Los Angeles, the Echo
San Diego , The Void
It was extremely gratifying to see all the people who turned up for the sold out Los Angeles Dirty Beaches show and the almost sold out San Diego Dirty Beaches show over the last two nights. Los Angeles was a particularly inspiring site with sold out shows both for Dirty Beaches at the Echo and downstairs at the Echoplex for Cold Cave as well; with a line down the block for people who didn't have tickets but wanted to get in.
In San Diego there was an even split between pre-sale and walk up: 50/50- and I've never personally seen the Void that crowded other then for the opening night and the Shannon and the Clams show.
Both performances were well received- all the bands were appreciated at both venues. Merchandise sales were strong at both venues. Audience enthusiasm was high at both venues. At the same time it's humbling to consider that being to sell out the Echo and almost sell out an under 200 cap venue in San Diego puts a band at the very lowest rung of the ladder of music business achievement.
Going to the Cold War Kids show at the Wiltern on Thursday night really put that observation in perspective. In the seven-ish years I've been doing this it's the first time I've been apart of a tour that had that kind of back-to-back success (that I witnessed on both occasions) and there is so far to go before any kind of a reasonable living can be derived from the performance and sale of recorded music.
Because after all, what is it worth to be cool? Here is my take: Coolness is what brings you to the attention and interest of people who are uncool but who have money. If you are a cool artist/label/band you can do two things: Trade your cool for someone else's money or try to build something yourself (yourselves) that uses coolness to atttract "un-cool" general population audience members. I.E. either you do it yourself or you let someone with money and experience figure it out for you. Just being cool isn't enough. There are not enough Audience members with money who care to make a lifetime of cool financially rewarding.
Selling out a 200-300 cap venue in LA is great, but it is quite literally the lowest rung that a viable band can occupy. It's the starting point, not the end. While I was at the Echo show Friday night, it was hard not to remember that the last time I was back stage at the Echo was in 2009 when I saw Wavves play a similarly sold out show- spring 2009. Four years plus later, Wavves is playing the X Fest, and the Artists I'm working with is trying to again sell-out the Echo.
I'm not really troubled by it, because I can't imagine any of the Artists I work with being particularly stoked by a 430 PM slot at the X Fest, but it is impossible to deny that shows Wavves being way "ahead" in the climb up the music industry ladder. At the same time, I feel a sense of accomplishment because I know that when Dirty Beaches sells out the Echo 'we" i.e. the artist and label- are keeping 100% of the money derived. There is no psuedo-indie taking the digital sales money, there is no d bag manager taking 50% of the ticket sales.
It's a trade off- we're all further away from that mass audience, but controlling what we've manager to generate ourselves. It is a DIY outfit, for better or for worse, but the last couple of days it's felt better.
Thanks to Goose Island and DoLA for the tickets!