Updated: Feb 3
Needless to say, 2022 was a tumultuous year for live music. Recovering from years of social distancing and additional precautions that needed to be taken to maintain accessibility and safety at live events, it is truly incredible to be back to some form of normal.
This new normal is quite different from live music in the eras before covid; in this educated opinion piece, we will be discussing the highs and lows of events in 2022, and how it has impacted our midwestern music scene, from both backline and attendee perspectives.
First, I will illustrate and elaborate the lows, before ending on a high note.
The Collapse of the Live Entertainment Industry
Covid-19 tormented the live entertainment industry throughout a 2 year period which emptied the pockets of performers, agents, and the music industry alike.
One thing that stands out amongst the struggles of 2022, is the rising costs to both book and attend shows. In an effort to recoup losses and a lack of income, the music industry saw a massive hike in booking fees. This instance starts from large scale agencies pushing for a greater % of the total show budget which in turn throttles the remaining budget allowed for all other expenses (provided the promoter doesn't push the cost onto the attendee by increasing ticket prices).
From the perspective of an independent promoter, the best work around in this instance is finding agents and artists alike that share a passion for the music rather than the money. Artists teams who are willing to work with promoters who actively understand their markets rather than negating all options besides a guaranteed flat fee that they scored in high output markets (Miami, LA, Denver, etc.) are a prime element in creating a financially optimal booking for everyone involved. This isn't to say that all the blame is to be pointed at the artists alone. Corporate enterprises like Live Nation & AEG Presents along with a slew of other entities have created cutthroat holds on venues around the nation; implementing new fees that weren't factored in before. Ticketing fees, convenience fees, % of merchandise sales, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg that equally pressure promoters who then have to decide how they will pass along these costs to consumers.
Business as always comes down to the ethics of the person running the operation. Is it possible to put on events without punishing attendees' wallets? Entirely.
Increase in Music Events as a Whole
(Low & High Event 2022, @fifthlegend)
With the return of live music, many inspired music-lovers have shifted from attending shows, to curated events. With that, existing members of event bodies are undertaking new endeavors to keep the scene as lively as possible and in turn attracting a new populace.
Festivals have been taking off locally; here are some of our personal favorites.
Bass Ribbon Pines, formed by Identity Events Group in 2020, is an impeccable charcuterie of some of the hottest names in Bass music. Hosted on the infamous disc golfing course, Blue Ribbon Pines, this festival is redefining what live music looks like.
(Bass Ribbon Pines 2022, @stuttrup)
Infrasound Festival, by TC Presents, is a seasoned hub for lovers of impeccable bass music as a whole. With over a decade of festivals under their belt, Infrasound is the best place for new and experienced attendees to coexist, enjoying the latest in up-and-coming artists, and true icons in the realm of dubstep.
(Infrasound Reunion 2022, @joecreate)
Word. Sound. Power Festival is a new hit locally, allowing many to showcase cosmic appreciation for sound system culture. With 4 different sound rigs humming down the city streets, this block party has left a lasting imprint on Minneapolis, with massive potential to level up in the future.
Increase in Free Events
With the saving mentality, lack of time availability, and other factors forecasting low turnouts to events of all sorts, the best way to put music in the hands of the community is to throw more free events. Many promoters have been taking a page from this book, and have received a large outpouring of appreciation from given attendees. This sews the seeds that grow into a long lasting, supportive, sustainable community of people who are simply present to enjoy good music.
(Backyard Boombox Event 2022, @joecreate)
An ongoing show series worth mentioning here is Backyard Boombox, bringing the best in local music to your favorite breweries. Who doesn’t want to support their friends whilst in the presence of others doing the same?
These free events are being hosted not just involving locals, but are being thrown by headliners as well. Megan Hamilton is now a prolific name in the music scene, but has hosted a variety of community events at parks, on bikes, and more.
Another notable free event that occurred in 2022 was “Down at the Dam” north of the TC, featuring Benji Robot, Mythic Rogue, Deemzoo and your favorite local downtempo and ambient artists.
Increase in Show Safety
With this increase in events, attendees want to feel safe, heard, and appreciated. Long gone are the days of blacking out and waking up in a random hotel; security guards are trained to spot dangerous situations before they happen, and on-site staff are bolstering knowledge of crisis prevention and intervention.
An increase in nonprofits such as Dancesafe, Beyond Dope, and more is a trend that we are loving to see. In terms of community outreach, these nonprofits are changing what the bottom line for show safety and testing accessibility looks like. Perfect Harmony is a local project focused on harm reduction in the live event industry, and is a great source for info.
Safety isn’t just growing for attendees, but on the backline as well. Increased support for industry workers is becoming available following the rigorous challenges many have faced through and following COVID. One notable nonprofit is Backline Care, providing counseling resources and seminars.
(Video sourced from backline.care)
Increase in Immersive Events
Lastly, the gold star in event innovation goes to: curated, immersive events.
Earlier this month I attended the Deep, Dark, and Dangerous takeover at Meow Wolf in Denver, and was transported to a realm where time didn’t exist. I was surrounded by people that were enchanted by the same whimsy; all reveling in the fact that nobody knew what was going on, nothing had to make sense, but did, because these experiences are one-of-a-kind through and through. It was raw and real, yet entirely surreal.
Watch the full recap HERE
A collective vision that ties in all aspects of music, art, and culture is wholly necessary to support and experience this dynamic scene to the fullest extent, sans those typical show attendees who don’t care about the music. These curated events are for those who have a deeper, dedicated connection with music as a whole, attributing their style, personality, language to it. We are children, and this is our playground. These are the events where you meet lifelong friends, rather than just a bender buddy.
(Low & High Presents Event 2022, @fifthlegend)
Integrations bridging the gaps between senses have mustered up inspiring new ideas. Outdoor music festivals with a secondary focus on staying active through disc golf? Virtual reality at a live event allowing users to express themselves with several different forms of activities? Full A/V experiences in planetariums, omni theaters, museums? The crossroads of music, art and culture are noticeable in events pushing for new experiences that are accessible to all.
The music community has had a taste of this new mystery flavor, and we are hooked.
Thank you for reading!
What do you hope to see more of in 2023?
(Low & High Event 2022, @fifthlegend)
Backline Care https://backline.care/
Backyard Boombox https://www.mnboombox.com/
Bass Ribbon Pines https://blueribbonpines.com/bassribbonpines/
Beyond Dope https://www.bebeyonddope.org/
Deep, Dark, and Dangerous https://soundcloud.com/deepdarkdangerous
Infrasound Festival http://www.infrasoundfestival.com/
Meow Wolf https://meowwolf.com/