Is Arena Rock Dead?

From Pollstar came the following report this week: Live Nation Shares Plunge On Poor Ticket Sales

It’s just one more indication that the decline of the music industry has finally reached the live concert business, and as one commenter on this story says, “they can’t blame this on file sharing.”

It’s no wonder that people aren’t going to as many big concerts as they used to, when tickets are $100 or more and then there are service charges, parking costs, and exorbitant concessions prices on top of just getting in the door.

Personally, I’d much rather see the acts that are still playing clubs and smaller venues, anyway. For $15 or less it’s possible to catch plenty of Pitchfork-approved bands in most major markets and many smaller ones. It’s this level of show that will ultimately save the concert industry, I think. Balance the feeling you get from seeing a big name from half an arena away and spending half your paycheck to do it against being right up against the stage for a show and then getting to talk to the band members afterwards, maybe even buying a CD or T-shirt directly from them, knowing that money will help fill their gas tank to get to the next town; I’d say the latter experience would definitely be the most satisfying and create serious long-term commitment from fans, while the former show would just leave one feeling cheated.

There’s always demand for a great arena rock show, however, even at today’s price levels, but who’s actually delivering the goods any more? I can remember seeing great performances from the likes of ZZ Top, Guns N’ Roses, Tina Turner, AC/DC, even Journey, that filled up a 17,000 seat venue with throngs of people into the music and the sometimes seedy lifestyle on the fringes of these bands who lived out the stereotypical “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” existence. Where are all the dangerous rock bands playing these days? Not in the arenas, which are filled with corporate shills and bland pop stars.

Below i’ve posted a video clip of a semi-dangerous arena rock band from the 70’s, Sweet–mainly because of the comment posted on Youtube with it that says it all more explicitly than I can:

Somehow, rock got…”smaller”. Bands used to be larger than life. They filled entire stadiums for weeks. Concerts were huge productions with stage design, lighting,costume changes, jet engines, wombat blood, anything they could find. They looked, lived, and played big. Now all we got is pansy bands and “pop stars” whose idea of fighting the Establishment is driving Priuses and doing mall gigs for tweens. Screw that. I want MY rock to be sex-laced and EPIC, just like this song.

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