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Saturday, May 18, 2024

To see or not to see your favorite bands

$0.005205 per play.  That’s what an artist makes every time his or her  songs are streamed on Spotify.  CD sales are incredibly sluggish, and if you are with a label, you’re making peanuts for every disc sold.  So how do musicians make their money these days?  Touring, touring and then, when the band is incredibly exhausted and on the verge of breaking up because they weren’t meant to spend four months together in a van significantly smaller than a dorm room, tour some more.

From an economic standpoint, it makes sense for a band to tour.  If they’re not going to make money selling CDs, it’s basically a necessity.  But as a fan, why should you see live music?  There are two prevailing reasons: You help the band and you get to hear the music as it was originally intended.

Ask anyone and they will be able to tell you what their first concert was.  For me, in 2005, at the ripe old age of 11, my parents took me to an Elton John concert.  Though I had been to plenty of events at Madison Square Garden, never before had I seen it like this.  Two weeks later, I saw Paul McCartney at the same place.  From there, I was hooked.

Once I got to high school, music had become the biggest part of me.  I started seriously playing guitar—playing multiple hours a day—and whenever I wasn’t in class I would either be listening to or playing music.

By the end of high school, it stopped being a question of “did you go to a concert this weekend,” but rather “who did you see this weekend?”

But why did I do it?  Wouldn’t I rather do anything else other than constantly see live music?

The short answer is no—and here is why.  Let’s start with your favorite bands.

The first time I saw Radiohead—in a 3,000-person club in New York City—was something of a religious experience.  Though they played a lot of new material I wasn’t entirely familiar with, there’s nothing better than being with friends and seeing your favorite band in a great venue.  This is what most people’s reasons are for going to a concert.

The next tier is seeing bands who you know and like that one song, but don’t know their material.  Go see them too.  There is usually a reason why you like that one song.  Maybe that single you hear off the radio isn’t their only good song.  The first time I saw The Black Keys, the band had just released “Brothers” and was becoming a four-piece outfit.  

Though I had heard their music, I wouldn’t have really called myself a big fan at the time.  Fourty five minutes later, I was all aboard.

There are two morals to this story.  The first is always see the opening band.  The Black Keys don’t really open for bands anymore, but a better example of this is when I saw the Silversun Pickups open for Snow Patrol in 2007.  While you may snicker about the fact that I paid to see Snow Patrol, as soon as the Silversun Pickups finished their 30-minute set I could have told you they would be one of the next big things, despite having only released one full-length album at the time.

The second moral of the story is that if you like one or two songs by a band, go see them live.  Not only will you be helping the band out financially, but live music also tends to bring out the best in a band.  Who knows, you may find that just because the radio doesn’t play a song doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be good.

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The third tier is that band you have heard about, but have never listened to.  Go see them too.  If you trust Pitchfork—or whoever your musical authority is—and they say “GO SEE THIS BAND” you should listen to them.  When LCD Soundsystem was playing their final show at the Madison Square Garden, I knew they were a big deal, but had never really listened to their music.  Now, a few years later, it may still be the best concert I have ever seen.

So the next time you are wondering what to do on a Friday night, check your local concert listings and go out to a show.  Not only is it a great use of your time, but also you are helping support an art form that so badly needs your support.

Absolutely hate going to shows? Jealous that he made it to the LCD Soundsystem show? Let Brian know at

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