Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How new music from Led Zeppelin could eschew the new-music/bathroom-break paradox

Put yourself in the shoes of your favorite classic rock act.

Your band got back together and decided to have another go at it. It's been a while, but the chemistry is there, and you're juiced about some new music you're writing and rehearsing.

But your new music has not seen the light of day outside of a rehearsal studio, and you're not sure how well it would be received if you played it live alongside the many hits your fans would expect to hear. Bob Lefsetz describes the dilemma:

"[W]hen people go to the show today, they only want to hear the hits. They don't want to hear anything new. And when you do fire up your new compositions, they immediately go to the bathroom, got get a drink. New material is like the obligatory drum solo of yore, signal for a break.

"Therefore, every act that is not a flash in the pan is an oldies act. The customer, paying an overinflated price for a ducat, feels he DESERVES to hear the hits. That's why you charged him so much, right? ...

"You want to grow. But your audience won't let you. They don't want to hear anything new."

Lefsetz continues on in yesterday's post to offer what I consider a pretty good suggestion that could guide new music from any classic rock act, including Led Zeppelin, toward acceptance among fans -- so as to avoid the new-music/bathroom-break paradox.

The new album -- or even a disc or electronic download with only the songs you intend to play live -- comes complimentary with your advance concert ticket purchase. That way, fans can play it ahead of time and become acquainted with it and grow to love. It'll be something they actually want to hear because it fits in with the old stuff!

"If all the money is in touring, why are you trying to sell your music? Doesn't it make more sense to give it away, in the hope that people will have a better concert experience?

"... [I]f the $100 ticket came with the new material, the audience would be motivated to play the new stuff, in ANTICIPATION of the show. After a while, this will become the new behavior, people will know to listen to the free new music, because that's what the act is going to play!

"Even the Eagles. How many hits do they have? That's all people want to hear. But the band finally made a new album, they'd like to stretch out on stage. How do they keep the audience from being disinterested? By making sure each and every customer has the new music in ADVANCE!

"... If you're a touring act, you've got to stop thinking of your new music as a revenue source. Rather, it's an investment in your career, its vitality, its longevity. The key is to get it in as many hands as possible so your sphere of influence, your customer base, doesn't shrink, but GROWS!

"... As it is, you're announcing your tour almost a year before it happens, getting all that revenue up front, before anybody else does... If you give away the music with the ticket, the audience has a long time to become familiar with it! Hell, the dropping of the album and the on sale date happen simultaneously!"

So, what say you part-time Zep marketing strategists? Time has changed since 1980. Audiences, their demand, their expectations, have all changed. Could new Zep material be distributed as explained above? Would this do the trick? Could Led Zeppelin successfully adapt in the 21st century and help forge new behavior among its listening audience, the same way Led Zeppelin of yore revolutionized the 90-10 split?


  1. Brilliant idea! Glad someone is thinking out there.


  2. Hi Steve,
    You sure know how to write an article to agitate people.

    So, from what you say, Robert would rather go around playing copies of other people’s music rather than copies of his own music. It does seem a shame that he has a total disdain for his fans - fans that created him.

    I heard him on a radio interview here in LA about a year ago where he said that he grew up and loved all of that teem angst music from the late 50’s and early 60’s and when he went to see “Dion” in Las Vegas, he was so overwhelmed with joy and happiness to hear him sing those old songs, that it brought him back to his youth and brought a little tear to his eye remembering those days.

    What we have here is a double standard. Meaning, it’s OK for Bob to go and see a nostalgic act and be re-energized by memories of his youth, but he will not re-energise his own fans because, in essence, that is below him.

    What a greedy Little B…..d

    If all Bob wants to do now is play covers, then he should join a covers band and sing 5 hours a night like the rest of us suckers do, for a few hundred bucks a week. Now that is work.

    You want to go back to your roots Bob? Go there.

    What he does on a tour for 1 ½ to 2 hours is nothing compared to doing what an every day musician does.

    I guarantee you, he would be croaking after the first night, even worse than he croaks now.

    I also heard an interview on that same radio station with Pete Townsend, where he was asked if he was grateful for all of the fortune that he received from his music. He said that when he was younger he wasn’t grateful at all, but he is now, and he’s just glad he stuck around long enough (didn’t die) to be grateful to the people that put him where he is today.

