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December 16, 2013

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

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — When Artpark decided to charge, other promoters looked on to see if it would work. Not only has it worked, the level of talent in the second year of a small gate charge was actually better than the year before. The real question is whether that model would work in Buffalo, North Tonawanda or Lockport.

In Rochester, they started charging a mere $2 at the gate. Although the city did not officially state why it began charging a nominal fee, it’s obvious that a small charge will keep out a segment of the population you probably don’t want in your venue anyway. In other words, if someone can’t pony up $2, they aren’t likely to spend any money in the venue.

In addition, any band that is worth seeing is worth paying for, especially up to $5. Compare that to a major concert like Bruce Springsteen or Lady Antebellum, whose tickets will likely run, on average, around $100 a piece. The $5 and $10 charge is essentially equivalent to a free show anyway.

That’s not to say I don’t lament the impending end of free shows, but I understand it. Moreover, the reality is that even though the shows are billed as “free” we all know that somebody is paying for them, in the price of products, taxes or in other ways. If the concert-goer throws down a little cash, they have shown a commitment, and then the relationship between the artist and the concertgoer is improved.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how the 2014 Western New York concert season plays out. For years, the success or failure of these shows had been solely in the hands of attendees, and now it will be in their wallets.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at thomjennings@rochester.rr.com.

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