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The Sad Song Co: Blog

Nigel Powell: Attack the Blog!

You've changed, man

Friday 6th September, 2013

I said over there on the albums page that my next blog would be my own self-assessment of my solo work, but I think I'm going to postpone that. It's something I struggle with in a way - I want to talk about it, but I would encourage anyone else away from that kind of coruscating critique of what they have done. But I'm happy to be a hypocrite, so I'll save it for the next blog.

I thought this time I'd react to something on Twitter, that wasn't even directed at me. I don't remember the name, but in the aftermath of the UK arena tour being announced someone directed a tweet at Frank about not playing smaller places (one of many, and fair enough in some ways, everyone's entitled to their preference and opinion), and concluded their tweet with "you've changed, man".

Frank is usually polite about this kind of thing (at least in public - he can sound off in private about it) but as a third party I feel comfortable in expressing my thoughts. The summation of them is "what a twat", but that definitely needs some explanation.

First is the dreadful presumption that this internet denizen knows Frank's mind, in the past or now, in any way. I've known Frank for 7 years now, and in my estimation indeed he has changed, as hopefully any growing human interested in the world around them will inevitably do. And any of those ways of changing have nothing whatsoever to do with choosing appropriate venues for a tour.

I would put it this way - I feel there was a tour where it was somewhat more reasonable to levy the "this doesn't seem like the Frank Turner way of doing things" tax on, but it's not next February. When I first started touring with Frank he was playing the biggest venues he could as a headliner, which happened to be 50 - 100 cap back rooms of pubs around the country. He wanted to put on the best show possible in those places, and if ticket price had been an issue he would have taken a keen interest in keeping it as reasonably low as it is possible to be. And for the most part all of his headline tours have followed exactly that template, very much including next February. The ticket prices are a much keener representation of where he is at.

Consider - tickets are (I think) £22.50, which is lower than most bands who I see headlining arenas. Even if tickets had been £25 I don't think anyone would have blanched at the prospect, as that still comes in well below the £35 - £90 that I see advertised for the majority of shows of this size. If tickets had been that £2.50 more for the O2 Arena that would be a potential extra gross of at least £40,000. Gross mind - there's myriad expenses on a tour of this size, and none of them come cheap. Would none of us been tempted to nudge up the price a bit, still to a reasonable level, to be able to save for the uncertain entertainer's future that bit more? But Frank hasn't changed - what's the lowest we can do tickets for without risking shirt? OK, that's the price.

So Mr Twitter Twat was complaining about venues being too big. The UK tour earlier this year though, that's the one I would consider the "you've changed" banner being hung upon. Although still technically signed to Xtra Mile, the licensing deal with Polydor (for the UK) means they have the lion's share of influence over what they would like to happen. They, in concert (hah!) with promoters, suggested kicking the album campaign off with what's called an "undersell", where a band goes out and plays places that are too small for them, they sell out instantly, create a buzz that the record company can play on to promote the upcoming record, and hopefully high chart positions ensue. So that's what happened, and you know what? I think it was a shitty move.

Sure, personally I much prefer playing rooms of that size, but for the fans it's elitist bullshit. They all (Scotland excepted because they hate us) sold out within the first couple of days of being on sale, with London going in 15 or so minutes. So everyone else is left with the choice of not seeing an artist they want to see, or paying through the nose at a secondary ticketing site or on eBay. Am I the only one who sees the problem here? Because the record company want to do something a certain way genuine fans end up having to pay more.

Of course there's the "playing multiple nights somewhere smaller" argument that gets tossed about, and theoretically I'm in favour of that. I say theoretically because in actual reality where I spend 10 months of the year on the road and miss my children like a severed limb anything that keeps the touring shorter is a great boon. We have shows booked either side of the UK arena tour stretching off around the world for a long time, all of which it should be noted are in the biggest venues we think we can play, and I would also appreciate Frank's back not collapsing under the strain of totally constant touring, so in this case, short is good. Maybe there'll be a less busy period at some point where we can tour the UK again for a four week stretch camping out for multiple days at venues, but not at the moment.

It's an odd clash of desires. As a band it's exciting when a show sells out, and we kind of hope for them to do so. But as soon as one does it means there's someone who can't get in, which gives an immediate whiff of elitism. And, internet person, with approaching half the tickets gone for the February tour in one week of sales (except for Portsmouth which is most likely already sold out, and Edinburgh which surprisingly is almost there as well), it seems that these shows will sell out, so we're possibly excluding people again. Which is not nice.