    Maybe Bob could learn a lesson from that.

    It appears to me that Bob is ungrateful for having the career and wealth that the fans have given him. It certainly seems that he does not want to give them anything back.

    Bob, you don’t deserve the adulation that has been bestowed on you.

    Keep kicking sand in the faces of your fans Bob, and pretty soon you won’t have any….
    Fiddle player or not.


  3. Good point Steve..ahem...Bob, but it only works if the new music is worth listening to live. Case in point, I keep buying the new Rush cd's and in my opinion their last good cd was Presto, which came out about 15 years ago. I've given the newer cd's a decent listen and unfortunately they just don't do it for me.
    If a band is going to "force" us to buy and listen to their music, they should invest the time, energy and money into writing material that is true to their legacy...and that doesn't mean doing exactly what they did in the past.

  4. This issue is a bit silly - I mean we're talking about Led Zeppelin. I can only speak for myself, but in '73, I didn't go for a piss when they started playing songs from Houses Of The Holy, and in '75, I didn't go get a coke when they launched into In My Time Of Dying. If you're into Led Zeppelin, you're into change.

    I think you've got things ass-backwards anyway - If I'm gonna take a bathroom break, it's probably gonna be during Black Dog or some other song I've heard live umpteenth times. I'm not going to want to miss something played for the first time re: For Your Life/O2 - I mean, how good was that?

    And do you really think the band would perform something new that would not blow you away? I don't think the typical Led Zeppelin fan is so jaded and narrow-minded. Randy

  5. Randy, I think enough has transpired between 1975 and today to change the landscape of live concerts, particularly those of nostalgia acts and even our favorite act, Led Zeppelin.

    I'd love to think Zep's audiences are wholly less narrow-minded than other audiences. But we're talking about so many people here...

    I think it's not just idealistic but also foolish to assume that new material in 2008/2009 would be as widely accepted as "In My Time of Dying" was at a 1975 show.

    Audiences have evolved in both their expectations and their behaviors, and I don't think the quality of the music alone is enough to change it.

    And that's obviously no knock on the members of Led Zeppelin or their creativity!

    Their music can move mountains, but when we're talking about their audience, we're talking about a LOT of people worldwide.

    How many hits came in for tickets to the charity show they played last year? The mere mention of that band's name prompted something along the lines of 20 million attempts at getting tickets in such a short span.

    That's a lot of people to impress, and I don't think everybody will give new material a fighting chance without a concerted effort along the lines Bob Lefsetz describes.

    That's unfortunate, but let's face the facts: Not everybody is as fervent a Led Zeppelin fan as the eight or so commenting on this blog. We might all give the music a fighting chance and enjoy it to shreds, but how many more won't?

    For that reason, I believe it might take an approach along the lines of what Bob Lefsetz is describing. Releasing the album online to prepare people for the exciting musical onslaught they're about to witness live would get the music across to people in a new and revealing fashion.

    Of course, we've just put the cart ahead of the horse because nobody's agreed to another concert or album...

  6. You never know with these guys. The fact is that they only played 2 "new" songs from Presence and 3 from ITTOD. If they had an album that just blew everyone away and had the sales to back it up, then they may be inclined to play 4-6 songs from it. But due to the length of the show (2 hours) and the vast cataloge that they would have to cover, they would only play about 3 new songs.

    Of course this is a moot point at this time because it seems like there is less of a chance of a album/tour as Robert's new endeavors keep elliciting rave reviews from the fans and critics.

  7. Pertinent to the last comment from Glen, a friend of mine wrote in a private e-mail to me the other day, about Robert: "It's hard to predict what he'll do next. Will it be a Strange Sensation album, a sequel to Raising Sand or a few show with the old band? Seems like a good spot to be in."

    I'll bet Plant and the Strange Sensation have another album in the can already, but releasing it is a matter of timing. Raising Sand had already been in the can for a while by the time it was released last October, but it came out only when the artists would be available to promote it.

    Also pertinent to the conversation, Jimmy Page seems to be weighing several options now, too. He recently told Guitar World magazine, "I have about 3 different projects I'm working on simultaneously. I'm just waiting to see which one naturally takes preference over the others." Your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly those projects are! I'm definitely intrigued.


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