When the Kid Rock concert was first announced for the Halifax Commons, I actually had typed up a draft of a “Things that make me shake my head” post about it. The reason being that four or five years ago, Kid Rock was booked to play the Metro Centre (a venue of about 10 000) and that show ended up being cancelled due to “scheduling difficulties” (re: poor ticket sales). Over the last five years, it’s near impossible to say that somehow Kid Rock has become a more popular or more relevant artist (we’re now 12 years away from the days of Bawitdaba) and yet in mind-boggingly stroke of wisdom, it was felt he (along with Counting Crows and Tonic) would be able to draw 40 thousand or so on the Halifax Commons.
Needless to say, the concert was cancelled last week, again due to scheduling difficulties (although rumours persist that Harold McKay of Power Promotional Events personally called everyone who bought tickets to the show to inform them of the cancellation and that gracious act nearly took up most of his morning). The Black Eyed Peas/Weezer show scheduled for the next day is still a go.
But this again stirs a question that’s been jumping around in my head for a while now. The way the bookings of these large scale shows and other events are being handled. The attitude is that we, the citizens of Halifax, should be thanking our lucky stars that artists of this caliber would even be willing to grace us with their presence and thus we should be more than willing to pay out of the nose to experience them. Moreso, even if we don’t like the artists in question, we should support the effort, or failing that, hold our tongues, for fear that no one will ever look our way again.
We’re told that it’s our fault that these shows fail, not the fault of the promoter for booking shows that don’t interest the intended audience. And then it is our fault if more enticing acts don’t come here because we’ve never supported the overpriced crap that was forced down our throats previously. Like petulant children, we’re getting what we “deserve”, in this case, Kid Rock instead of Iron Maiden or Bruce Springsteen.
It’s an opinion that has been forced upon us since the Celine Dion fiasco three years ago and it extends farther than just music.
A lot of the events we see here in Halifax are overpriced and watered down. We get NHL exhibition games for 70 bucks a pop or more, see half the roster that might actually play meaningful hockey during the regular season and fill the place. Meanwhile, to see a legit game in an NHL market (even in a Canadian city like Calgary) is often 15 bucks cheaper or more. And then we get teased with the idea of Halifax one day being a place for NHL expansion because we’re stupid enough to blow our loads (and our wallets) once a year to see the players we watch on television play with guaranteed roster-spot in hand and half-assed effort among a bunch of rookies and has-beens.
The same goes for other sporting events. In June, there was supposed to be an MMA event held at the Metro Centre with a few former UFC fighters. The cost was high, the ticket sales were low and so the event was cancelled.
It comes off as feeling like we’re being gouged. And thankfully, it appears that we’re starting to realise it and get smarter with our money. I don’t want to see an end to NHL exhibition games at the Metro Centre, nor do I want an end to large concerts in the city, but some common sense and care needs to be taken.
Going back to Kid Rock again, this should (rightfully) open up the debate on the use of the Halifax Commons as a concert space. But it won’t.
An act like Kid Rock and the Counting Crows had, at best, a reasonably slim chance at drawing a crowd around 20 to 25 thousand people. That’s probably counting free tickets, comped tickets and the two-for-one packages and such with the Black Eyed Peas show. And judging from the final report on the Paul McCartney concert last year, that number of freebies and comp tickets is astronomical (thus rising ticket prices for later events and also forcing tax payers to cover the cost of the concert regardless of whether they attended or not). I think the final number for Paul McCartney was that every HRM tax payer had $33 of their dollars go to Sir Paul and his show.
Now those numbers should not merit a Commons berth. Prior to the Rolling Stones show five years ago, the outdoor concert venue in Halifax was the Garrison Grounds, a natural amphitheatre near the Commons that can hold 25-30 thousand people. It has hosted many events and continues to do so (including the ill-fated Virgin Fest last year and The Queen’s arrival this year). But it has fallen out of favour with HRM/Events Halifax/Power Promotional.
Some say it’s the problem with dealing with Parks Canada and the desire for HRM to see events that they sponsor held on their own property (thus using their own workers and so on). But part of it has to come back to the idea of gouging the ticket buyers.
For these events, there’s varying levels of VIP tickets as one would expect. For a higher price, you get seats, closer to the stage, food, etc. But in order to make that inordinate expense somewhat justified, you need to make it appear to have value. The natural amphitheatre of the Garrison Grounds prevents this a bit, because for things like concerts, everyone has a pretty good seat (aka, spot on the grass). It makes it excellent for the concert goer, but not for the ticket seller. It’s better to force people onto flat ground, with bleachers, so that those who buy the bare bones package are stuck looking at the back of the head of the guy in front of them and those who really want to see the show shell out even more money to sit in the bleachers (which of course would be redundant (and thus not an option to offer to the VIP ticket holders) in an natural amphitheatre setup like the Garrison Grounds).
And all that is asked of us, the residents of Halifax, is to bend over, hum a tune and take it.