INTERVIEW: The Menzingers

Published in The Music (NSW, VIC, QLD) on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

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Debating The Pros And Cons Of Touring Six Months A Year

“It’s a daily question sometimes; it can really be a struggle,” The Menzingers’ Greg Barnett tells Daniel Cribb on choosing the touring life against family and friends’ guidance.

Although “washing off the hangover” from a gig the night previous, The Menzingers’ Greg Barnett is chirpy and ready to conquer the world — or at least do his part to make it a better place — when he picks up the phone.

“We did a charity event in Philly, we just played acoustic last night,” Barnett begins. “We were able to raise some money for the welcoming centre for new Pennsylvanians — it’s a resource centre for immigrants coming into Pennsylvania, looking for housing, work and schooling.”

With The Menzingers forming in 2006, Barnett and his band mates spent most of their 20s touring the world, so it’s not surprising they’d be keen to support an initiative that helps cultural diversity thrive. “The world is just so, so big, and there are so many ideas and cultures, and the beauty of seeing all of that is eye-opening, you know.

“We’ve seen the positives of [extensive touring] and have been really fortunate to be able to spend such a large portion of our lives already travelling, seeing the world and learning about everything and enjoying life as much as we possibly can,” he explains.

But of course, such a lifestyle doesn’t come without sacrifice and anxieties. “It’s a daily question sometimes; it can really be a struggle. It’s really emotionally taxing for not only the four of us, but for the other people involved in our lives; significant others, family members. To be gone for more than half of a year isn’t an easy thing to put on anybody.”

Celebrating their ten-year anniversary in 2016 as they penned their fifth studio album, the aptly titled After The Party, those questions formed the foundation for arguably their deepest record to date. “Is this something we’re going to do for another ten years?… Are we going to just put all of normal life on hold for another ten years?

“I think that we’ve definitely [reflected] in the past, but this is the first time that it has had a positive tone to it — it’s like, ‘Yeah, you know what, we can.’ We’ve spent ten years designing our own lives and living outside the norm.

“Our family and friends have guided us to not do this, and we’ve decided to carve a path for ourselves, and that’s what I think about that record; we kind of won — we did what we wanted to do with life.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2017/01/24/the-menzingers-greg-barnett-daniel-cribb/

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INTERVIEW: Book Of Mormon

Published in The Music (NSW) on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

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“People are singing about fucking a frog.” Book Of Mormon co-director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw tells Daniel Cribb the South Park creators’ musical is a lot like Disney’s Aladdin.

“They didn’t know some of the terminology, but they learned it really fast,” Book Of Mormon co-director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw says of Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s integration into the realm of Broadway. “I know [Trey] was a big lover of musicals — I just said ‘was’,” he laughs. “I don’t know why I said ‘was’, he is a lover of musicals.”

With the success the global smash hit show has had, it’s no surprise the team are still buzzing as the final touches are put on the Australian premiere in Melbourne. “As soon as I’m done with this, I go see the cast to give them notes,” Nicholaw explains. With previews set to open that night, he’s a little calmer than one might expect. “We’re way ahead of schedule — the cast has totally taken to the show and worked their butts off, so it’s pretty awesome.”

The anticipation surrounding the Australian debut can be felt around the country, with some avid fans lining up overnight to score cheap passes to previews, and a lot of those punters are not necessarily big musical fans, rather longtime followers of Stone and Parker — their names attached to anything means that quality and laughs are guaranteed.

“I was just in London checking on it, and you still can’t get a ticket there, which is awesome.”

If you’re only familiar with South Park in passing or as that crude cartoon that just aims to offend, then Book Of Mormon‘s success might be a head-scratcher, but a closer look at Stone and Parker’s credits show they were always destined for Broadway. Parker wrote and directed Cannibal! The Musical in 1993 as South Park was finding its legs, and a few years later penned Orgazmo, a film that features a Mormon as the protagonist. Their work has always largely been rooted around song — the South Park movie could quite easily be transformed into a Broadway production of its own.

