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The concert industry forms a specific part of the live events and leisure sector, enabling consumers to purchase tickets to see the bands and individual artists who they admire and whose music they enjoy – no matter what the style or genre of music, the status of the performer, or the venue at which the concert is to be held.
Over time, and since their conception among communities and gatherings, concerts have evolved into grand affairs, alongside the growth of dedicated venues which are uniquely designed to house large audiences and elevate the projection of music around the complete space. One of the best examples of this is the building of the Royal Opera House in London, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the Royal Albert Hall – are specifically designed and built to provide optimal acoustics alongside the architectural grandeur expected from such prominent buildings. However, not all concerts have to be held in such large and expansive venues.
A concert is essentially defined as anything which includes the playing of live music to an audience, whether it be a small community performance at an independent venue, a spontaneous outdoor performance, or an organised occasion held at one of the world’s greatest concert venues. As such, a concert doesn’t have to be something that consumers and audience members pay to enjoy, however from an industrial point of view it is important that consumers and performers are aware of the importance of continuing to view concerts and live performances as a high brow leisure activity which requires support in order to survive. Many of the major concert halls are maintained and operated by not-for-profit organisations, relying on donations and a percentage of all tickets sold in order to continue to provide a high quality of experience to consumers.
For those seeking deals and discounts, and looking for ways of enjoying the high brow nature of concerts at the best possible rate, seasonal and off-peak performances tend to be offered at the best prices – with the classic midweek matinee performance often being available at cheaper prices. Another way that the concert industry attracts and draws in consumers with different budgets is through the sale of varying packages depending on the location of the seat and any extra features which can be added to the experience – for example a programme, interval drinks and even backstage passes. All of these things serve to boost the income of any given performance and can thus help to support the venue as well as the performer.
The earliest examples of formal concerts in London date back to the 1670’s when a former violinist for the Court of King Charles II set up his own concert hall in his home and invited friends to come and hear him play. A few years later, in 1678, a group of musicians keen to showcase their playing set up and opened a concert room in the city; sparking a wave of taverns and public houses which proceeded to offer varying concert experiences and performances to paying customers.
What these earliest concert examples did was rely on the provision of a space and the talent of the musicians. There was no focus on the acoustics of the venue like we see today, and there was no technology or extra features that enhanced the performance and created more of an experience. All that was offered was a space to play and an audience.
In the mid 1700’s, pleasure gardens and outdoor concert spaces began to rise in popularity, primarily because performers did not have to pay any kind of fee or promise any payment to the venue – they simply had to show up and perform, and use the opportunity to establish some form of reputation for themselves. Audiences across these outdoor spaces could socialise and enjoy food and drink while enjoying the music, creating leisure and entertainment opportunities out of the growth of concerts.
And then in 1800 this all changed, with a focus on specialist venues and concert hall experiences beginning to outweigh and push the pleasure garden concert experience out. This coincided with the rise in concert performers who consumers will still recognise today, including Mozart and Joseph Haydn, among others.
One of the most interesting things to note about the impact that venues have on concert performances is the way that the same venue can be used to host a rock concert, a musical concert, an operatic concert and a country music concert – all bringing different styles of performance into the space and using its acoustics to enhance their unique levels of performance.
It was around the dawn of the 19th century that concert halls began to rise in prominence and become more important to the rise in the concert industry, with architects creating and building various performance spaces which housed hundreds of audience members and which created acoustic spaces which enhanced the sound of the music. These overtook the use of outdoor spaces which, prior to the rise in concert halls, had enabled more consumers to join together to form an audience for a performance – often without payment. Thus, the rise in concert halls not only introduced a more suitable performance space to capture and present sound and music, but it also created more of a structure to the concert industry which enabled performers and venues alike to charge an entry fee and monitor the popularity of certain performances. Finally, the concert space was becoming more of an industry.
Today, these spaces are further enhanced through the speaker systems and microphones which are placed at intervals across the performance hall and which are designed to ensure that every consumer – no matter where they are sat – can enjoy the same level of sound. In the earliest days of concert halls however, this level of sound was far more reliant on the way that a building was constructed and built rather than the way in which technology was used to enhance the sound of a space, with reverberation and reflection used to calculate how positioning could impact the way that sound was heard from various points within a concert venue.
