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Music Industry

Gen Z doesn’t drink as much. This is a problem for live music. Let me explain.

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

So much of the live music industry depends on alcohol. Revenue from bar sales, concessions, and sponsorships pays for so many of the costs associated with live gigs and touring that it’s tough to imagine the industry without it.

Older demographics (read: Boomers and Gen X) are the best. They grew up buying beer at concerts and later embraced, wine, coolers, and cocktails. They drink so much at shows that arenas, stadiums, and amphitheatres eventually installed cupholders at every seat — not, contrary to common belief, as a place to put down your one drink but as a place to store the second one you bought while you quaff your first.

Some artists attract bigger drinkers than others. Parrotheads — Jimmy Buffet’s acolytes — drink so much at shows that Buffet can command a performance fee of 105 per cent of ticket sales, the extra five per cent being his cut of his fans’ drinking habits.

Beer and booze companies often sponsor tours and festivals (see Jägermeister among many others), hoping to reach large numbers of drinkers. Meanwhile naming rights — think Toronto’s Budweiser Stage — inject much-needed operating capital into a venue.

For small- and medium-sized venues, bar and concession sales are often the only things that will make a gig profitable for them. Artists will often get door revenues (or at least the lion’s share) while all the venue’s revenue comes from the alcohol they sell to the punters.

Bottom line? Alcohol, in all its forms, fuels much of the live music industry. That makes sense because, for decades, music and booze have gone together like vodka and Clamato. But what if that symbiosis were to break down?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38550 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “Gen Z doesn’t drink as much. This is a problem for live music. Let me explain.

  • I understand the financial implications of what you’re saying – but being next to an “over served” (drunk) fan has ruined or nearly ruined many a concert experience for me, and often left me feeling unsafe at what was supposed to be a fun event. Even the mildly intoxicated are more likely to be obnoxious, bump into people, force their way into spots they haven’t legitimately claimed, etc. Maybe the problem is more with the model than it is with the attendees who don’t want to have to get wasted in order for the experience to be financially profitable for everyone?

    Reply
  • I have read other articles where immigration has also played a role in this, at least in Canada. Because as more and more of our population growth comes from immigration, you have more people coming here as adults from countries where going out for drinks with friends after work, or all of those wine mom kind of memes, aren’t really part of their culture. So if alcohol companies want to grow they need to get more creative with their marketing to get people to try their products.

    As for artist who play venues that are big enough where every seat has a cup holder, maybe they will eventually get to the point where they have to realize that they won’t be able to make as much money as they once did, even if you still have $100 million+ in ticket sales.

    Reply

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