Book Of Mormon is introducing an entirely new audience to the genre of musicals, which is exciting for someone like Nicholaw who’s a Broadway veteran, having worked on Dreamgirls, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Disney’s Aladdin (which had its Australian premiere in Sydney last year) among other productions. The thing about [Aladdin and Book Of Mormon] is they’re both funny and have a buoyant energy, and that’s where they cut together, and that’s what I like to see when I go to a musical, so that’s what I bring to both of them.”

While there’s a lot of similarities, there’s one big difference. “There’s a lot more swear words than there are in Aladdin, which has zero,” he laughs.

“Part of the success of Book Of Mormon is the fact that you had all of this shocking language in a musical, so people are singing about fucking a frog — they’re singing those words in a traditional musical.”

Success might just be an understatement. Since it opened at Eugene O’Neill Theatre, New York in 2011, it’s won nine Tony Awards and a Grammy (among countless other awards), destroyed box office and attendance records in New York (a crown only recently snatched by Broadway’s latest juggernaut, Hamilton), before touring the US and transferring to London.

With all that in the bag, Stone and Parker are confident to leave the hard yards to the cast and crew and will fly in for opening night. Given Nicholaw’s experience and US cast members Ryan Bondy and AJ Holmes resuming their roles as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, it’s been smooth sailing.

“It’s not that we don’t want Australian [lead] actors — we’d love that. Once people know what the show is here, the auditions will be better; people will know what it is and it’ll be easier to cast. We just have to find people who totally get it. With all the buzz about it, it has to be really good. Those boys never leave the stage — they have to be able to absolutely lead and drive a company in order for a show to work and we’ve seen it happen where it isn’t as successful and you can’t take that chance.

“Even if someone shows promise, you say, ‘Okay, they show promise, but I don’t feel comfortable with them starting this whole show, so maybe they will do it later on down the line.’

“We just didn’t quite find someone who had that energy or that could do all of it — the singing, the dancing, the stamina — and also, we know what this show is now, and sometimes someone either has it or they don’t, and we didn’t find the person who actually really had it for that role.”

Nicholaw says there’s talk of the production potentially touring Australia, but cast and crew are focused on Melbourne as opening night approaches. With no end in sight to the New York production, there’s every chance other cities in Australia will get to experience the acclaimed musical at some stage. “I think probably 50 years,” he says on its expected lifespan, quickly laughing, “I’m joking but I hope it runs as long as it possibly can. I was just in London checking on it, and you still can’t get a ticket there, which is awesome.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2017/01/23/book-of-mormon-casey-nicholaw-daniel-cribb/

theMusic.com.au: Here’s Why Bruce Springsteen Is The Greatest Performer Of All-time

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Perth Arena

Jan 22

“We are the new American resistance!” US rock icon Bruce Springsteen yelled to a packed Perth Arena, advocating for tolerance, inclusion, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and so much more.

In stark contrast to the bold figure commanding the unwavering attention of thousands of people, a more casual, softly spoken Springsteen addresses the media during soundcheck. “Our hearts and our spirits are with all the millions of people who marched yesterday, and The E Street Band, we are part of the new resistance…art’s job is to witness and testify.”

The band’s execution of more than 30 songs over three-and-a-half hours was flawless and they made it look so easy. But it was during soundcheck that we see even after forty years, they’re still honing their craft, having been in rehearsals in Perth since Wednesday.

“Oh yeah, I got it, I got it,” Springsteen says to guitarist Steven Van Zandt after some brief notes on the Land Of Hope And Dreams outro.

Four hours later and the epic chorus soars across a sea of people, and although the crowd is a lot bigger, The Boss remains just as affable and down to earth as he was earlier.

There’s a wealth of homemade signs littering the crowd – some requesting songs, others a dance, and one reads “Springsteen 4 President”. As hit after hit crash into one another, there’s little time for in-between song banter, but the energy coming from the stage says it all, with The E Street Band truly in sync and loving every second of it.

The set takes numerous unpredictable turns after opening with an orchestra-fuelled version of New York City Serenade, courtesy of some local musicians, and every member has their moment in the spotlight; even drummer Max Weinberg is perched on a podium.

