Last week, my wife and I were fortunate enough to catch the wonderful James Taylor/Carole King show at the Hollywood Bowl. Yes, the average age may have been pushing 60, bit it was a historic show and they both sounded amazing. The star power in the crowd put a Laker game to shame.
But a funny thing happened to me during the show. Like thousands of other fans in the Bowl that night, I was armed with my iPhone. I snapped a few pictures throughout the show. When JT started “Fire and Rain”, I turned on my iPhone’s video camera. From my 2nd section box seat, you could barely see JT on the phone. But I wanted to capture the moment, and share it with my Facebook friends.
Halfway through the song, the dude in the bright yellow jacked tapped me on the shoulder. “I’m sorry sir, no video cameras”. Seriously??? Still?? I was floored that such an archaic policy was still in place. It made me realize that the “no videos” policy is likely in place in countless venues across the country.
I remember when consumer grade video and digital cameras went mainstream. Sports and concert venues wouldn’t allow them. Anyone caught with a digital camera at a Laker game would lose the camera for the night. I guess these policies were put in place to “protect” ancillary revenue streams such as DVD sales and photo licensing. Even then, I thought it was narrow minded. But today? It’s flat out stupid.
Think of the pros and cons. I guess JT and Carole King could be concerned that my iPhone video would cannibalize their DVD and HBO sales. That thinking is so 10 years ago. Conversely, if I did post my little iPhone video of “Fire and Rain”, my 300 Facebook friends might have seen it. And some may have bought tickets to see the show when it came to their town. Others might have bought a few JT albums on Amazon. And if everyone like me with an iPhone had taped Fire and Rain, how many of their friends would have seen it? And bought concert tickets? And reminded people just how talented JT and his old writing partner still are?
It was over 30 years ago that the Grateful Dead bucked conventional wisdom by embracing bootleg recordings. They famously welcomed it, and sat people with recording devices right up front. Those licensed recordings helped spread the word that the Grateful Dead were a “must see” band. The Dead also allowed for unlicensed productions and sales of Dead branded memorabilia. Again, the Dead allowed their raving fans to spread the word. Their popularity, to a great extent, was directly attributable to unlicensed recordings and merchandise. IN THE 1970’s!!
Forty years later venues like the Hollywood Bowl, and artists like JT and Carole King, just don’t get it. This shouldn’t be a surprise I guess, given that this is the same industry that fought digital downloads to protect their bloated CD margins. An outdated desire to protect dwindling DVD, CD and broadcast revenues, they completely miss an opportunity to allow their most die-hard fans to become advocates. If you think of the thousands of fans who will catch this tour, and the hundreds of thousands of fans that they reach through their social media, a massive opportunity is being ignored. Sadly, JT, Carole King and the Hollywood Bowl are stuck in the past.