Fi, Tue 29th October 2013, 08:42:32 PM
finally getting around to catching up with my reading, and i'm amazed at some people's reactions. not sure if it's a good comparison, but i was incredibly lucky to get tickets for the pixies gig coming up in november in dublin, €49.55 each (about £42.50) - a ticket for them in london is £30 plus fees. €50 is considered a bit on the cheaper side for dublin - generally tickets are €60/£50 each. add in €5 for a pint...

on a happier note, i'm forking out for a plane ticket to edinburgh and a room, plus of course a ticket to the corn exchange - roll on february!
Victoria, Tue 29th October 2013, 07:30:30 AM
I have a lot of respect for you, Nigel. Thanks for being just the way you are.

See you out there again soon,
Robin, Sun 15th September 2013, 11:41:22 PM
Hi Nigel,

I was rather a quite a fan of your solo work (although I hate using the word 'fan') and am surprised you have a low opinion of it. I still remember your show at the Dublin Castle in 2002 as being spectacular. That drum solo to end 'Gulag Parenting' brought the house down! I also saw you perform a more intimate show at the Betsey Trotwood in Islington back in 2003 (just you and Jason Moulster) and still refer to it as one of the finest shows I've seen. 'Pleasure Babies' is one of my favourite songs and I used to use it as a ringtone a few years back. All this is really no exaggeration! I even trained it from Southampton to Oxford once on a Sunday night to try and catch you do a show but ended up getting lost and missing it. It's a shame you don't think much of it but I hope you're enjoying what you're doing now, and that you enjoyed making your solo records.



P.S. 'Conspiracy Theory' - another blinder!
Wendy, Sat 7th September 2013, 12:59:42 PM
I too saw that tweet, and had the same reaction. Your points are spot on. Another thing about arenas is that they have lots of seats, which many people prefer for a variety of reasons. I’ve had people like your music and agree to go to a show with me, only to pull out when they found out that it was standing only. And yes, those are some seriously cheap arena show prices. I’m used to paying at least $98/£76 for Springsteen, and that’s before booking fees.

To the "playing multiple nights somewhere smaller" argument, as Sally points out below, if you were to do that, there would be people who would still want to go to as many shows as possible. Ten nights at a smaller venue in NYC? I’d set up a tent outside the venue and be at every single one of them. I’d still do that if we were talking about arenas (stop looking at me like that, readers!).

I’m proud of Frank, and all of you, for reaching arenas. It’s a milestone that’s well deserved. Part of the fun of a live show is meeting other fans and singing at the top of your lungs with them and the band. That’ll still be there at large shows, and it’ll be even better. There’s nothing like hearing a whole arena or stadium full of people singing along to a song that you love.

And I also anticipate that Frank’s connection with the crowd will still be there as well. I’ve seen bands with their heads down not acknowledging the crowd at the smallest venues, and I’ve seen Springsteen have 60,000 people in the palm of his hand.

See further up the road, Nigel. Practice those high-fives for me.
Darlene, Sat 7th September 2013, 03:58:01 AM
So eloquently said Mr. Powell, as per usual. All valid points. I especially like your expression "the internet denizen." Perfect! Being cloaked in anonymity emboldens all the twats to come forth. I think that mathematically for every twat that comes forward, there are 1000 respectful people who are proud and amazed at the increased success and the style and grace with which you guys are handling it. So just keep doing it your way. There are thousands of us non-twats out there. ;)

Analisa, Sun 8th September 2013
Sally, Fri 6th September 2013, 02:08:25 PM
Hi Nigel,

Firstly I just want to say that I, along with many, many of my friends are all over the moon that you are able to play such big venues. It's come from all your hard work, and it's paying off for you. No matter what small minded 'fans' say, the majority of us are so happy for you, and most of us are already making plans for the shows!

Looking at my collection of tickets, I've paid between £21.50 and £32.50 for the arena shows I've been to. I looked at tickets to see Bruce Springsteen when he was in town, but at £65 a head I couldn't afford it, so missed out. Although there was a bit of uncertainty, I think most of us sat comfortably in the knowledge that no matter what happened, Frank wouldn't rip us off with ticket prices. And he hasn't. I don't understand how musicians can sit comfortably knowing that they are charging a small fortune more than necessary for tickets. I have no issue with people wanting to make profit, but those who add a heap more just for the sake of it get on my nerves.

That's one thing I'm not overly sure about with major labels. They seem like they care far more about making money than they do about the musicians own choices about what he/she does. I don't know how it all works, so I'm going to leave it there.

I know how heartbreaking it can be to miss out of tickets when a band plays a venue that is too small for them. My favourite band did a small academy sized tour when they were capable of selling out arenas regularly. I missed out on tickets, and it really did break my heart. It was my first and last chance to see them somewhere so small. (And yes, it was to support a new album!)
I think there will always be an issue with venues selling out, that's just the nature of the beast. Short of hiring a massive field there's going to be people who miss out if the venue sells out. Having said that, a sold out arena has its own atmosphere. Something that's pretty special just from a fan's point of view, I can't imagine what it must feel like t be the musician responsible. if Manchester arena sells out, 23,000 people singing and dancing will make for an incredible show.