Saxophonist and nephew of original E Street Band member Clarence Clemons, Jake Clemons stole the show on numerous occasions, unleashing gut-wrenching solos while pianist Roy Bittan was a driving force.

Despite being one of the more endeared members of The E Street Band, Van Zandt often faded into the background, only reminding punters of his presence with the occasional harmony or by leaning over The Boss’ shoulder.

Tom Morello was a key element of The E Street Band during their last Aussie tour and while his absence could be noted, longtime guitarist Nils Lofgren was on fire, with Springsteen also taking on more guitar solos throughout the set, bending his strings to oblivion on numerous occasions.

With his trademark Telecaster flung over his shoulder, Springsteen strutted back and forth to Out In The Street, shortly after securing his status of the coolest musician alive when sculling a beer presented by an audience member.

Every song was played like it was not only the last tune for that show but the final song he would ever play, with Springsteen screaming the final chorus of Darkness On The Edge Of Town with show-stopping conviction.

He ventured back into the crowd once again and took position on a platform in the middle of the room. A toddler perched upon someone’s shoulders nearby looked on in awe during Darlington Country, a sure sign that the iconic songs will be endeared for generations to come.

Three hours into the set and there was no sign of an end, as the band dished up The Promised Land, American Skin (41 Shots) and The Rising before leaving Springsteen on the stage with just an acoustic guitar. “Let’s see if I remember this,” he said, spotting a sign requesting Blood Brothers. A minute to figure out the chords and he was off.

The intimacy was short-lived, though, as in a blaze of glory the house lights turned on and the intro of Born To Run saw a sea of people rise from their seats. Three audience members were plucked from the crowd during Dancing In The Dark before a touching rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out was accompanied by imagery of the late Clarence Clemons.

“I don’t think I have anything left,” Springsteen said, as a glittering cape was thrown over him and he hobbled off the stage. The charade came crumbling down quickly as he burst back onto the stage to finish Johnny O’Keefe’s Shout and rounded out a set of quality and quantity with Bobby Jean, cementing his status as the greatest performer of all time.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2017/01/23/here%E2%80%99s-why-bruce-springsteen-is-the-greatest-performer-of-all-time/

theMusic.com.au: Top Aus Promoters Call For Scalping Crackdown While Resale Vendors Dodge Questions

Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017

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When you miss out on tickets to see your favourite act and moments later scalpers are hocking passes for stupid amounts on resale sites, the overwhelming sense of rage and disappointment can be unbearable.

The short-term effect is a fan missing out on a gig or paying through the roof because someone wanted to make a quick buck, but there’s a larger ticket resale issue brewing in Australia that needs attention before it develops into something far worse.

who’s to blame

Globally, the resale industry is worth billions each year, and with that kind of money at stake, it’s not surprising that, despite the uproar from fans and artists, there’s been little movement in regards to legislative change in Australia.

“This is morally wrong.”

One of the world’s largest ticketing outlets, Ticketmaster, reported more than $1bn in secondary sales last year alone, according to a report filled by promoting juggernaut Live Nation Entertainment who own it.

“With this success in selling tickets, Ticketmaster continues to attract new clients worldwide,” Live Nation Entertainment President and CEO Michael Rapino said in a press release.

“In the third quarter, we added 170 clients to our base of over 12,000, setting us up for our seventh consecutive year of growth in ticket inventory.”

Live Nation also owns TicketsNow, Seatwave and Get Me In.

Music Glue is an online platform with bases in Sydney, London and New York and is used by artists, managers and more to connect with fans, sell music, merch and tickets – CEO Mark Meharry describes the scalping issue as “vast, complex, deep routed, highly nuanced”.

“The biggest live music companies in the world are making the vast majority of their profit from secondary…[Live Nation Entertainment] have no vested interest in stopping this problem,” Meharry told The Music.

“The economic argument for higher pricing is sound. The legal argument is sound. However, there is a moral argument that is not being considered. This is morally wrong.”

The resale industry is operating in a highly predatory and deceptive manner, which is what’s really costing fans.

“The entire music industry is a victim.”

