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The big bucks of the music business

It's only rock n roll, and everyone wants a cut

A great pleasure of writing the Billy Lime thriller series is the ability to explore the intrigue, complexities and downright bastardry of the rock music business.


That cut-throat, boom-bust life is the universe in which my character Billy Lime operates, and it where I hope all my readers descend when they read the first page. It’s full of bad guys and opportunists looking for an angle to make a buck from someone else’s talent.


The digital revolution has changed the business of music and star management dramatically, destroying the traditional business model. Profit has gone from recordings and instead artists must hit the road, sell concert tickets, knock out t-shirts and other merchandise, and promote their music.


For a promoter such as Billy Lime, there is so much competition for the consumer dollar that unless you have acts such as Adele, Beyoncé or Ed Sheehan, it’s hard graft making money off the back of the huge investments it takes to hold a rock concert.


In the Billy Lime series, I see the music business as not a backdrop or setting for the thrillers but a key character, possessing passion and personality. Its life is determined by those who seed it with music, feed it with marketing dollars and the fans who adore it and pay for everything.


It would be deceptive to write a book – fiction or otherwise – that did not explore and highlight the real-world challenges of this business in the 21st century.


I was amazed to discover that a music promoter, who carries massive investment to get a big act on stage, is cut out from the dollars for merchandise. That hardly seems fair, especially if they have paid a flat fee – often a big one – to get a star on the stage.


A facet of the modern day rock business that I’m exploring in the follow-up novel to Amplify (I haven’t landed on a title yet), is the power of social media to and how companies like Apple and Amazon influence can prevail to dictate what we think, how we behave and, ultimately, where we spend our cash.


The social scientists and economists tell us we are moving from wanting stuff to spending more of our money on “experiences”, such as attending music concerts.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been happy to shell out the bucks for a good concert, or when a super-star/group comes to town. Coldplay was the last major gig I went to. Not really my thing, to be honest. I like my music to have a harder edge but it was fantastic to see the British group at the height of the powers.


These days, there is a never-ending parade of big acts because this is now how they have to keep their star-power bright. Gone are the days when they can disappear to the French countryside, or the Hollywood hills, and count the money from LPs.


What’s the best concert you have seen recently? Tell me who and why in the comments below - the best answer will receive a paperback copy of Amplify.


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