Shihad shares profits with quake fund

SINGING FOR GOOD: Shihad will donate their profit share from a pay-per-view performance to the Earthquake Recovery Fund.
SINGING FOR GOOD: Shihad will donate their profit share from a pay-per-view performance to the Earthquake Recovery Fund.

Shihad will donate their profit-share from New Zealand's first ever pay-per-view music gig to the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery fund.

The one-off September 12 concert at Christchurch's CBS Arena will showcase the veteran band's ninth album, FVEY, with the 4000 tickets given away: but in a New Zealand first, television viewers will be asked to pay $19.95 to tune in live on TV channel Sky Arena. The broadcast would also cut live to pubs screening the show.

Shihad singer Jon Toogood said they would open the show by playing FVEY in its entirety, an album he described as "blistering", "intense" and their best work for 15 years, which had its genesis in his father's death and the band's observations of inequality.

In keeping with that theme, their profit - pay-per-view models usually split revenue 50-50 between broadcaster and talent - would go to the Earthquake Relief Fund.

"We've always had a really big following in Christchurch - they seemed to get Shihad early on and it's been a good vibe between the two of us," said Toogood. "We thought ‘here is a place where we usually play big shows and we want to pull off something big and do something really different.

"The material we are playing is based around the divide between rich and poor, so if we can help [Christchurch] in some way, it would be really good." Toogood said the band originally thought the idea of pay-per-view gigs was "completely weird" but felt their new work suited the format: producer Jaz Coleman had told them to consider it not as a CD or even for radio airplay but as a "brand-new set to play live, ammunition to destroy any band" and "this is a great opportunity to record the band at the right time".

Sky Arena director John McRae said he believed audiences were willing to pay for televised gigs: "Shihad fans are a generation who grew up from tapes to CDs and this is just another medium. They are not buying the music but the experience, and also the convenience."

McRae said the gig was "proof of concept" to bands, labels and promoters that pay-per-view could work and was a real revenue stream: "This is another string to their bow and instead of playing to a room of 10,000 they play to a stadium of 4.3m people."

There were some pay-per-view concerts in the early 1990s - one New Kids on the Block gig did 275,000 sales in 1990 - before it went into decline; a recent resurgence in the US saw the Rolling Stones sell the final show of their 2012 50th anniversary tour from New Jersey with guests Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and the Black Keys for US$39.95.

For an industry which Recorded Music New Zealand chief executive Damian Vaughan says is in a state of "transition on transition on transition" (from declining physical record sales to the rise of downloads, and latterly, the increase in streaming services), this could be a useful new income stream.

"It's great if it eventuates," Vaughan says. "Artists are trying plenty of different ways to generate alternative revenue streams. This is another way. I like it." Toogood, with the authority of an industry veteran, says: "One thing that hasn't changed with all these changes is that if you do something of quality, people will come to see you."

He believes FVEY is just that. "There has never been a time in our career when we have been so in love with an album from start to finish that we would ever attempt to play a brand-new album [in full on stage]."

The work is partly inspired by how hardworking the nurses who cared for Toogood's ailing father were and how poorly they were paid. The result is "big and heavy and it needed to be because the world is a pretty heavy place at the moment".

Vaughan, meanwhile, should mean at least one sale. "It is hard to say [whether fans will pay] - I couldn't tell you," Vaughan says. "But I am a Shihad fan and now that I know about it, I might like that. I would be keen on checking it out."

Sunday Star Times