Along with quite a few other media outlets, the New York Times has published an article highlighting much of what’s wrong with the music industry. The stories are all on the opening act for the Eagles’ concerts at Madison Square Garden. The opening act for a classic rock band that’s been resting on it’s laurels for decades is not normally noteworthy. In this case, it’s not the opening act’s music that is important but rather who the leader of the opening act is. The band is led by none other than James Dolan, of the Dolan family that controls MSG as well as the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.
The Dolans are infamous for running the sports teams into the ground and jealously protecting the various deals that allow MSG to have a near-monopoly on major sporting and music events in Manhattan. They even run a terrible cable company – not that there’s any other kind.
While most stories about the corruption and failures of the music industry focus on the labels, this is a story that shows the problems with the venues that control larger concerts and festivals. The Eagles are a very famous band that can sell out huge arenas. Opening for them gives a band exposure to tens of thousands of listeners, so promoters should want to book a regionally popular or up and coming act so that the audience can be guaranteed a performance with a reasonable expectation of quality. This is not what happened in this case. Instead, MSG booked a band led by its own Executive Chairman. This is problematic for many reasons.
It appears that as a middle-aged, extremely wealthy corporate executive, James Dolan decided that he wanted to pretend to be a rock star. He, of course, fronts the band, which is likely made up of hired session players. The whole thing seems like it’s purely a vanity project meant to fuel Dolan’s undoubtedly colossal ego. Dolan even claims to have hired Mick Jagger’s vocal coach — not that it shows in his music. By owning a venue, Dolan gets to perform in front of a huge audience without ever earning the privilege of doing so. He uses the Eagles’ fame to force the rest of us to hear about his band.
Another problem with this is that bands make money off of concerts. By placing his own band as the opening act, Dolan deprives a more deserving band of a chance to get more exposure and make some money. Nearly all bands struggle with money issues, so Dolan’s vanity project ends up hurting the many bands that are just trying to stay alive long enough to get noticed. Dolan also gets to make even more money off the audience than he normally would. The MSG company will get much of the ticket revenue, and Dolan (and maybe the rest of his band depending on their contracts) will get merchandise revenue and maybe some more ticket money.
Finally, none of this would be that much of a problem if the band were good. It’s not. The backing musicians sound reasonably competent, but play some of the most soulless, unoriginal music possible. The lyrics are embarrassingly lazy and Dolan does not have the kind of vocal skill needed even for the pseudo-bluesy soft rock played by the band. It honestly sounds almost like Dolan is singing over MIDI backing music from a karaoke song. If Dolan just wanted to have some fun playing music that would be fine. Inflicting his music on everyone else is where it becomes objectionable.
It’s fitting that James Dolan’s band is opening for the Eagles: a bored multimillionaire’s insipid ego-driven vanity project opening for the paragon of bland, inoffensive corporate money-making rock juggernauts.