Random stuff

Negative Feedback for a BLOGGER

So this is an interesting perspective! Book fans attacking bloggers for not leaving favourable reviews. I understand fandoms. I’ve ever been involved in a few and trust me when I say that SOME fans can get ALL KINDS of crazy. Why would you attack a blogger for not liking a book you never wrote yourself? Well, I wouldn’t personally, but I can see why ‘some’ fans would. Passion and obsession do funny things to people … But let’s be honest: it’s just an opinion and yeah, it might not be one that you agree with, but wouldn’t life be dull if we all liked the same shit? (And I say this coming out of a day of opposing views in the UK where 16 million people are pissed AF, me included).
My advice: know where to draw the line. Disagree, sure. Debate even. But don’t resort to name-calling, abuse and downright offensive behaviour just because someone disagrees with your point of view. Otherwise you’re one step away from being known as Trolly McTrollface.

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Random stuff

O Captain My Captain!

I’ve no doubt this blog post will be one of the many thousands written today, motivated (because I hate to use the word inspired here, after all, it doesn’t seem quite appropriate to be inspired to write following somebody’s death) by the passing of the great Robin Williams. And I’ve no doubt that the web is being inundated with an outpouring of affection for this funny man, who it turns out didn’t feel quite as funny on the inside as we all saw on the outside.
I never met Robin Williams. I didn’t know him personally. I, like many others, was a fan, having been raised on a diet of Mork and Mindy, Hook, Good Morning Vietnam and many more, but I did not know him. I did not know that he was a man plagued with depression and afflicted by addiction. And yet today, I found myself looking at pictures of him in a very different way. I found myself feeling a connection with this man that I never knew and probably would never have met, even if he had not made the tragic decision to take his own life.
My brush with depression was fleeting compared to Robin Williams. In fact, my experience of this horrible illness was brief compared to the many thousands who have battled with it for most of their lives.
I spent the first two years of my son’s life struggling with this ‘other person’ that I had become, the one that I hid behind smiles and constant reassurances of ‘I’m fine, I’m just tired‘ or ‘I’ll be okay, I don’t need help.’
If you have never suffered from depression or have never been close to someone who has or does experience it, none of this will make much sense to you. You might even think, of someone like Robin Williams, ‘he had everything anyone could wish for. He had wealth and he had fame, what right did he have to feel a bit sad’. I can even understand why you might think that, which might sound a bit strange, but if you’ve never experienced it for yourself, you will think it’s a case of someone feeling sad or down in the dumps.
Of course, I can’t talk for Robin or any other sufferer of depression, but I can try to explain it from my own personal perspective.
Imagine if you will, waking up one day and feeling like a completely different person. Imagine thinking completely differently, most of which is totally irrational (although you convince yourself otherwise). Imagine convincing yourself that everyone around you is against you. Imagine starting to think you are against them, some of them you might even start to hate a bit. Imagine getting in your car everyday and thinking about just putting your foot down and driving somewhere, anywhere, as long as it is far away from everything and everyone you know. Imagine getting up each day and planning your escape, where you will go, what you will do, how you will change your name so nobody can find you.
You can imagine that, but for me, that was my reality and it was my reality every day for at least two years.
And yet every day, I got up, I ironed my husband’s work shirts, I made his lunch, I looked after our young son, I did the grocery shopping, I met friends for lunch, I did the laundry, I chatted to neighbours, I went for walks in the sunshine and I smiled. Sometimes I even laughed out loud. To the outside world I was the same as I ever was, and yet I knew I wasn’t. I was somebody else.
And that’s just how it is. That’s depression, in a very small and very simple nutshell.
Just by coincidence, I bumped into an old friend today. If she ever reads this and realises I am talking about her, I hope she forgives me for writing this, but after I saw her, I thought about her all day, mainly because it had some connection to what I had been feeling since learning about Robin Williams and the memories stirred up by his death. This friend, who I haven’t seen for maybe four or five years, was always the friendliest, bubbliest girl, someone who could talk ten to the dozen without barely coming up for air and who could light up the room with her funny stories and lighthearted chat.
When I saw this girl today, she was sat on a park bench in a children’s playground as her kids played happily around her. Everything about her seemed different. She sat, staring into space, her hands clasped tightly together in her lap and I think if she could have made herself invisible, she would have done so. I watched her for a couple of minutes, in fact, I almost wondered whether I had got it wrong and it wasn’t even her. Maybe I was mistaken? It didn’t seem like her and yet it was.
As soon as she saw me, her whole face changed. The grin appeared, her body language changed, she jumped up and gave me a hug and then she began talking again, ten to the dozen, chatter, chatter, chatter almost as if I were the first person she had spoken to all day. Maybe even all week. We talked about life after children. She mentioned she had been ‘ill’ and didn’t go out much. She didn’t say the actual word at that point but I knew what she meant. I had heard from a mutual friend that maybe she had been suffering since the birth of her children and had become somewhat reclusive. When I looked at her and listened to her talk, I realised she was the person I had been three years ago.
Now I don’t mind talking about having depression, it’s not anything I’m ashamed of, but I know it makes plenty of people uncomfortable when I talk about it. That doesn’t bother me either, that’s more their problem than it is mine. In fact, I think it’s vitally important to talk about it. Because you see, for the most part, people don’t talk about it. They’re scared to talk about it. They’re ashamed to admit they’re not quite coping with life. They’re afraid people will look at them differently.
I get that. I really do. The simple facts are that as a society we don’t cope well with people who don’t cope well. There’s still a huge stigma attached to any form of mental illness and the less we talk about it, the longer that stigma will remain.
And so, I somehow slipped into the conversation with my friend that I had suffered from depression after my son was born. I’m not sure what she thought about that. I’m not sure whether she walked away feeling a little less alone. I’m not sure whether by saying it out loud it made her realise that it was actually okay to say it out loud. I hope so.
Because it is okay. It really is.
And it’s okay to say you’re not coping. Say it to whoever you feel comfortable saying it to. Say it to you parents. Say it to your brother or sister. Say it to your best friend. Say it to your doctor. Pick up the phone and say it to the Samaritans or Mind.
Just say it to someone. Please.

