned around and voted it as the "Video of the Year" at the 1988 MTV Music Video Awards.

From a Neil Young interview in the Village Voice Rock and Roll Quarterly, Winter 1989 by Jimmy McDonough:
Then there's that wonderfully mean-spirited video for "This Note's for You." It gets banned by MTV, and MTV, in an obvious attempt to stop the flood of bad publicity, reinstates the video and gives Young their "Best Video of the Year" award. Why did he accept it?

YOUNG: "I dunno - must be the Perry Como in me. I could do the hard-line Marlon Brando thing, not accept the award, give it to the Indians. But that's almost the predictable thing to do. You can't get money to make videos if MTV won't play them.

In accepting the award I thought I'd be able to make more videos and get 'em played."

So it was a business decision, albeit an unsuccessful one. "Rockin' in the Free World," Young's new video directed by Julien Temple - who also did "This Note's for You" - hasn't gotten much airplay.

"They play it once a day. So that's the fuckin' support we got."

So back to a modest proposal by Nathan Brand
I have the solution for high ticket prices, and I’m sure most of you are going to hate it.

I “never” thought I’d say this, but maybe it’s time for Neil Young to start accepting corporate sponsorship for his concert tours.

If what it has come down to is ticket prices upwards of $260 and fans being priced out of going to hear his music live, then maybe it’s time to accept this concession. Who among you wouldn’t mind paying $40 to $75 a ticket, if the concert was sponsored by, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Levi’s, Apple Computers, etc…? (Thrasher, maybe this would be good for your next poll question….) Believe me; I hate the idea of this. I still proudly use my “Sponsored By Nobody” beer cooler I bought during the Bluenotes tour, but I think this situation has hit a critical mass.

Dylan started selling his songs to commercial interests a few years back, and he generally keeps his ticket prices between $40 - $60. I know there are plenty of other gluttonous bands like The Stones and U2 that take the corporate money and still gaff their fans for everything they can get, but maybe this is a way out. Dylan basically said (paraphrasing), “FU. They are my songs and I can do what I want with them, and selling them commercially does nothing to impact their integrity.” You can swallow that line of bull, if you want, but the bottom line is he found other revenue streams and his ticket prices are lower.

Neil’s only revenue stream is his fans’ wallets. We are the de-facto corporate sponsors and the expenses are mushrooming out of control. Being a Neil Young fan is becoming like an exclusive club for rich people. (The price points for Archives…! He should have given most of that stuff away on It’s NPR without the government subsidies. Screw it! Sells the songs to Madison Ave and Wall St. Go out and find some suitable sponsorship for your tours and bring tickets prices back down under a $100. (Under $75 would be better.)

I know how I would feel the first time I saw a sponsorship banner for “Starbucks” or “Verizon” at one of his shows, but it wouldn’t be any worse than I feel now when paying up to $260 a ticket. I would just need to learn to separate the money from the music, but at least this time, it wouldn’t be "all" my money.

- Nathan Brand

Thanks Nathan!

More on Neil Young Ticket Woes.


At 4/22/2010 08:08:00 AM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

Well if that's Nathan's opinion I respect it, but I can't really think of a worse idea than walking into a small theater like Constitution Hall and seeing corporate banners everywhere. Has corporate sponsorship really lowered ticket prices for any successful act that has used them on a major tour? I think not.

Plus with the unholy alliance between Live Nation and Ticketbastard, Neil basically has a corporate sponsor already!!

At 4/22/2010 09:15:00 AM, Anonymous Y said...