I suppose it raised the issue of people going to more than one show a tour. I myself have done this (2 in November, 2 in April and I plan on going to Manchester and London in February), however stopping it would allow more different people to see shows. But I imagine that would be a logistical nightmare to organise!

If you were to play more than one show in each venue, there would probably be people who would still want to go to as many shows as possible.

I think those who matter, those who care, are those who are buying the tickets so quickly. And I think the fact that the tickets are selling so quickly is a testament in itself. People are marking the dates in their calenders 5 or 6 months in advance, just because they want to make sure they definitely get to see you. Surely that's a good thing?

You write your thoughts as eloquently as always Nigel. I can't believe that people are still giving Frank grief over his choices. Some people need to realise that, that it is HIS choice. I thought those who have been around longer than I have would realise that Frank's always trying to do the best he can to get as many people as possible to shows. Oh well.

See you in February. I'm excited already!
Nigel, Wed 18th September 2013
Good to hear!
Tony Martin, Fri 6th September 2013, 01:50:48 PM
These people who are bitchin about venue size/ticket expense are payin the price for not doing their homework earlier.For anyone who has half a finger on the music pulse would have to be blind or deaf not to know that Frank (and his boys) would be famous someday .So to you lazy people sat at home waitin for the next big thing..shut up,pay ya money..and don't forget ya binoculars.
Anonymous, Wed 18th September 2013
Yeah, binoculars

Anonymous, Wed 18th September 2013
Yeah, binoculars
Sarah, Fri 6th September 2013, 01:43:05 PM
Nigel, I always enjoy hearing your take on things, I read that comment too and rolled my eyes. I feel really sad that people are so rude, and thoughtless. I am a newer fan so never saw you play tiny venues, which is my loss. However I welcome being able to get to see you at the O2, especially as they are switched on regarding disabled access. Unlike Hatfield Forum who were telling me on the morning of the gig that I could not get a seat and that I can't go. Luckily Ft is accessible to his fans and he got it sorted. If anyone thinks you chaps don't look after your fans then quite honestly they are complete and utter twats.
Mel, Fri 6th September 2013, 12:39:25 PM
Nigel, I'm irritated by the Twitter Twats. Do they expect Frank (and by extension, your good self) to not make as much money as he can? I saw something on Twitter today castigating him for offering merch. WTF? Don't like it? Don't buy it!

I'm in Australia and would give my left arm to have you guys touring here like this, so I'd be willing to pay the price you put on it.

Consider here, $200AUD is cheap for an area size show.

In short, play to the size of crowd who is willing to see you, while you are popular. And screw anybody who has issues with it, they'll be there to see you at the Railway Inn in 10 years time.
George, Fri 6th September 2013, 12:33:15 PM
Nigel, I want "i've changed" to be the backdrop of these arena shows. Not the Tape Deck Heart artwork. That would make my day! See you guys in Nottingham. Fuck the haters!
Ryan, Fri 6th September 2013, 11:54:34 AM
Wow. I'm finding it incredible that these huge shows are on path to sell out - I still have memories of tiny gigs, then all of a sudden, Wembley!

But I think one of the things for me is that after the arena tour, it'll probably go smaller again - like after Wembley. But it's a hard one to draw the line on I suppose, because you can't play Wembley Stadium just yet, although I would say that the gig at the Forum was a really good way to go about it, because I couldn't get tickets, but I could watch it on YouTube, and I still can!

Either way, I think you guys are going about it the right way. I know there will still be intimacy at the O2, and I'm happy for you all, not judging you for becoming a bigger, better band/artist!

See you in February!
Ruszt, Fri 6th September 2013, 11:53:24 AM
You guys are the only band I would ever go to see at the O2 arena, so I am excited at the prospect. Plus they have seats which is a bonus with my ageing knees.
Talking of twats. I nearly ended up having fisticuffs with one (or two) in Hatfield who was intent on talking to his mate rather than listen to the music the whole time. He professed to also have known Frank for 7 years, so maybe this guy is indicative of your changing audience, which is inevitable. The sooner they stay at home the better in my opinion.
Krist, Fri 6th September 2013
Kris, Fri 6th September 2013
Ah, screwed up that comment, oops. Regardless, meant to say that this is spot on with how I feel. You guys are the only show I want to see at 02 and I'm excited by the prospect of a massive room of people equally stoked to be there all dancing our asses off. Having see y'all play in smaller spaces, that was great too, but I want more people to like you guys!
TGR, Fri 6th September 2013, 11:51:42 AM
I think you can be forgiven for excluding a few people when a massive arena tour sells out.

Provided you come do another tour soon, of course. ;)

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