Live concerts in trouble 

Less interest in ticketed events is hurting promoters and clubs

Before Elliott BROOD rolled into town last month, ticket sales were looking mighty poor. Whistler residents are notorious for making last minute decisions so Reggie Tika, the promoter responsible for bringing the band - and so many others over the years - figured the fans would show up the night of.

And then the night came and, despite the promise of a high-energy, high-calibre show (which it was) only about 125 people showed up.

"It's a struggle to fill a 200-capacity venue with an internationally known artist? Something's wrong there," Tika says a month later.

But he's lost money on every other show he's brought to Whistler this year due to poor ticket sales. People just aren't coming out. Now he's had to step back from the promotions game to deal with the debt that he's accumulated from bringing these shows to town.

He's not alone. Despite the success of the free Whistler Presents concert series, which has attracted Tom Cochrane, Barenaked Ladies and Sam Roberts, there's been a considerable slump in interest for ticketed events.

"The unfortunate thing is if the support disappears then the shows disappear," says Mike Wilson, general manager of the GLC.

This summer has been particularly bad. Wilson thinks that the late summer and low visitor turnout in May and June may have contributed to the low turnout for live shows. If the visitors aren't coming, the locals have fewer funds to pay with, which means the live shows will suffer.

"We're definitely relying on the local live music fan to come out," he says. "If everything filters around people making money, if it's raining for June and July and the numbers aren't here, then people aren't making the money so they're not spending it."

He adds: "This promotions game is tough. It's frustrating that people don't support it because they don't understand the risks that are being taken. When it's good it's great but when it's bad it's really bad, like to the point where these guys (promoters) aren't taking the chance to bring more acts."

Wilson receives calls every week from unknown musical acts that want to play the GLC. Five years ago he could have taken a chance on these bands but now, turn out is so low for established bands, there's little chance for an up-and-comer.

He says he's noticed a weird situation in Whistler specifically where people will pay to see a $40-$50 show in Vancouver, plus all the associated costs for travel, yet $25 for a show in their home town in a more intimate setting. He says he's afraid to sell a ticket at higher than $20.

Greg Britnell owner of Moe Joe's, which hosts Whistler's hip hop shows, says he too has noticed a slump.

"There's definitely a lot less people in Whistler that want to spend that much money on a ticket. In my experience, the only way you can have a really successful touring act is if it's a really big name," he says.

The Wu-Tang shows almost always sell out. Swollen Members shows go over really well. But other acts such as J-Live that are big draws in other markets across North America are met with a lukewarm response in Whistler.

Britnell says this may be caused by the changing demographics of seasonal residents. The Australians, Europeans and Brits that make up a large share of the seasonal residents prefer electronic music. This is obvious on Tuesday nights, when the line outside of Maxx Fish extends nearly around the building, for its dubstep nights with Mat the Alien.

"All those same people are into hip hop or to rock but it has to be someone big, like a name that they've heard in the mainstream back in their markets," Britnell says.

Wilson says that if people paid $40 per ticket, they could pull in higher profile bands than are currently coming through town but the cycle has already been set - people don't want to pay more than $20, if anything at all, and that directly affects the bands that are coming through town.

Tika has experienced this problem first hand and it's a relatively new experience.

He says, "I don't want to point fingers and blame anybody. Maybe it's just the economy and people can't afford it? But I'm seeing people dropping $50 to see a top name DJ spin CDs vs. a six-piece live band who travels millions of miles to not be supported."

In the meantime, there may be a noticeable void in Whistler's live concert scene with Tika out of the picture. He was responsible for bringing some of the highest quality acts through town, from OKA to Easy Star All-Stars.

"To see it disappear is such a heartbreaker because you work so hard to maintain it," he says.



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