http://www.mind.org.uk/
http://www.samaritans.org/

RIP Robin Williams, your smile will never fade.

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Random stuff

Happy Star Wars Day!!!

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Today is International Star Wars Day and time for me to release my inner nerd!

Sorry I couldn’t resist posting this but yes, I admit, I’m a Star Wars fan. Not only do I love the films and characters, but Star Wars just brings back memories of my childhood that will always stay with me. Usually those memories include my big brother as he is a massive fan, so to him, I dedicate this post.

For me it conjures up memories of Christmas as you could guarantee one of the films was always on TV on Christmas Day. Also my brother and I would always laugh at the part in the bar, in Star Wars IV: A New Hope (although back then it was just Star Wars lol) when the band was playing, because our dad was in a band and we used to giggle and name each weird alien creature after members of our day’s band (sorry dad).

It also reminds me of how my brother had all these Star Wars figures and he used to spend literally forever setting up these camps using MY Ladybird books, stacking up this pyramid tower and placing each figure inside his/her own ‘tent’. I always wanted to play soooooo bad, but he’d never let me so usually I’d go in and kick the side of the pyramid so it would all collapse. Evil, right? Ha!

Anyway, whatever memories it conjures, I’ll always love Star Wars and now I have a son of my own, I get to release my inner nerd without fear of being pointed out and shamed for my total geekiness. And geekiness isn’t even a word, so that makes me an even bigger geek.

Live long and prosper. Shit, wrong film.

May the Fourth be with you. Always.

Random stuff · Writing

Tumblr, Tea Cups and Being Fearless

Hello again readers, bloggers, friends and weirdo’s

It’s been a week of healthy obsessions, reading and well….snow. Lots of snow.

At this point I probably should insert an obligatory snowy landscape picture but if you live in the UK at the moment, you’re probably sick to death of seeing photos of snow-covered front gardens and deformed looking snowmen.

Us Brits don’t cope well in the snow. We have a tendency to go into full-on meltdown. We panic-buy at the supermarkets as if Armageddon is heading our way. Only the Second Coming or Taylor Swift’s new relationship gets more press coverage. We literally imprison ourselves in our homes, whilst the Canadians wet themselves laughing at us.

“Snow?” they say, “you call that snow?”

Erm. Yes.

