Shock and Awe

I am too young to be an ageing hippie – honest. And I certainly no longer have the hair for it. But a few nights ago we went to the Neil Young and Crazy Horse show in Glasgow. Growing up I was never really into Neil Young, but for various reasons when living in Tennessee a few years ago  his anti-war CD (Living with War) became a big part of our American experience and since then I’ve been revisiting his log career and wanting to see him live.

He didn’t disappoint, though much of the music was not that familiar to me. Crazy Horse produced a wall of noise and we enjoyed it. Was it up there with the best I’ve ever seen, probably not? But it was a good night out?

That then begs the question of what concerts do stick in the mind. In recent years a remarkably inventive Peter Gabriel show was a real event; June Tabor and the Oyster Band in a converted church was just unbelievably good. Jamie Cullum and Tom Jones (not together) have had their moments and The Blind Boys of Alabama in a theatre in the deep south of the USA was an astonishingly different spectacle and experience. Live local music across Tennessee never failed to be good and we’ve enjoyed some local Scottish bands over the years.

Delving further into my memory, early Roxy Music, numerous thunderous Who concerts and for the ageing Welsh, some bizarre but wonderful Man concerts come readily to mind.

So maybe I’ve “been there, done that”, but one thing I have not done is buy the tee-shirt.

And it is merchandise that interested me from Neil Young.  Many of the audience had tee-shirts from various Neil Young shows over the decades. There were many clearly die-hard long-term fans, showing off their allegiance. And there was some purchasing of merchandise from the rather down beat and tacky tee-shirt stall. But it was all small scale and low key.

So from a retail perspective was this a missed opportunity? The “shop” was really a smallish kiosk and the retail display was some tee-shirts pinned to a back wall with some scruffy looking signs advertising what, to me, were outrageous prices. Now I am no stranger to outrageous event pricing – think the replica shirts at the Welsh Rugby Union shop at the Millenium Stadium or the Scottish equivalent at Murrayfield – but at least the merchandise and the surroundings attempt to give some sense of matching the high prices. Here there was virtually no retail effort.

So if the retail was done better would there be more sales – or were there more than I realised? With event or location based retailing having developed so strongly in recent years, why did this feel like a step back in time? Is music that different to sport or other events in this regard? The audience tee-shirts seems to suggest not, so why did the retail not match up?

A final Tennessee thought. We were in Nashville a few months ago and saw some great live music there. We also visited the Ryman Auditorium – the home of Country Music but now a more general venue. That’s where I bought my most recent tee-shirt. A great shop, full of all sorts of things and at reasonable prices to match. Music can sell ancillary items, but the retail needs to be up to scratch.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Internationalisation and Graduate Studies.
This entry was posted in Festivals, Merchandising, Music, Retailing, Sport, Tourism, USA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Shock and Awe

  1. douglas brownlie says:

    such events are usefully understoof as pop-up shopping malls

  2. Leigh Sparks says:

    Hmmm, possibly.

    I think if you look at pop-up shops these days they have become in some cases (and I take the some point) far more sophisticated and retail savvy (Indeed this is the focus of our next Town and Country Planning commentary out in a couple of months). Likewise at some event venues (and this was the SECC) there is fixed retail space into which the retail can go for the night/duration. It is the lack of quality in the SECC space and in the retail itself that suprised me – and that is not characteristice of much retail or pop-up retail these days (see the recent IKEA two day pop-ups on railway stations, Asparagus Patch at Liverpool One and a host of others).

  3. Pingback: So … | Stirlingretail

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