The music industry currently sits in some kind of teenager-growing-up crisis of finding itself grappling with the change in value of the traditional album. With the majority of artists and industry folks looking for new ways to generate a profit, some have already begun walking down new paths.
The jam scene has long thrived on, and ultimately developed out of, a focus on live shows. The album is always secondary to the show. Starting with the Grateful Dead, the torch was passed to Phish and many others who have kept the live spirit alive. In recent years, jam bands have incidentally discovered a successor to the problem of slumping album sales.
In a case where popular music was late to the game, only now is the focus across the industry being turned to the tour with albums turning into more or less of a business card. While the album still proves to be a place for profit for top 100 artists, most are starting to see the writing on the wall.
It should be no surprise that innovation is being nurtured in that very same jam scene again. Umphrey’s McGee has long been pushing the envelope of monetizing everything outside of the album. The South Bend, Indiana group, who formed in the mid ’90s, has slowly but surely taken the spirit of the jam scene and grown it over the years. Not only that, but they’ve done it in a way that doesn’t take advantage of and exploit their fans, but benefits them and grows their loyalty. Over the years, they’ve done things like their Headphones and Snowcones project that allowed fans to rent wireless headphones to listen through the soundboard, launched their UMBowl annual interactive concert that let fans vote on the songs to be played, offered up show audio for fans to purchase, provided a stats section on their site for song frequency, and so much more.
All of this is made possible by their boundary-pushing live show which incorporates improvisation, eclectic covers, rare musical treats, and one of the best light shows in music. There’s a hype and constant urge from their fans for more Umph.
This week, the band announced their latest development, the Umphrey’s McGee Tour Pass. The pass will sell for $129.99 and provide the buyer access to the full 2016 Winter Tour, 15 shows in total. This includes live streaming shows, on demand video, plus all three shows from the New Year’s Eve 2015 run in Denver.
It seems obvious to turn to the various ways technology can enhance the music fan’s experience. While it is a way to open up revenue streams, it also engages fans in new and exciting ways. It’s a win/win for both sides, yet a pure focus on innovation is only seen in pockets. Maybe the rest of the music industry will eventually catch on to the groundbreaking trail UM is blazing. mm/