The Real Desperados

The Eagles landed on August 2 in Moncton.  Appearing on stage with their suits and ties they didn’t appear to me to be desperados.  At over a hundred dollars per ticket, and they likely get a large cut of the take, these guys fall into the pirate category.  But they are a professional band and they make great music.  The other bands were excellent as well.

First of all, I’m not a hard core Eagles fan but you run out of excuses for not going to these concerts and compromise is the nature of life.  So I accompanied a real Eagles fan and tried not to be a stick in the mud, especially when we were … trudging through the mud.  Let me give you a tip.  Surrounded by 65,000 people or what seems like a million people in the twilight, and you see a large gap in the crowd, it’s not a carefully maintained transportation corridor.  No, that’s the mud field.

Having a technical background can be a curse when you should be just enjoying the moment and swaying with the music.  You see the infrastructure and wonder how it could be better organized.  Hundreds of people lining up to buy beer tickets, then lining up again to get the beer and you drink it in a beer corral.  Only in New Brunswick where the liquor laws are, shall I say, unique.  Lining up 50 deep to buy pizza.  Maybe there isn’t a way to satisfy the needs of such a large crowd.

What amazed me were the excellent LED screens that provide a gigantic view of the bands on stage for most of the fans who are too far away to actually see the band as other than minuscule figures in the distance.  It struck me that we retain an illusion of being at a concert with the band when in reality, only the front, perhaps 5000 people, are actually there.  The rest of us are watching a super big TV in a field with super audio speakers and the band could just as well be in California or Los Vegas or Timbuktu.

We ended up next to a fisherman from Grand Manan and behind some Newfoundlanders who traveled a long way.  We all had a great time but will we still be able to drive those distances to concerts in the future.  How are we going to maintain the good things we enjoy today or perhaps improve on them? Is the Magnetic Hill concert model really sustainable in the long term?

Suppose that we had smaller outdoor or stadium venues in five, six or more New Brunswick sites and likewise all across North American and the world.  We might have large screens and good audio speakers in place at those sites with the technology to have the bands play at various locations somewhere in the world.  The signal is shared worldwide.

If 1000 sites around the world had 5,000 people paying $10 a head, it would bring in $50 million in one day.  That seems to be reasonable money for any event or promoter for a one-day project.  People could walk, bicycle or bus to local events.   Local bands get to play as part of the package and get great exposure either just locally or perhaps internationally.  We saw part of this technology implemented in the worldwide Live Earth concert in 2007 where a 24-hour concert with 150 artists was shown around the world.

You can say I’m a dreamer and I might be the only one.  Purists will argue that it’s not the same if the bands aren’t physically on site and they may be right.  Down the road though, we may not have a choice, as fuel costs reduce the viewing audience to less than required by promoters.  Perhaps it’s the time to think about our options.

I ran into a NB Power employee at the concert.  Although he looks like a desperado, he assured me he wasn’t getting a bonus.  It triggered a crazy thought.  Are there desperados here in New Brunswick? Are executives at NB Power saddling up for a bag of gold equal to 25% of their salaries?  OK, call it a bonus incentive scheme if you wish.  It seems to be an inside job though, as Chairman McGuire wants them to take the money.  He’s afraid they may leave the gang and he wants them to meet targets (that they will probably set themselves).   The amount of the increase is too small to be seen in rate increases so it doesn’t really affect New Brunswickers greatly.   I find the logic of his arguments to be less than convincing and lacking a little common sense in these tough economic times.

Those NB Power executives I know are very smart and hard working.  The money isn’t the important thing for them. Why were the Deputy Minister’s bonuses announced a week later?  Did they scream me too or were they the real reason for the program?  Was NB Power just the convenient punching bag? So who’s pushing this boondoggle?  Will the real desperado please stand up?


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