Classic Rock Still A Hot Ticket, Just Not In Lansing
The summer concert season is heating up. It looks to be a great year for rock and roll fans, too. With names like The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Aerosmith, Rush, Van Halen, and The Who all commanding high dollars in Michigan this year, there's a plethora of classic rock acts coming to a summer festival near you (or, at DTE Energy Music Theater).
But, once again, classic rock has become the red-headed stepchild of Mid-Michigan festivals and shows. Now, we here at WMMQ have a cool little shindig for you in August with BBQ and Brews, featuring Dennis DeYoung. But, for the third consecutive year, classic rockers aren't wanted for the Common Ground Music Festival. After years of multiple classic rock acts at the festival, suddenly, it's gone.
You may remember that I penned a scathing editorial around this time last year that has since been banned by management. After the recoil smacked in the nose, I heard from promoters and former promoters as to why the classic rock brand has gone by the wayside in regards to Common Ground. I could list every ancillary, B.S. excuse I was given. But, the "common thread" comes back to ticket sales (or, lack thereof) and interest. According to those in the know, the classic rock crowd is tired of the same ol', same ol' acts, reflected by declining ticket sales. No profit can be made with the high dollar acts listed above...there just simply isn't enough capacity at Adado Riverfront Park to sell enough affordable tickets to break even, let alone profit. The Stones are playing Comerica Park for more than 30,000 people with the cheapest, nosebleed seat at $69.00 plus service charges. Most tickets are between $175-$350 for anything lower level or on the field. Now, cut the available tickets in half. Naturally, the ticket prices would have to double. This is the trend. Bands want a lot of money to play one show. How much? Check out this price list from CG promoter Meridian Entertainment. No specific prices are listed, but, you can see that the likes of Aerosmith, Van Halen, The Stones, and The Eagles command anywhere from $500,000 to $1 Million...FOR ONE SHOW!! Crazy money. And, damn right, the cost is passed onto concertgoers.
But, on the flip side, REO Speedwagon is set to appear in Bay City this August. According to this article at mlive.com, more than half of the allotted tickets are already sold. So, as much as we can use this one example to argue the interest factor, keep in mind that this will only be REO's third ever appearance in Bay City. We're pretty versed in the ways of an REO show after their numerous visits to Common Ground and Michigan Festival before it.
Needless to say, there's a lot of finger pointing in multiple directions. Fans and consumers have to take a part of it by driving over an hour and paying these outlandish prices year after year. Locally, fans and consumers have taken for granted what has been brought to us for decades. Bands take advantage of that situation and milk us for all that they can. And don't fool yourself, promoters have some blame, too. With a handful of giants (AEG, LiveNation) and fewer regionals like Meridian calling the shots, competition is low, and prices are high as a result, just like in any other industry. These promoters make deals with venues and have distance clauses. Major venues exist in Metro Detroit and Grand Rapids, all within an 80 mile drive from Lansing. Then, throw into the mix smaller venues with lots of money, like casinos, that are booking these shows. You know damn well they aren't promoting and booking these shows by themselves. And, why would a promoter book, say, Def Leppard and Tesla or Boston for a music festival in Lansing when the bands will be at a casino near you...for all but guaranteed money from the venue?
Dollars, my friend. Dollars. Save a few more of them to put in your gas tank to catch your favorite acts again this year.