One notable difference this year is that it’s probably the first time in four years that I haven’t looked out at the snow and shuddered like the legions of Hell were waiting to devour me as soon as I step one foot outside my front door. I’m still not going to declare my undying love for it, but to me, it’s progress. In fact, believe it or not, as I looked out into the garden in the very early hours of this morning and saw how the snow illuminated the night sky, for a fleeting moment, I did think it looked quite beautiful and even had the urge to take a walk in it, despite it being only 1am.

But nevertheless, this weekend, I’m going to join the masses, fight with people at the supermarket over the last packet of Chocolate digestives, dodge snowballs, probably fail miserably and be hit square in the face, sob, then procrastinate on my sofa.

Tumblr seems the best way to procrastinate at the moment. It doesn’t require much thought or energy. It just requires the ability to harbour a healthy obsession for re-blogging pictures of Matt Corby, vintage tea-cups and book quotes. It’s safe to say, I’m slightly addicted again. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t require much thought or energy or maybe it’s just a good way to take my mind off the writer’s block.

Another way to do that, I often find, is to read. What better way to spark that inspiration you need than to read a bloody good book? Wattpad seems to be my destination of choice these days and I’m currently reading two great books: The Key to Erebus by Emma V. Leech & Roisin O’Connor and The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. Both are gripping reads and I’ve been hooked with every chapter, so if you love vampire/paranormal fiction and want something new and addictive to fire your imagination, please do go check these out.

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For those interested in my Wattpad adventure, Dark Sanctuary and Lost Creatures are both now fully uploaded and Blood Wars is in the process of being posted. However as Blood Wars is still very much a work in progress, the uploads are much less frequent so I’m hoping people stick with it until I finally manage to finish it. It’s currently at #79 in the vampire category and at one point it was #65 so the feedback is already really positive. My rankings are fluctuating wildly by the day, so if you’re currently reading all three books via Wattpad, please remember to keep voting on each chapter and please do leave me a comment or two as I enjoy learning what people think of Sarah and Michael. Or alternatively if you have already read the first two books, please go onto Wattpad and cast your votes as this will help to push them up the rankings too!

Anyway, with the snow forecast to be with us for the next few days at least, I think its a good opportunity to be fearless, beat my fists against my chest like the veritable silverback and attempt to tackle the writer’s block.

Or I may just click on the Tumblr app and re-blog pictures of a pretty Australian man with a beautiful voice 😉

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Random stuff

I HATES THEM!!

 

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Hello readers, bloggers, friends and weirdo’s.

You’re probably wondering why I might be channelling my inner Gollum this week? We haven’t had a great start to the new year. Some complete loser broke into my car during the early hours of Monday morning and also attempted to get into our house. To be fair, I could pretty much saturate this post with rather colourful language, such is the power of my anger, but as I do not wish to pour such bile into my blog then I will refrain.

If I’m being honest, we were lucky. The car wasn’t damaged (they popped the lock quite easily) and they took my iPod, some CD’s and a box of diet coke. They also went round the back of our house and tried to get in, as we found footprints and the gate open. So all in all, I’m thankful they didn’t get in and didn’t cause any real damage, apart from that to my nervous system.

The thought of someone prowling around outside my house has left me feeling incredibly jittery and I am now all-too-aware of being more security conscious. It might sound strange but I now have this over-whelming feeling of being watched. Did they target my car on purpose? Did they target our house? Will they come back?

Well, whether it was planned or just opportunist, it’s probably best not to dwell too much on the darker aspects and just be on the alert to make sure we don’t leave ourselves open to any more nocturnal visits from the local scumbags who care nothing for a family who work bloody hard for very little, a family who want nothing more than to raise their child in a home where he can sleep safely.

I don’t hold out much hope they will get caught so all I can do is channel my inner Gollum and hope and pray that karma drops a rather heavy ACME piano on their bastard heads. If you would all join with me and pray for such a dastardly end to befall these scumbags, then I would most appreciate it 🙂

I HATES THEM!

 

Random stuff · Short Stories

Cupid Inc.

