Yes, we understand the ticket sales are necessary to support concert costs and pay bands like Michael Franti and upcoming MGMT (Aug. 31).
But no, we don't think the closure of the open lawn space at the Old Mill to freeloaders, who for the past decade have picnicked and lounged on the lawns there while listening to concerts at Les Schwab Amphitheatre, was carried out with couth, empathy or much tact.
A month ago, the Source wrote a feature story about the abundance of free concerts in Bend during the summer months. It is a changing—and challenging—business model, one that mimics the 21st century idea of providing the bulk of online content and phone apps for free. Like the slew of free concert series in Bend, including Summer Sunday Concerts at Les Schwab and Alive After 5 near the contested lawn space, these "free" content models are hosted by sponsors and advertisers.
Why buy the cow, indeed, if you can get the moo for free?
But this free concert model has vices as well as virtues—yes, much like Spotify or other online services, this model provides free (or near free) access to music, but challenges musicians and presenters to find sufficient funding.
Likewise, newspapers like the The Bulletin and Oregonian have been financially pinched because, increasingly, consumers expect information for free. (Derrr, yes, like some 80 other alt-weeklies around the country, as a free newspaper, we obviously adopted this give-it-away model, using ads to support editorial content.) So, yes, we acutely understand the frustration, and we certainly don't believe that consumers should be able to freeload, whether illegally downloading music or poaching music from the lawn across from the concert venue. And we understand that such models can cheapen and limit the quality of content.
But what we don't agree with—and why we're giving the Boot to venue manager Marney Smith—is how the announcement about the new policy was rolled out.
Again, yes, we understand the non-ticket-purchasing crowds had, at times, swelled to nearly half the number of paying customers and, yes, that band managers have threatened to stop bringing their acts to Bend. But, c'mon, the whole affair was handled with as much thoughtfulness as an Anthony Weiner press conference. A few suggestions and thoughts:
First, really, Michael Franti? Know what fights to pick, and when. The most politically engaged musician in your summer lineup? (Pink Martini fans are so much more docile, though, we suspect grumblings about future "boycotts" are actually more bluster than bite).
Second, a 48-hour notice? This smacks of last-minute decision-making. C'mon, we're not talking about a body-is-on-the-gurney emergency-room decision here.
Third, consider peace offerings: While promoters may not feel any love-loss for freeloaders, the people you chased away are still potential customers. And, duh, they already enjoy your music selection; why not stay chummy with them? Perhaps you could have offered the potential freeloaders a coupon for a free Franti download?
Fourth, instead of bellyaching about your problems, try reframing the conversation so that people understand we are all in this together. A simple good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-music-loving gander, something like: "Hey live music fans! We've been in talks with _________and ________ (fill in with awesome, relevant band names) and hope to book both bands for next summer's concert series. However, such quality comes at a high price. To be able to afford such world-class music here in Central Oregon, we're asking that, starting next summer, all fans enjoy the music from within the amphitheater grounds. With more ticket revenue, we should be able to bring _______ and _______to town. Your money put into action!"
P.S. These suggestions? They all are freebies. From us to you.