Tonawanda News

Features

December 16, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Is it the end of free concerts in Western New York?

Tonawanda News — Earlier this year, various local media outlets reported that Buffalo Place organizers are considering charging a small fee for concerts that were once free, something Artpark did successfully two years ago. If Buffalo Place does decide to levy a ticket charge, it may mean the end of the free major concert series in Western New York. It was a great run.

For many years, Western New Yorkers have been spoiled by the huge number of free concert choices in Buffalo, at Artpark, in North Tonawanda and Lockport. At its peak, in a given week, a person could go to Artpark on Tuesday, Buffalo on Thursday and North Tonawanda on Saturday (later replaced by the Friday night Lockport series).

There are a number of reasons that free stopped working. One has to do with the ability of casinos to pay top dollar for acts, thus driving up the price for many of the so-called “heritage” acts. The downgrade in headliners was quickly apparent in Buffalo’s Thursday’s in the Square series, and later seemed to impact other concert series.

There was also the issue of repeat acts. When I was growing up, you could almost pick the date when certain acts came to town, but that was also when bands would typically work on an annual album/tour cycle. Many of the heritage acts have been playing virtually the same set of material for more than 10 years. Even when free, many people aren’t going to see the same show again.

Throw into the mix Darien Lake’s huge lineup, changing musical tastes, and the rise of satellite and Internet radio replacing the once-sacred local radio station. With that, free becomes a lot trickier because you have to pay big bands big money, and then you are at the mercy of the crowd spending enough money at the show, or sponsors being willing to accept exposure to subsidize the show. If you are really fortunate, the local government chips in a chunk of money as well.

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