Well, I respect Nathan's opinion, but I think it's a total misunderstanding of the problem. I don't think the problem is that Neil needs the money so badly, if that was the case he could have done a stadium tour. The problem is that it's not a stadium tour, hence the basic concept of economics: scarcity. It’s not enough room for everyone who wants to see him. Even with these ticket prices the shows get sold out in no time. At least the last times he’s been here in Norway, you have to sit ready the moment the tickets go on sale and hope to get through the ticket line before it’s sold out in about an hour. With lower tickets prices, getting a ticket would be like winning a lottery, and the people who would like to see Neil, bur rather spend their money on a new pair of jeans have the same chance as those who are willing to starve for a month to see him. With higher ticket prices everyone who wants it enough to cough up the bucks has at least a fair chance to get hold of a ticket. Of course some might say it’s a problem that some rich people have too much money, and other don’t, but at the end of the day you can’t hold Neil responsible for that. The only ones who’s sure to gain on lower ticket prices, are the black market-parasites who would get better margins when they sell their tickets. The archives is another thing, you can always produce more of it. An alternate cheap version with pepsi stickers all over the cover and jingles in between songs could be an idea. I would no matter what prefer to pay for a proper version.

At 4/22/2010 10:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an inarresting discussion of Neil's battle with MTV in a new book I just picked up at the bookstore yesterday - Neil Young: The Illustrated History. It's pretty cool. It seems to sort of have the look and feel of the archives book but the pictures go up through the Chrome Dreams II tour. It's published by Voyageur Press, I think (I don't have it with me now). Some really cool photos and some decent insights.

I do have stupid technical bone to pick with them, though - they have a section on Old Black and say that the middle round chrome cover on the back of Neil's guitar is so he or Larry can adjust the intonation. As a guy who makes LP replicas (and one of Old Black) - I can tell you that there is no way the intonation would be adjusted that way - that's what the ABR-1 bridge is for.

Anyway - you should check it out. (I have absolutely no affiliation with the book or the authors etc.)

Old Black

At 4/22/2010 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Rink's Ramblings said...

The cost of going to a Neil Young concert is reasonable. Neil's a bargain compared to what it costs to see Springsteen or acts like U2 or Paul McCartney. I think the only comparable act with a cheaper ticket is Bob Dylan and he tours constantly so seeing him isn't as tough as catching Neil. Quit the whining!

At 4/23/2010 09:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why does Neil have to compromise and whore himself so you can get cheaper tickets? Why don't you go out and find people or corporations who will sponsor you and that will cut your ticket price? Remember Neil already told us, "there's a bailout comin' but its not for you" Or (1) choose not to go or (2) pay $10 and see Trunk Show.

Sorry, $80 tickets in a 2,000 person arena where every seat is a good seat is more than reasonable, its a dream come true / bargain of a lifetime ... I pay $50 to have someone cut my lawn for a couple hours worth of work (and the reason I don't do it myself is that I'm workin' my but off in my job and would rather spend my precious free time with family or at TW) ... anybody can get $80 extra if they're willing to be a bit scrappy ...

Unfortunately, the collective bailout and entitlement mentality has reached a feverish pitch ... what I find so ironic is that by charging $250 for the best seats I actually think Neil's people are subsidizing the rest of the seats ... I've been to these theaters and every single seat is AWESOME ... yes, we all want to be the fat cat in the front row, but come on, that FAT CAT is subsidizing your $80 seat and thats cool, people need to focus on the BENEFITS of these $250 tickets and not complain so much ...

At 4/23/2010 01:40:00 PM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

Right on - exactly. I'll be in the first few rows for the D.C. show, but I'm anything but a fat cat. In fact, the guy who posted from Norway was right on when he said that some may choose to starve for a month to see Neil (I'm paraphrasing).

I'm not literally starving but the cost of my ticket ($220+) sure put a major dent in my monthly budget so for the past week, I've been a bit hungry as the money wasn't there to go grocery shopping as I normally do. My choice.

It's beyond stereotyping to assume that everyone down front for the upcoming tour is rich - far from it. I think we just recognize how special it is to once again have a chance to see Neil and are willing to take steps to assure that we're there - with no regrets or harbored anger over the cost.

I'll say it again - go back and watch Eddie Vedder induct Neil into the RRHF in 1995. He gets what we're talking about here.


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