Anyone following the career of Canadian alternative rock icons Sloan may have noticed an ebb and flow in their popularity over the years. On one tour they’ll be playing arenas (say, back in the mid-1990s), while next time they’re showing up in small dingy bars. A few years later and they’re appearing in respectable theatres.
I recently discovered that one of my favourite (now guilty pleasure) bands from the ’90s, Counting Crows, is presently playing casinos, which, as far as I can tell, is about the bottom of the barrel for an established musical group. After all, a concert venue says a lot about a band and its current level of revelance. Some bands, such as the Rolling Stones, reach stadium level and stay there because they both maintain their fan base by releasing new albums and attract new fans by the quality of their earlier work. Others, such as the aforementioned Sloan, go up and down the spectrum, while some drop off completely. It’s exciting to see great contemporary groups such as Arcade Fire increase their audience without selling out, changing their ethos, or pandering to the masses.
Meanwhile, I watch in horror as all my favourite bands from the ’90s slide further down the following list that ranks a band’s level of popularity based on concert venue:
1. Stadiums: Very few acts ever reach this level, and fewer still can maintain an audience of 30,000 to 60,000 for decades on end. Examples: Paul McCartney, U2, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen.
2. Arenas: A wide range of artists have large enough audiences to fill NHL-sized arenas. From nostalgia ’80s hair bands to current country artists, the arena seems to be the pinnacle of success for select bands. Examples: Arcade Fire, Motley Crue, Lady Gaga, Keith Urban.
3. Established Music Festivals: Headlining a festival such as Coachella or Roskilde indicates considerable popularity, at least among the hipster/hippie/drunkard crowd. However, since there may be other notable performers on the bill, a band cannot assume the audience is theirs alone. Examples: Bjork, Radiohead, Kanye West, the Flaming Lips, Willie Nelson. Continue Reading →