Where Did the Big Concerts Go? – Concerts in HRM Part 4

Rogers CentreSo, what is our goal?  Bring huge acts as tourism draws to Halifax and put us on the map?  Two thoughts:

First – let us reflect on the words of my friend, Ben Pearlman.  He is King’s College educated, former Halifax Pop Explosion Talent Director and now promoter working at Collective Concerts in Toronto, one of Canada’s largest independent concert promotion companies.

Ben was a fount of knowledge.  He said “there isn’t a really successful giant outdoor Toronto festival since the Edgefest days of the late 90’s.”  Collective’s Toronto Island event draws about 10,000, and there is the Downsview site that is rarely used.

“There are lots of shows at the Air Canada Centre that do really well.  The Molson amphitheatre is 16k and has probably 10-15 a summer that do 10-15,000, though lots are smaller and are put there as programming for the venue (concessions) not because its an appropriate size for those shows.”

Well what about big concerts, Ben, who plays Rogers Centre?  “It’s rarely used-Stones, U2, Coldplay and ACDC play Rogers Centre.    McCartney, Bieber, Roger Waters and Black Eyed Peas just did multiples at the ACC.   Kiss played the Amphitheater and Weezer just played a small config at the  Air Canada Centre, for good reason.”

So that leads to the second and final point of this series.  Air Canada Centre is only 19,800 for concerts.  The Amphitheatre is 16,000.

A quick look at any of these venues websites confirms, the concerts don’t happen at 50,000 capacity Rogers.

Toronto is Canada’s biggest concert market, with 5.5 million people in the GTA, and most of these artists play to 20,000 at most.  To be fair, some of this is due to scheduling at Rogers around the two sports teams, and some of the artists do multiples at ACC, selling out one show then offering another.  But the fact remains, in Canada’s biggest city, less than a handful of bands play to 50,000 people.

Concerts do cause people to get in their cars and drive, but fly?  Not so much.  Only east coast tourist operators base concert attendance and economics on the poorly documented attendance by fly in tourists.

Only someone with a terminal case of wishful thinking would believe that Halifax or Moncton, or Summerside, can draw more people to see any artist than you would expect to see go to the same show in Toronto.

In fact, it is reasonable to say they will draw less.  I know when I was concert promoting regularly we usually figured on drawing about half to a three quarters of Toronto, and only if the band had not played here in years and year, if at all.

This region can only reasonably expect to ever sell 20-30,000 tickets for most of the worlds largest acts, and on a sunny day mind you, unless we get one of the four or five very biggest acts that ever tour the earth.

Is it reasonable public policy to spend scarce dollars to these build venues, these concert fields, arena, stadiums (stadia?) for an audience that simply does not exist in the numbers required?

Of course not. Hey Halifax, please, can we leave this to Summerside?

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