As we know, and have known for some time, traditional album sales are dying. This means that artists formerly banking off of those traditional album sales must come up with ulterior sources of income. Enter the live show.
Marc 7, one of four emcees in the veteran alternative hip-hop group Jurassic 5, recently sat down with Ural Garrett of HipHopDX to detail the shift in hip-hop, where artists have moved away from relying on album sales and as a result have been forced to become more active on the tour circuit. Having been active from the early 90s through 2007, and more recently returning as an official group in 2013, Jurassic 5 has been witness to the industry and it's trends for the better part of two decades. As such, they were able to enjoy a period of time when artists could get by solely off of how well their albums sold.
As time has passed, though, that has changed. As we've discussed ad naseum, the landscape is shifting, and as a result selling out concert venues is surpassing selling albums in terms of importance. As Marc put it:
“We've actually performed with a lot of artists that didn't have to go out and do shows because they had record sales that was generating money … That's not the case anymore. Now you see everybody generating tours. It's about getting shows now so it's fun to watch that kind of flip.“
Essentially, as long as an artist was selling CDs back in, say, 1995, it was up to them as to whether they wanted to give back to their fans and perform live. Earnings equal power, and in recent years that power increasingly rests with the public. While fans and media members like to point at declining album sales as a sign that the music industry is dying, it's more accurate to suggest that it's merely changing and may even be flourishing outside of those outdated metrics. A 2012 Forbes article noted that “from 1999 to 2009, concert ticket sales in the US tripled from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion.” For the artists that focused solely on recording and album sales, this meant transitioning into a more “live show”-centric mentality. For artists like Jurassic 5, who have always used their live shows as an extension of their brand, the change came more naturally.
“The shows was secondary … People had attitudes. Some stars were whatever to the fans. Now it's switched where it's the live show [is important] and everybody wants to do shows and it kind of switched to where they kind of have to give back to the fans, which is something we've been doing since day one. We didn't have to adjust to that.”
None of this is groundbreaking news, but hearing a respected veteran of the game spotlight the fact that many of his peers had formerly abstained from putting their full energy into touring emphasizes a positive industry shift in thinking. A bigger focus by artists on live shows should lead to an increase in opportunities to see your favorite artists live. Whether the earnings gap from falling album sales will be fully supplemented by concert revenue is another question, but it's clear we've entered an age where the live show is no longer secondary to selling records.