It’s great that the current incarnation of Stiff Little Fingers are putting out a new album very soon. I for one will certainly be buying a copy as soon as possible and am quite excited about it to be honest. In Blackpool afew years ago I got to see them for the first time and spent most of the blinding set flying through the air in the Empress. Brilliant fun. That all being said, late last night I received correspondence that the Belfast four piece are now selling ridiculously overpriced merch including daft items such as hand-written lyric sheets at 75 quid a pop, exclusive tshirts at 30, a ‘video birthday greeting’ for 150 and 100 pounds for ‘VIP’ passes to their release party. You can also pay 500 big ones for the privileged of sitting in the studio with them (oooh i’m fucking weak at the knees).
I truly hate to lay into the lads as I genuinely love this band so much, (only the other night on the walk back form the pub me and a pal were banging on about how important SLF are and how they were in many ways the most culturally and socially profound of the early punk bands and still resonate as indispensably amazing compared to everything that has followed) but it has to be said this state of affairs is farcical.
SLF are easily one of my top ten favourite bands, I can’t reiterate that enough, so my criticism is not frivolous. When I see old bands charging a fair bit for gigs generally I let it slide. I think fairplay, they’ve worked fucking hard, have a wealth of material I’m dying to see live and they deserve to make money from this. Classic artists that have served music for decades have payed their dues, in some cases been ripped off by labels and have kids to feed and bills to pay like everyone else. Those who criticise a slightly more expensive ticket are usually upper-class crusty cunts who unlike the bands in question have never had to struggle from nothing and work hard to get by.
Besides, half the time it’s cos the venue wants to bump up the price and the big old bands have to play the big venues if they want to play to their swelling fan base. Even if it was a band choice I’d still say- SLF want to charge 20 quid for a ticket? No problem. No complaints from me. Put my name down. But then when the merch table is grossly priced it does tend to leave a sour taste. The simple reason is because there is no need for this. I don’t claim to know or would even speculate about the financial situation of individual band members of popular old punk bands or anyone else. I’m not particularly interested in money or who has how much of it and frankly its none of my business. I’m here for the music the drink and the craic and in any case I can tell if a band is passionate and involved for the art in of itself or if they are trying to shallowly cash in.
But I make the simple point that charging ordinary prices for merch would not only not be a slap in the face to the fans as the current situation is but I suggest it’d probably make more money long-term anyway. A greater number of people would be willing to grab a normally priced tour shirt or that one live album they always bypassed previously or whatever. Especially when your fan base is primarily aged skint punks and their scavenging young counterparts. It’s business wise as well as more crucially the right thing to do not to overcharge those who support you. It’s called loyalty.
This aspect reminds me of the time I was 14 at a Demob gig in Gloucester and this great Scottish punk band Threats opened the show up and played a bitter tune about original punk bands selling their souls out and graspingly charging the kids a bomb, “They’re forgetting where they came from, why they’re here” were the words the frontman used before blasting the tune. And I couldn’t agree more. Sort it out SLF. Oh and bring on the new record and the gigs.