As resale websites are cashing in big time, they’re able to channel funds and time into Google Adwords, resulting in searches being flooded by their results. When punters jump online to search for tickets, they’ll see a handful of sponsored posts before the original ticketing site, including major sites like Ticketmaster Resale, Gumtree, Viagogo and smaller ones such as TicketBiz, Queen Of Tickets.

“It’s incredibly confusing and frustrating for a lot of fans,” revered Aussie music promoter/Frontier boss Michael Gudinski told The Music.

“A considerable number of people aren’t aware that they’re buying from a secondary market site and there have been countless times these people have purchased tickets that are not genuine or vastly inflated when they could have still purchase authorised tickets at the original artist set price.”

Take Guns N’ Roses for examples, when tickets went on sale many people searching for them were lured onto resale sites, many paying $300 for a $175 ticket when the shows weren’t even sold out yet. Why is it that Ticketmaster’s resale site appears before their primary site?

It seems resale sites are often unwilling to open a dialogue about the topic, issuing the same copy and paste answers to punters about supply and demand every time there’s another incident.

Ticketmaster repeatedly dodged questioning from The Music, issuing this statement on numerous occasions:

“Ticketmaster Resale provides a platform for fans to sell unwanted tickets and a safe purchase option for events. Ticketing marketplaces are dynamic and prices change in line with demand. Ticket holders, not Ticketmaster Resale, control the inventory and the price of the tickets they list. With high profile events, tickets are sometimes listed at prices higher than the face value.”

It’s nearly impossible to police the scalpers – that’s why legislative change needs to occur. There’s just too many of them, some of which are based overseas and using bots to buy tickets in bulk, with Music Tank doing in-depth research and discovering a startling number of tickets were being resold by people in countries outside of where events were taking place.

But as Oztix CEO Brian Chladil told The Music, it’s hard to initiate legislative change for a couple of reasons.

“It’s anticompetitive and is against capitalism. If you see a good, cheap car on eBay, buy it and resell it for a profit, that’s not illegal, and this is the same thing,” Chladil said. “It’s not actually illegal and it’s pretty hard to legislate against because you’re legislating against capitalism.”

Unsurprisingly, the only ticketing outlet willing to engage in productive dialogue with The Music was a company who doesn’t have any vested interests in the resale game, Ticketek.

“Resale scalping is a threat to the integrity of the Australian music industry. Everyone suffers when resale scalpers are active,” a Ticketek spokesperson said.

“The entire music industry is a victim, but ultimately it is the music fan who suffers most. When a band you’ve followed all your life finally arrives in your town, it’s heart-breaking to see premium tickets sourced by scalpers priced at exorbitant levels.

“Or worse still, the scalpers will use the emotion of the fan to engage in false and misleading advertising. We see fans paying two or three times face value when the show is not even sold out because a resale site creates that fear of missing out.”

what can be done

Promoters like Gudinski and Paul Dainty (Guns N Roses, Seinfeld) are often forced to use ticketing vendors according to venue contracts but are constantly trying new ways of deterring scalping.

“The reality is that the hands of the majority of promoters in Australia and New Zealand are tied,” Gudinksi said.

“We’ve tried numerous measures over the years to deter scalping – limits on ticket quantities, asking people to line up at specific box offices, wristbanding at time of purchase – the list goes on.  Ultimately though you walk a fine line where you can end up inconveniencing the genuine fans too much and inhibit their ability to get tickets.”

When Crowded House’s relatively intimate reunion gigs at Sydney Opera House, promoted by Live Nation, in November sold-out and reappeared for insane prices on Ticketmaster Resale, the band claimed on Facebook they weren’t “in a position to change the practices of a big American company”.

Adele’s debut Australian tour is also promoted by Live Nation and thus ticketed through Ticketmaster Resale. When tickets went on sale, Ticketmaster stated, “at our busiest periods, we had over 90,000 fans searching for Melbourne, Etihad Stadium tickets and over 105,000 fans looking for Brisbane, The Gabba tickets.”

“Scalping is such a layered issue.”