It has since been proved that the way that sound is felt can hugely impact the emotional response and experience of an audience, with consumers showcasing different emotive reactions and feelings as a result of not only the music that they listen to but the way that they listen to it. Likewise, performers themselves can alter the way a song is felt by the audience through performance and the way that they adjust the backing, tone and even the speed of any given song. What this shows is how the live concert industry provides an insight into a piece of music far beyond that which can be experienced by listening to a recorded track or even through listening to a live performance on the radio – with the main crux of concerts resting on the way that they are performed and the way that those performances fill the dedicated space.
In today’s market, consumers who frequent live concerts will be aware that the industry is no longer a straightforward direct transaction between performers and audience members. Rather, the development of the concert industry has meant that, in order to streamline the experience and ensure that consumers receive a high level of service from browsing to booking, receiving their tickets and enjoying the actual performance, various companies have become established as third party booking sites and ticket hosting sites. What these companies do is advertise the performances which are available on certain dates and at certain venues, allowing consumers to search for different concerts via the performer, the concert types and music genre, the venue, the date, and even the time and tickets available.
Some of the big names across all of these touchpoints in the concert industry include:
The majority of these names refer to concert promoters who are the companies responsible for ensuring that performances are consistently filled with captive audiences and consumers. These companies and brand names may not necessarily be the ticket provider or even the performance service provider, but what they do is streamline the experience for the consumer and present concert performers with reliable behind-the-scenes names which ensure that consumers feel confident buying tickets for and attending their live events.
Some of the top concerts which have developed and been enjoyed over the years on a global scale, either as ongoing franchises or standalone performances include:
All of these benefitted from huge marketing campaigns, the backing of various celebrity names and top level performers, huge venues and global screening opportunities, and often large occasions and events which propped them up and propelled them to global prominence.
One of the major trends in the concert industry which we cannot ignore is the way in which certain concerts during history have altered the way that society views specific issues and topics – for example Live Aid, which was the first of its kind and which brought together performances from all kinds of musical performers and stars in order to create a huge concert fundraiser. This concert is one of the prominent turning points in the history of live music, which saw live music being used for the greater good, and which succeeded in creating an ongoing fundraising initiative which serves to bring the world together and raise as much funding as possible for those in need across third world countries.
Another trend to acknowledge in the concerts industry is of course the rise in technology and how various technological developments have served to enhance not only the experience of those in attendance at the live concert itself, but how it has also created a way for wider audiences and demographics to enjoy concerts even if they cannot attend them. As with any live performance, one of the limiting factors is the way that a live concert or any other performance occurs in one place and so it is limiting in terms of its reach to those who are able to get to that venue and get tickets for that performance – however what technology has done is open up the opportunity for concerts to be filmed and recorded, thus expanding their reach to a wider audience.
Despite all of these developments which have supported the growth of the concert industry, there have been drawbacks over the course of the industry’s history – not least the 2020 global Coronavirus pandemic which all but stopped concerts and other live performances in their tracks and led to a huge shift in the way that performers could reach their target audiences. One of the ways in which technology in particular has supported this specific example is in the rise of social media as a performance platform, with recent developments meaning that individuals can live stream from their camera to the screens of any who follow them. As the concert industry continues to find new ways of adjusting and adapting to the various challenges and obstacles which are put in its way, the consumer demand for live performances all over the world has led to a vast development and expansion of the festival industry across both popular music and classical music styles; with popular performers now going on global tours and plating at various festivals in order to widen their potential target audience, play in front of consumers who might otherwise not have purchased a ticket to see them individually, and even experience and get their name out there in new cultures and countries.
The concert industry as a whole is one which leans on live performance and the creation of an experience suitable for consumers – whether it be a broad audience demographic, or a very specific and targeted audience. The most successful concerts will always be those which know and understand their audience, and deliver a performance tailored to and suitable for that audience.
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