In my 6/3/08 Wealthy Theatre blog I detailed an experience at a local arena, making the point that size does matter.
That same week, the honorable John Sinkevics wrote a GR Press blog in the same spirit, containing emails and letters from fans, critical of the arena concert experience.
Mr. Sinkevics has written on this topic several times. GR Press is often ahead of the curve. This may signal a renewed interest, by concert-goers, in the quality of the experience.
Currently, however, two things get in the way of such a revolution:
- Media attention is driven by attendance numbers.
- Attendance numbers are driven by media attention.
Van Andel Arena has 12,000 more seats than Wealthy Theatre, so they have a natural lock on the numbers. They have a huge marketing budget and exclusive deals with promoters. We’re confronted with the same circular reality:
- Arenas get major advance media coverage for events, which translates into thousands of people attending.
- Arenas get thousands of people attending, which translates into major advance media coverage for events.
And here’s an interesting statistic: media coverage of people’s dissatisfaction with their experiences at arenas got more attention than all June events at Wealthy Theatre. And it’s ironic because we’re the antidote to what they said poisoned their experience. Our size, and our focus on the artist, provide the remedy – important and original music, local, relevant and inexpensive. The quality of the experience.
This is not to single out Van Andel Arena. It’s important for Grand Rapids to have a mega mega, for the Saturday night KISS concert. Or the monster truck show on Sunday (Sunday Sunday).
But let’s get back to the “quality of the experience” thing. If numbers drive media attention, let’s look at some:
- Upper section tickets for $50? We’re a tenth of that and all our seats are on the floor, baby.
- Floor seats for $250? Please, that’d get you 20+ tickets at Wealthy Theatre.
- Beers for $8? Half that and our selection is better - Michigan breweries rock.
- Echo/tinny sound in the “nosebleed” sections? No nosebleeds. Best acoustics in GR.
- Different prices for different sections? What’s the point – every seat at Wealthy is perfect.
- People talking over the band? The venue is too intimate, the fans have too much respect.
Sometimes you read an editorial (like Mr. Sinkevics’ blog) and you feel gratitude – thankful the writer could nail it, and express your experience perfectly.
Certainly not the first time the GR Press has provided this kind of insight. At the end of 2006, Mr. Sinkevics wrote a “best of” column, naming our Alejandro Escovedo concert (at Wealthy Theatre) “Best Concert of 2006.” He summed it up in a sentence, famously, as ”the best rock concert nobody saw.”
Two years later (June 6, 2008) Wealthy Theatre featured “Four Finger Five” in their only headlining gig before the Rothbury Festival. I have more bias and less credibility than Mr. Sinkevics, but I’m telling you, this was the best concert of 2008, so far. It rocked. Whether at the foot of the stage, or at the back of the house, every seat was a million bucks.
Nevertheless, Four Finger Five played to a crowd a thousandth the size of Van Halen or Tom Petty. A small number even in a small venue like ours.
But in contrast to the complaints expressed by those who attended recent arena concerts, the Four Finger Five fans stayed after to clean the theatre. They stayed after. To clean the theatre.
It’s not the first time this has happened. Happens after almost every gospel event.
When I thanked a group picking up trash in the main house, one of them said, “We’re just so grateful you had this show tonight, it was so great.”
It’s about the experience.
[Originally published in "From The Director" section of the Wealthy Theatre website]