There’s never been a bigger single-day sale in Australia than Adele had, moving close to half a million tickets, yet you won’t find one ticket on Ticketmaster Resale. Adele’s been quite vocal when it comes scalpers in the past, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think she has something to do with that – if that is the case, then artists do have a lot of power.

“A lot of artists are actively involved in the ticket prices that are set for their fans,” Gudinksi said. “It is frustrating for them – and us – to see those same fans ripped off by opportunistic secondary market sellers.

“Scalping is such a layered issue that can be addressed from so many different perspectives and I can’t claim to understand enough to provide the solution but I do strongly believe in the artist having the right to decide what they charge for their live music.”

Legendary Scottish outfit the Bay City Rollers called out a notorious scalper, with Violent Soho also taking a stand last year. Iron Maiden have gone one step further, urging punters support a Bill tabled by the UK government for greater transparency in ticket sale transactions, and now the band operates under a paperless ticketing policy where fans need to present photo ID and the card used to purchase when they get to the venue. This isn’t practical for all artists, though.

Chance The Rapper took things into his own hands last September, buying almost 2,000 tickets from scalpers for his sold-out hometown show, selling them back to fans for face value. But this is beyond unsustainable.

In the UK, managers and artists have set up the FanFair Alliance in order to stand against industrial-scale online ticket touting by “a coordinated and pragmatic approach between Government, creative businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers.” And it’s working.

The Alliance was set up a few years ago and started a petition in early 2016 to “enforce the Consumer Rights Act to protect music, arts and sport fans from touts”, while lobbying individual politicians. It ended up with 83,220 signatures and as a result their House of Commons held a Select Committee on Ticket Abuse to access the damage the secondary market is having on the industry.

“Ticket Abuse” was listed on agenda and Josh Franceschi of You Me At Six, artist manager Ian McAndrew and more delivered testimony before representatives from Ticketmaster UK, eBay, StubHub and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers were grilled by the committee.

As Music Week reports, that hearing has led to the UK Government rolling out a plan to ban bots used by scalpers with an in-depth look into the ticketing industry, saying the committee found the session revealed “much more far-ranging and disturbing factors in the market”.

It was recently revealed that Robbie Williams’ management had put tickets directly onto secondary sites, and while they came under fire from Franceschi and the FanFair Alliance, there are still people who support the system and their choice.

US music journalist Bob Lefsetz took to his blog to break down the situation, stating: “It’s about time we faced reality and like any other business grew up and sold our wares at their full value. Like Robbie Williams.”

In the US, congress passed a ticket to ban bots in December, which was signed by Barack Obama.

“Ideally the same thing could happen in Australia very quickly,” Meharry said.

“We are not in favour of terms and conditions which restrict the consumer’s right.”

Live Performance Australia – a representative for venues, promoters, ticketing companies and more – is one group on the right track, looking to uphold an industry anti-scalping code of conduct in which those companies affiliated might need to soon sign.

As News.com.au, in 2014 LPA urged the Government to ban bots and monitor the resale market, with Senator Nick Xenophon also pushing to prohibit bots and tickets being resold for any more then 10%, but the motion was dismissed.

Through more lobbying, fan and industry outcry, it’s back on the table.

“I want to replicate the US laws to protect people from ticket scalpers,” Senator Xenophon told News.com.au in September.

Live Nation Italy came under fire last month after managing director Roberto de Luca confirmed in an interview he had sold some tickets directly to sites such as Viagogo, with Live Nation taking up to a 90% cut.

As a result, a number of Italian artists are severing their ties with the company, while official complaints have been filed to the public prosecutor of Milan against Live Nation Italy and new policies have been tabled that could slow the activities of some resale sites.

Scottish authorities have also said they will crack down on scalpers and the sites assisting them, with the Competition and Markets Authority set to begin investigating the issue.

While not appearing on Ticketmaster Resale, Adele tickets were listed for up to $4,000 on Viagogo in Australia, and of course, they don’t want to support legislation that will decrease their cut.

“It’s perfectly legal to resell a ticket. We believe once you’ve bought something – whether that’s a house, a car, or a ticket – it’s up to you what you do with it, and the vast majority of people agree with us,” Viagogo told The Music.

