By Chris Johnston
San Francisco has an eminent music scene with dozens of concert venues that host live music every night of the week. A strong factor in who gets paid to play is popularity and marketability. Venues make money from ticket sales, bar sales, and sometimes other factors, such as food service. For these profits to be maximized, the performers must have a following willing to come out and pay money to see the show, drink at the bar, eat the in-house food, and any other expenses that factor in. This means that whichever band has the most public draw will always have a secured spot playing shows at any venue of their choice.
Michael (who asked that his last name not be used for this story) is a stagehand, runner, and security guard at numerous San Francisco venues. These venues include the historic Fillmore and The Warfield Theater. He has worked with these venues for 20 years and has gained a good working knowledge of the industry. With regards to what bands are selling right now and which audiences are really paying the most, Michael said, “Country and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) shows sell the most tickets and if it’s an EDM festival, ticket prices can go up a lot.” Michael continues, “It depends less on a genre and more on the artist usually. For instance, baby boomers will pay a lot of money to go see the Rolling Stones or Eric Clapton, and those shows will always sell out. That group of people will also spend the most at the bar so they’re good money for venues. For regular shows, most artists don’t have that kind of staying power so whoever is currently in the spotlight brings in the most money. Jam band shows tend to draw a lot of people because fans travel to go to the concerts more so than with other genres. There are a lot of factors that affect the profit a venue makes off of a concert.”
Venues are choosing bands that draw the biggest audience who are willing to spend the most money to maximize profit. This means that if bands aren’t able to bring a strong audience they will have a hard time touring. If your favorite artists are playing in the Bay Area, go see their shows so that they have the opportunity to continue touring.