Headbanging headliners snub free Ozzfest

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are taking their metalfest free - great news for fans, but will the bands play if they don't get paid?

By Mark Borden, Fortune

(Fotune Magazine) -- What do Hatebreed, Lamb of God and Lordi have in common? Apart from hair-raising names and a penchant for high-speed death metal, these three guitar-wielding bands are the only headliners so far to have signed on to Ozzfest's new business model: Tickets (which last year tapped out at $125) are free, and bands (whose fees ran to $325,000) play for nothing.

Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne grabbed attention in February when they announced this "historic" plan for their 11-year-old heavy metal hootenanny, now dubbed "FreeFest." The Osbournes worried that escalating prices could hurt turnout. "We're giving something back," says Sharon in an e-mail.

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It's great for fans, but what about the bands? Touring has become the salvation of rock groups, which have seen CD sales decimated in a post-Napster world. Why would a headliner perform for nothing? (Up-and-comers have often paid for the privilege, including at Ozzfest.)

"We give them tens of thousands of people to play in front of," says Sharon. "These are potential new fans that they can sell CDs and merchandise to at our show."

But as of late March that logic had persuaded only third-tier headbangers to sign on. Apparently even committed metalheads regard it as fiscal suicide to receive nothing to play for people who now won't pay for a concert and gave up long ago on paying for CDs.  Top of page