In the Arena, 1/11

10 Jan

BY TODD HUNT

Thanks for all the suggestions from last week’s blog.  It’s good to know that there are people who still want to attend concerts these days.  As I struggled to come up with an idea for this week, one finally hit me.  Let’s take a look back at concerts through the decades and what has changed (either for better or for worse).

THE SIXTIES
The decade of the Beatles.
The biggest problem with concerts in the sixties was that the sound systems were not advanced enough to allow the music to be heard above the roar of the crowd.  Shows tended to feature multiple acts each playing very short sets.  Arena tours were plenty but the quality was not very good.

THE SEVENTIES
The decade of arena rock.
PA systems were developed to compensate for the crowd noise (and then some).  This greatly enhanced the concert experience for both the musicians and the audience.  Since there was no MTV or Internet, the only way to really know what a band looked like was to see them live.  For many, this was the best concert decade.  Most of the bands played 150-200 shows a year in the U.S., and ticket prices (and artist guarantees) were relatively low.  There were also fewer arenas during this time, enabling venues like Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, and Beard-Eaves Coliseum in Auburn to host many big-name artists.

THE EIGHTIES
The MTV decade.
With the birth of MTV and its original incarnation as a 24 hour music video channel, all of America now knew just what their favorite artists looked like.  That eventually meant that bands couldn’t sell records (and/or concert tickets) just by sounding good; they had to look good as well.  Bands were forced to take higher quality light shows on the road so that their concerts could duplicate what everyone saw on TV.  This led to escalating artist guarantees which in turn increased ticket prices.  Artists also began playing more dates abroad, decreasing the number of shows in the US.

THE NINETIES
The MTV 2.0 decade.
The trends that began in the eighties continued.  More acts began playing arena shows before their time, resulting in less-than-stellar performances.  Whereas in the seventies and early eighties bands honed their craft for years on the club circuit, more bands in the nineties went straight from their parents’ garage or basement to some of the world’s biggest stages.  It’s hard to play an arena show as a headliner when you only have one album to draw from.  The international market also exploded, meaning that acts that would once play 150-200 dates in North American now played only 40-60 shows.  Arenas also began popping up all over, including a new one called the Tupelo Coliseum.  Competition for those few shows out there grew intense.

THE ZEROS (what do you call the 2000 decade, anyway?)
The Internet decade.
Several things combined to cause problems for the concert industry from 2000 to the present.  Acts that performed substandard shows either due to a lack of talent, substance issues or other reasons were exposed instantly via the Internet.  The World Wide Web enabled fans to learn all kinds of details about their favorite acts that were able to be kept hidden in years past.  Many newer, larger (15,000+ capacity) arenas were built, placing smaller buildings (like the BancorpSouth Arena) at an economic disadvantage.  With the steady rise in concert ticket prices, many fans turned their attention to other entertainment options such as surfing the net, playing video games or watching DVDs in the comfort of their own home theatre environment.  Concerts went from costing an average of $25.81 in 1996 to $62.07 in 2007 (thank you Pollstar for that nugget of data).  With gas at $3 a gallon, it’s hard to attend more than one or two shows a year…

So, there’s a recap of concerts over the past forty years.  In my mind, there is still nothing better than enjoying live music played well before a crowd that truly appreciates the event.  A book, a movie or any other form of entertainment doesn’t move me anywhere near as much as live music does. I hope that many of you feel the same way.  I’ll keep working on bringing quality concerts to the area as long as you guys keep buying tickets.

Until next week,

Todd

One Response to “In the Arena, 1/11”

  1. Daniel Lee January 19, 2008 at 1:57 am #

    Cmon man! You left out the fifties! How can you cover the history of rock concerts without any mention of Alan Freed, who invented the rock concert?

    The first rock n roll concert was the Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland, Ohio (which is why the rock n roll hall of fame is located there).
    The event was organized by Freed, and shut down after one song due to authorities fearing a riot would break out.

    Freed organized many concerts in many major cities, often fighting tooth-and-nail against law enforcement, judicial action, and local authorities who feared rock music and racial integration.

    More than just entertainment, rock n roll shows were nothing short of a revolution!

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