At the beginning of November, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. Now usually, I would just let that unknown number wander into the lost realms of voicemail but I fortunately remembered that I was due to receive a phone call; from someone that I knew of, but had never spoken to before. I answered it desperately hoping it was who I expected it to be, and not just some random crazy phone perv.
Luckily, it wasn’t a random perv but the boyfriend of one of my best friends, Bek.
Rewind two days previous and Bek’s sis, Victoria had contacted me to ask if she could give Matt my number as he had something to ask me.
Ah, I thought, it’s Bek’s birthday coming up. Maybe he wants to arrange a party? Leaving it a bit late mind you, but oh well.
I was wrong about the party. Well, sort of.
As it turned out, Matt didn’t want to arrange a party, he wanted to propose to Bek! After I collapsed in shock and them danced around the kitchen with glee, Matt explained he was enlisting the help of Bek’s family and friends. He wanted us to help him write a book and not just any book but A Book of Questions.
Each person was to write a short story, any story about any subject however the first letter of the first word in every story would spell out WILL YOU MARRY ME? The book would then be published and given to Bek by way of proposal.
Yeah. I know. Awesome idea.
Once I recovered from the complete awesomeness of it, the next question was, what to write? I was pretty sure that paranormal or horror fiction wouldn’t be welcome as part of a marriage proposal, so I had to come up with something a little bit different to what I would usually write. Not as easy as you might think. Just because you’re a writer, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily lend your hand (and your pen) to any genre.
Anyway, below is the story that I came up with. It’s full of love. Warm squishy stuff. Hearts. You get the picture. Oh and a slightly chubby, curly-haired match-maker called Arthur.

