Live Music Just Ain’t What It Used to Be

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I subscribe to The Lefsetz Letter, a regular email column written by former entertainment attorney, Bob Lefsetz. Lefsetz is blunt and often brutal in his assessment of bands, the industry and all things relating to music.

His latest email really got me to thinking. This last week, I did a gig at Walter’s On Washington opening up for Will Hoge, a talented, young rootsy pop singer from Nashville. He’s been receiving favorable comparisons to artists like John Mayer and Gavin DeGraw.

Nice group of guys, good road crew and a good band. The show was sparsely populated, but none of the local media really did anything for the show. A couple of the calendars didn’t even mention it despite solid work by the show’s promoter. In a venue that holds about 100 people, there were probably 50 or 60 on a Wednesday.

I’m fond of picking on the music scene in Houston and its regularly dismal turnouts, but I was shocked to read the numbers in Lefsetz’ latest email. He pulled tickets sold, venue capacity and gross sales for a number of recent performances including Hoge in Toronto and a couple of shows at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavillion in Houston. Check this out:

Will Hoge & Joe Grass

Venue: Green Room – Montreal – Monday 6/26
Gross: $135
Sold/Capacity: 19/100

Wow! We had around 60 or so in a 100-person venue. How do they afford their giant bus?

David Ford

Venue: El Mocambo – Toronto – Thursday 6/22
Gross: $234
Sold/Capacity: 32/300

Unreal for a signed, albeit minor, artist.

Bob Schneider

Venue: Schuba’s – Chicago – Monday 7/10
Gross for two shows: $5,840
Sold/Capacity: 292/370

Popular indie rocker still doing well at the small venues.

Robin Trower

Venue: Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia – Saturday 6/24
Gross: $20,709
Sold/Capacity: 734/850

Guitar rock still draws them in. Bands from the 70’s can still bring people out to shows. Bands from the 2000’s…not so much.

Los Lonely Boys & Jonah Smith

Venue: Theatre Of The Living Arts – Philadelphia – Sunday 6/25
Gross: $17,995
Sold/Capacity: 642/1,000

Just over half for a band with a hit record…ok, well, their LAST record was a hit.

Macy Gray

Venue: 9:30 Club – Washington, D.C. – Tuesday 6/20
Gross: $16,240
Sold/Capacity: 406/1,200

Macy Gray played big venues a few years back. She performed on the Today Show, Letterman, Leno and even had a guest shot in the first Spider Man movie. What the hell happened?

Les Claypool & Rasputina

Venue: The Vic – Chicago – Wednesday 6/14
Gross: $31,152
Sold/Capacity: 1,298/1,400

A good example of how musicians still turnout to see innovative musicians. Claypool is the enigmatic bassist who used to be in the prog-funk band Primus. I saw Steve Vai a year-and-a-half ago and Verizon was sold out – similar numbers. The shredders can still bring them in.

Joe Jackson & Raul Midon

Venue: Avalon – Hollywood – Friday 6/23
Gross: $32,627
Sold/Capacity: 954/1,403

Probably about right for Jackson at this point in his career.

Daryl Hall & John Oates

Venue: Villa Montalvo – Saratoga, CA – Monday 5/19
Gross: $111,005
Sold/Capacity: 1,719/1,750

These guys always sell out venues. The Baby Boomers love to see live concerts.

Bo Bice

Venue: Mead Theatre – Dayton, OH – Friday 7/07
Gross: $16,365
Sold/Capacity: 652/2,319

Former American Idol reject who everyone thought would be the next John Bon Jovi. Ooops.

Ashlee Simpson & Ashley Parker Angel

Venue: Mud Island Amphitheatre – Memphis – Friday 6/23
Gross: $47,137
Sold/Capacity: 1,257/4,000

Thank God for small miracles.

Rob Thomas, Jewel & Toby Lightman

Venue: Northrop Memorial Auditorium, Minneapolis
Gross: $161,526
Sold/Capacity: 3,027/4,522

Two of pop’s biggest artists in the late 90’s, they can barely bring in 3,000 people for a show. Incredible.

Vince Neil/Ratt

Venue: St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa – Friday 6/30
Gross: $57,372
Sold/Capacity: 1,495/4,690

Not the original line-ups for either. That probably had an impact. Retro shows usually do pretty well. Hell, Foghat still tours.

Paul Simon

Venue: Plain Dealer Pavilion – Cleveland – Thursday 6/29
Gross: $145,165
Sold/Capacity: 2,531/4,719

I’m going to see him at Cynthia Woods on Saturday. My guess is the turnout there will be better.

Gretchen Wilson, Rivers Rutherford & Blaine Larson

Venue: Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD – Sunday 6/18
Gross: $96,480
Sold/Capacity: 2,218/10,000

Bad country music. Who the hell were they kidding renting out a 10,000-seat venue???

Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Augustana

Venue: Sleep Train Pavilion – Concord, CA – Sunday 6/25
Gross: $260,967
Sold/Capacity: 5,792/12,500

Two big adult alternative bands going nowhwere.

Bruce Springsteen with the Seeger Sessions Band

Venue: DTE Energy Music Center, Clarkston, MI – Saturday 6/17
Gross: $582,374
Sold/Capacity: 8,035/15,274

Pretty surprising really. Barely a half sellout for the Boss.

Chicago, Huey Lewis & The News

Venue: Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – The Woodlands, TX – Sunday 6/25
Gross: $214,169
Sold/Capacity: 7,878/15,897

Ah, in Houston, we know better than to give this lineup more than half a venue. Who knew the Pavillion held 15K?

Sammy Hagar & The Wabos, Michael Anthony

Venue: Starwood Amphitheatre – Antioch, TN – Saturday 6/24
Gross: $81,221
Sold/Capacity: 4,579/17,401

They got what they deserved. Did they honestly believe they’d get close to 17,000 people???

Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus & Peaches

Venue: Tweeter Center – Mansfield, MA – Friday 5/23
Gross: $314,881
Sold/Capacity: 8,622/19,900

Wow! Quite a downfall for the king of industrial music.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Trey Anastasio

Venue: Germain Amphitheatre – Columbus, OH – Wednesday 6/14
Gross: $622,842
Sold/Capacity: 17,889/20,000

The old guys continue to rule the roost. This had nothing to do with Anastasio.

Really sobering numbers if you are a music fan. Shows just don’t sell like they used to.

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