February 9, 2007

OzzFest, Proudly Sponsored by {Corporate Sponsor}

Ticket prices were announced for the twelfth incarnation of Ozzy's annual hard rock and metal festival, OzzFest, a few days ago. It was an announcement that rocked the rock world and could point in a new direction for the big summer package tours. The tickets will be free. Yes, you read that right, free.

Ozzy and Sharon Osborne, along with tour promoter Live Nation, made the announcement at Concert Industry Consortium in Los Angeles. It is a startling new direction for concert ticket prices, generally we hear about how much the tickets are going to go up by.

In recent years it seems that some of the big acts are pricing themselves out of the reach of the fan. Unless you want to take out a second mortgage to see your favorite acts live and in person. I have had friends pay upwards of $300 per ticket for acts like U2, a little out of my price range. That is something of an extreme example, but you get the idea, and I am sure that many of you have similar stories. Instead of the usual price increase announcement, a new model is being forged.

It is thinking outside the box, like this, that can help spark industry wide change. Whether or not this will have that sort of effect, or if the experiment will crash and burn and next year takes us back to the old model.

In my opinion, this is a good and a bad thing. The good thing is that it will open up the festival to more fans who may not have had an opportunity to attend one in the past. What with the gas and travel expenses on top of the ticket prices, many kids are just not able to stretch their limited budgets, myself included. This experimental model will take the ticket cost out of the equation and may allow us to make the trek.

I can only imagine what it is like to be in an open air setting with two stages of rock and metal going. The thought of a day of head banging brings a smile to face, even know I want to form that smile into a sneer and pump my fist into the air while some classic Ozzy tunes are pumping through the stereo.

Now for the bad. The first problem that could impact our enjoyment of the show can be boiled down to two words, "Corporate Sponsorship." In order to allow free entry, not to mention venue costs, security costs, and paying all of the workers needed, money has to be generated from somewhere. That doesn't even get into attracting bands who are willing to play for free.

The announcement included reference to getting bigger corporations involved in supporting and underwriting the tour. The specifics of what that entails has not been detailed, yet I have horrific images in my head. Depending on the amount of money needed, how far will the sponsorship go? Will it consist of booths promoting their product? Perhaps large billboards and signs hawking their wares. I cannot shake the idea that we could see a band like Slipknot wearing their jumpsuits covered in corporate ads, looking more like a NASCAR driver, or AT&T logos attached to guitars, Chevrolet logos adorning drumkits, and confetti emblazoned with the McDonald's arches.

The last thing the disenfranchised youth need is the thought that their music of choice is selling out to "the man." Hard rock and metal have long been the destination for kids to band together under a banner of anti-establishment. It is a world that isn't dominated by the pretty, rather is is filled with people just like them, forging their own direction. The thought of our favorite bands being backed by a large corporation is not exactly something I find all that palatable.

That is the big downside I see to idea of a corporate backed OzzFest. The other is that the bands who sign on will be able to seel all the merchandise they want, CDs, shirts, hats, and other assorted items. This in and of itself is not strange, rather it is to be expected. My worry is that these prices will be spiralling upwards as the bands look to make some money. Again, no problems with bands wanting to make some money, I will gladly toss in my measley bucks to a worthy band. The worry is that the prices will be outrageous and the fans will not be able to afford them. This is a minor worry, there is also the problem of exorbitantly priced food and water, a problem that has been going on for years.

Hopefully, my concerns will turn out to be for naught, but until more solid details come out they are there. I do think it is an interesting concept and a daring move on the part of the Osbornes and Live Nation. If it works, I will be interested in seeing if anyone else follows their lead.

On the heels of that bombshell, Ozzy announced that he will be returning to the headline position on the main stage. Last year he played the second stage on a few dates. No other performers have been announced, although it was said that some bands have committed to the festival.

In its prior eleven years there have been a lot of first rate bands on the bill, while other bands have gotten great boosts by being on the second stage. Past bands include System of a Down, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Incubus, Slipknot, Queens of the Stoneage, Godsmack, along with supporting bands on the rise including Avenged Sevenfold, Mudvayne, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and Lacuna Coil.

More details will be forthcoming regarding ticket acquisition. Keep an eye on http://www.ozzfest.com/ and www.livenation.com.


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