Arthur J. Erosmus was having a bad week. Jenny in Accounts had completely blanked him at the photocopier and in the lift, the boss Mr Jupitus had pulled him up about not wearing a tie and to top it off he was now fifteen percent down on target. To make matters worse, his colleague, Reginald Amores had hit target yesterday and now Arthur only had the rest of today to make up his fifteen percent and quite frankly, it wasn’t looking promising.
Arthur’s desk faced the Employee of the Month wall and the last thing he wanted was to have to look at Reginald’s face every day, smiling down at him, all snidey and laminated. It was bad enough hearing his high-pitched laughter as it squealed through the office, making Arthur wince as Reginald howled at some terrible joke, usually one of his own. But if he had to sit there and look at him too….well, Arthur didn’t think he could bear it. And there was no point pretending the picture wasn’t there. The eyes would bore into him, forcing him to look up and take notice of Reginald with his immaculately side-parted hair and those bloody irritating ties, like the one with the Superman pattern or the one with Homer Simpson giving a big stupid thumbs up.
Arthur ran his fingers through his sun-tinged curls and wondered how the hell he was going to miraculously reach his target by the end of the day. No matter how much he pondered on it, he thought the only thing that would work would have to be a miracle itself.
Bethany Abrams was proving to be his most difficult client yet, and Arthur had had his fair share of tricky customers. But Bethany; well, she seemed to be in a class of her own where stubbornness and obstinacy were concerned.
They were either too talkative or too quiet, they lacked drive or they were too ambitious. They were too domineering or too much of a doormat. If she could find a reason – any reason – rest assured, she would find it. Take the last one for instance. On paper, he had seemed pretty much perfect. Of course he wasn’t one hundred percent perfect, after all, nobody was, but he ticked most of the boxes more than adequately.
Or so Arthur had thought.
Just when he thought he had finally nailed it and the deal was but a hypothetical hand-shake away, Bethany decided to back out.
“His teeth were just too……too white!” she had shrugged, flushing at the lame excuse. Because, lets face it, both Arthur and Bethany knew it was lame. It was more than lame. It was verging on exasperating.
But now, Arthur was sure he had cracked it. He was certain this one was The One. He’d been working on this new one for weeks now, examining the case file with a fine-toothed comb, looking for something – anything – that Bethany might find fault with. And so far, there had been nothing that Bethany could object to; in fact, if anything, she seemed brighter, happier and with a definite spring in her step that was nothing to do with another new pair of shoes. Yet something still wasn’t quite right. There had been a handful of dates – very successful dates for that matter – and yet something was still holding Bethany back and Arthur just couldn’t fathom what on earth it could be. The longer he looked at the files, the more it perplexed him until he was ready to bash his head against the desk in frustration.
It had to be here somewhere, staring him in the face, he knew it!
Feeling the need for a break, Arthur shambled over to the kitchen, hesitating at the door when he saw Reginald and Jenny near the microwave, looking all cosy over a pot noodle. Jenny flushed when she saw him, whereas Reginald looked over and smirked. Arthur nodded a hello and busied himself making a very large and very strong coffee.
“Still busting a gut over that Bethany Abrams case, Arty?” Reginald said, raising a clearly amused eyebrow and his smirk growing wider and more irritating.
Arthur, thought Arthur, not bloody Arty.
He smiled confidently, although inside he felt anything but. “Almost there actually,” he replied. “Today’s the day I reckon.”
“Bit optimistic aren’t we?” laughed Reginald. “I’ve give up if I were you. She’s a tough one, that girl.”
He elbowed Jenny, expecting her to join in his laughter, but Jenny had the good grace to look a little irritated herself. She gave Arthur a small, encouraging smile.
“Don’t give up, Arthur, I’m sure you can do it. Everyone needs a bit of love in their life, even the tough ones.”
Arthur stared at her, amazed. Reginald looked suitably disgruntled and went back to his pot noodle, spilling some down one of his equally putrid ties.
Back at his desk, Arthur took a big swig of coffee and smiled. He was going to do this. Whatever it was, he knew it was there. Scanning the files for what seemed the hundredth time, Arthur cross-referenced all the relevant details, likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests yet still the key alluded him. He glanced at his watch, seeing the little hand tick round and he felt the panic begin to set in with beads of perspiration dotting his forehead. Leaning back in his chair, he spun around and then banged his head against the desk in frustration. When he opened his eyes, he realised his head was now laying on his latest rental from Mr Jupitus’ vast library, a copy of Ovid’s Art of Love.
His eyes widened. That’s it!
In the bookshop, customers browsed the shelves in peace, glad to find some moments of calm and tranquility from the hustle and bustle of the crowded shopping mall outside. Bethany ran her fingers across the spines of the books and released a small sigh of contentment as she breathed in the smell of freshly-printed pages. She loved it here, Arthur knew that she never missed a visit to the bookshop every time she made a trip to the mall. He also knew that Mark, her latest suitor, also happened to love it here and oh look, here he was now.
From his vantage point on the other side of the long book shelf, Arthur skulked in the romance section, peeking over surreptitiously every now and then, waiting for the moment; that one moment.
Bethany, lost in a world of book covers and book blurbs, wandered aimlessly in the crime fiction section, picking up a book here and there, searching for that one which would capture her unwavering interest. From the other side of the section, Mark meandered along the shelf, eyes covering the spines from top to bottom, also searching.
As they drew closer to the middle, Arthur knew this was his moment. Concentrating very hard, he reached forward and poke his finger at one book in particular, dislodging it from its home on the shelf and letting it drop to the floor between Bethany and Mark.
Instinctively, they both bent down to pick it up at the same time.
“Oh!” they both said, surprised to see each other at the same spot, their favourite shelf, in their favourite section of their favourite bookstore.
They looked down, both noting the Sherlock Holmes book in their hands. Their fingers touched, igniting the spark that Arthur had been waiting for.
“Bingo!” he cried and reached for one of the gold-tipped arrows in the quiver on his back and carefully took aim with his bow.
As the arrow flew across the store, Arthur smiled and gave a silent prayer to Jupitus that it would be his laminated portrait up on the Employee of the Month wall at Cupid Inc. yet again this time, and not Reginald and his bloody awful ties.

Random stuff

Gig Ticket Prices: Fair or Foul?