“We are not in favour of terms and conditions which restrict the consumer’s right to resell their tickets.”

“I’d like to see some investment and commitment from the major ticketing companies.”

Technological advances are also a means to reduce scalping, but still cause problems by disadvantaging those unable to gain access to said technologies. And at the end of the day, just like hackers, scalpers will eventually find a way around any new method of selling.

UK ticket seller DICE requires punters to install an app on their phone and make the purchase there. In theory, this sort of thing is great, but not everybody has access to smart phones.

Another UK seller, Gigantic, has made Twickets its official resale partner – a secondary selling against touting, supported by Adele, One Direction and more.

“I’d like to see some investment and commitment from the major ticketing companies into pursuing new technologies that can either slow down or eradicate scalpers but I also think the issue needs a deeper level of government involvement,” said Gudinski.

Chladil revealed that Oztix is working on its own resale facility, with a cap on how much tickets can be marked up.

“Resale should legitimately be available because there is a lot of reasons people buy tickets to a show and don’t go,” he said.

“What Oztix wants to do is let you sell the ticket, but we’re going to hold the money until the punter says, ‘Yeah, I successfully went to the show.’

“Ken West from Big Day Out had a great idea ten years ago – he wanted to have a resale facility for Big Day Out and the profits went to charity.”

Certain parts of the industry are trying to combat resale, but it seems the only real way for change to occur is if new legislation is passed. Perhaps the Norway method is the way to go – reselling tickets for profit is illegal, and as such, secondary selling doesn’t exist.

“There are cases – such as the AFL Grand Final – where scalping is essentially non-existent because the legislation is in place that prohibits it,” Gudinksi says.

“There is also some argument for scalping to be treated in similar terms to anti-piracy laws for music, television and film. Likewise, there is an argument that a body such as the ACCC should be involved, particularly for those cases where an individual has purchased tickets believing them to be as advertised, only to discover the reality is far different.

“We’ve had conversations with various bodies but ultimately the public also need to engage and stand up and complain to official bodies such as the ACCC when they believe they’ve been taken advantage of by the secondary market sellers…if you want to make a difference then you need to make an official complaint where it could make a difference.”

Of course, there’ll still be scalpers hocking tickets on classifieds like Gumtree and others if harsh laws are brought in but banning bots and regulating sites goes a long way.

“We are trying to curtail ‘industrial scale ticket touting’ and the first step is to make the activity illegal,” Meharry said. “Gumtree is owned by Ebay, and should ‘ticket reselling’ become illegal in the UK, and Ebay allow the practice to continue unchecked, then they would effectively being facilitating the contravention of an Act of Parliament. And that would not be wise, in my humble opinion.”

“That’s an option the majority of artists would not wish to take.”

There’s a far greater issue at play here due to industrial scale ticket touting.

“We are allowing billions to be syphoned out of the industry,” Meharry said. “Scalpers are not part of the creative economy and none of the money they make is going back into the creative economy. We risk making culture elite, with only the rich being able to afford to go to gigs.”

Ticketek also notes that promoters like Gudinksi, venues and more are losing out due to scalpers.

“Promoters, venues and primary ticketing agents who take all the risks and make big investments in live entertainment are left to see a scalper who takes no risk walking off with obscene profits.”

Gudsinksi has also noticed some artists getting fed up – they’re doing all the work and some scalpers are making more money off each ticket then they are.

“Recently a few artists have started to question whether if you can’t beat them you should perhaps just join them but I’m hoping that a better solution can be met before that starts to happen as I know that’s an option the majority of artists would not wish to take.”

Chladil believes we’ll see a rise in tickets on secondary sites unless the Government steps in.

“Something needs to be done about it. No one’s winning in the deal, except for people who have a lot of money to buy the tickets upfront.”

Live Nation Australia and eBay Australia would not comment for this story.

http://themusic.com.au/news/all/2017/01/16/top-aus-promoters-call-for-scalping-crackdown-while-resale-vendors-dodge-questions/