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The End Of Warped Tour And The Future Of The Concert Industry

So Warped tour is ending and this is a larger symptom of a huge problem the industry is going to be facing in the next few years. In the interview where he dropped the bomb, Warped tour founder said, “We were doing fine, but we had a pretty big dip last year. It was that younger end of the demo… So that [younger] demo changed… that casual fan that’s learning how to go to a music festival — they were not there last summer…” and went on to say “ the 14 to 17-year-olds disappeared… our average age jumped almost three years last year, up to 19… “Where are the kids?” This is a pretty serious issue that we are facing as an industry and one that is going to haunt us for a long time to come, because it’s an issue that has really only come into the national consciousness in the last few months with stellar articles from The Atlantic and Vice coming in to help us see that… as Drew Schwartz put it, “Today’s teens are lame as hell.”

Now it might be easy to say that I just have blinders on and that kids these days just like different music from me and I’m not clued into what makes sense. And that’s certainly fair enough, I don’t really care about very accessible music this is fair. But Kevin Lyman discusses this in the interview, saying “some people go, “Well, kids are into hip-hop right now.” And I go, “Well, the younger end of that is not going to shows.” But if we don’t get kids out of their rooms and going to shows, they’ll turn into 18-to-21-year-olds soon… If you don’t have the DNA of going to concerts by then, it just doesn’t become a part of your lifestyle.” And that’s what I’m truly terrified of. It’s the fact that maybe there just isn’t another generation of fan out there looking to actually do stuff in the scene. Maybe we are all just horribly fucked and there is no actual hope for development because all the people who might have wanted to get involved in live music are now just dicking around their phones. And since we all make our money off of live music… if there is no new blood… well shit.

To be honest with you this is a fear I’ve had for a little while now. I’m a younger guy, hell I only turned 21 this year, even though I’ve been going to Vitus for years. When I moved to New York City I assumed that there would be tons of other kids like me who were passionate about the music and would be trying to sneak into what is widely regarded as the best heavy metal club in the world. In the two years I’ve lived here I have met precisely two people who are within a year of me age-wise who regularly attend Vitus, and they, like me presumably, stick out. There aren’t a lot of folks representing young blood. I’ve talked about this with venue owners I know around the world and they all see it too. They all were sneaking into clubs when they were kids, but they just don’t see the new generation trying to do it as much. Sure some people will always be drawn to it, but are we doomed to a sad new world where people simply aren’t interested in live music anymore because they’d rather be buried in their phones?

Now I’m personally of the opinion that thing sare going to work out inasmuch as we’re a few years away from some sort of global consensus that people need to get out and do things and that getting lost in the world of phone doesn’t matter if you’re not out actively creating content. I think this is something that a lot of people forget, we’re either going to become a society that just watches a minority of people do cool shit from the comfort of our homes or we are going to sit down and figure out how to reach out such that we can all experience cool things. That’s sort of the fuck of it, is that somewhere in the last five years we decided we’d rather put the safety of our kids over the power of experiences and that’s kind of a hell of a thing .Its hard to argue against keeping kids safe but simultaneously there comes a time when we need to sit down, think about it and realize that there is a tradeoff when it comes to losing out on what makes us human and able to interact with others in the first place.

Of course – I’m probably just being overly optimistic and things are just going to get worse. At which point we need to realize that the live music industry only has another decade of actually being profitable and then it could face the same sort of decline that the recording industry felt. What might be a more realistic perception of events though is that simply humans are increasingly babied and take longer and longer to mature, an effect we have seen happening for years now. This could hypothetically simply mean that while yes the youngest fans aren’t going to shows yet that’s just because they haven’t matured into it. They will be there sooner or later it’s just going to take them a little bit longer to find themselves and realize that it’s only real experiences that matter, no matter how much fun it might be to stay lost in your cellphone.

At the end of the day – this is a really hard thing to deal with. It’s facing a reality that none of us want to think about – humans have always made music but as that moves to an increasingly electronic medium to what extent is there going to really be space for real musicians to do their thing and to what extent are we just going to be fucked to shit unable to find any meaningful path forward because this entire industry is incredibly awful all of the time? I don’t know how to deal with these issues because they are simply so massive. They are the same issues that haunted industry execs before piracy happened. This is the world we live in and if things weren’t getting worse than we’d have to pinch ourselves.

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