On the same day that Radio 1’s Newsbeat ran a story about UK music venues introducing a new tiered system for ticket prices, my favourite band Kings of Leon announced a new UK show for June of next year at the O2 Arena.
Ticket price: a neat little £65.
Really? £65? My initial excitement which more or less involved running round the room wailing excitedly turned to one of stomach churning horror when I realised that there was very little chance of me being able to afford a ticket. It’s November for crying out loud! Why do bands INSIST on announcing gigs and tours right before Christmas? I raged at Santa. I raged at the Followills. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that £65 at any time of the year is pretty damn steep.
Okay, I appreciate that we’re not talking the butt-clenching prices of The Rolling Stones but when did the prices shoot up so much and who fixes these prices? Is it the band? The venue? The promoters?
As fans we would love to think that our favourite band sit back in their New York condo’s and say “the world is in financial crisis. People are struggling and it would be morally wrong of us to make ticket prices unaffordable for many.” Of course they don’t. I doubt many of them even think about it, because ultimately they WILL sell out shows regardless because people WILL pay the money. Whether they can afford it or not, people will pay through the nose to see their favourite bands. As a band becomes more famous, the number of shows and the frequency of shows decreases. The band no longer have to go on the road for ten months of the year playing every shitty, flea infested venue they happen to come across. They can do a handful of festivals or huge arena gigs and go back to their condo’s, make another record and think about doing it all again in a couple of years time.
But the fans CRAVE gigs. You can pop the CD in the player as much as you want. You can endlessly watch the DVD’s and You Tube vids of your favourite gigs. It’s just not the same as going to the live shows. For the fans, the live show is the Holy Grail, the One Ring of Middle Earth and Blackbeard’s Treasure all rolled into one.
The band knows this. The promoter knows this. This is how people like The Rolling Stones can charge upwards of £105 for a gig. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how much you set the price at, people will pay it. Brings to mind that quote from Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come. Or, if you charge it, they will pay it.
Of course, I’m not saying it’s the band’s fault, although they of course have some hand in it, but it seems that the greedy promoters have a big part to play in all this. I read an interesting article from an old blog post rockandrollguru.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/who-sets-prices-for-concert-tickets.html talking about how the promoters get bands to sign exclusive contracts with them, which basically then gives them the right to fix ticket prices at whatever the hell they feel like. They also have contracts with certain venues, which means the promoter ensures the big bands only ever play that particular venue when in town – makes a lot of sense considering Kings of Leon only seem to play Hyde Park and the O2 when they come to London. I mean, whatever happened to Wembley?
Putting on a mammoth show at the O2 or staging a full-length tour is of course, no mean feat. The costs are no doubt astronomical and I’m sure those costs rise every year with every one from security to caterers putting up their fees. Ticket prices have to reflect this, I get that, but it seems that as everyone makes their pound of flesh out of a band, ultimately it’s the fans who will suffer.
I already know many hardcore fans who are saying that they simply can’t afford the £65, particularly not at this time of year with the cash-cow Christmas just around the corner. Just last year we paid £55 for a top price KoL ticket and even that was a kick to the guts. Now we need to pay an extra tenner more plus the booking fee which will probably be another £5. With bands like Radiohead and Muse charging a more respectable price of £40, surely this is proof that huge gigs can be staged for affordable prices and there’s no need to squeeze the very blood out of the fans?
I don’t even think I agree with the tiered system that Newsbeat were discussing yesterday. It’s meant to mirror the system held in our West End theatres where you basically pay for how close you are to the action. I think this just gives promoters the right to charge whatever they want for that hallowed golden circle spot. Sit at the back, pay a tenner. Sit at the front and catch the sweat, be prepared to re-mortgage your house. How is that fair for fans? Say what you want, but no fan I know is happy to sit up in the gods and see their favourite band turn into ants. I’ll be honest, I’d rather not go at all, if it meant I could only afford to sit three miles away from the stage. If the gig experience only constitutes me watching them on a big screen, well then I’ll wait for the DVD and do it from the comfort of my own sofa. At least then I wouldn’t have to also stump up the travel fares just to see Honey I Shrunk The Band.
The problem comes back to demand. As with most things, if there wasn’t a demand for tickets, then the promoters and the band wouldn’t be able to charge these inflated prices. If I had £65 would I buy a ticket? Sure. It would hurt like hell, but yes, I probably would pay it. The ride won’t last forever and at some point the gigs will stop, so yes, if I had the money I would pay it. But I’d rather want to pay it, than feel forced to.
I would love it if at some point bands said “enough is enough, lets be fair about this and set affordable prices for our fans.” But that’s never going to happen. Not whilst they continue to sell out shows, not whilst greedy promoters hike up the prices and not whilst we continue to pay the prices they enforce upon us.
What do you think? Would you pay whatever they charge to see your favourite band? Do you think ticket prices are fair? Or do you think bands should have more influence in what their fans are being charged?