The Economy of Rock

The troubled economy may not be affecting concert ticket sales of top-draw bands, but what about acts on the local level? When I posted the question online as to how San Diego bands were weathering the economic downturn, I received a variety of responses with a common theme, summed up best by Jared from the band Off Track: “You don’t have to be rich to rock-n-roll, but money helps. [We’ve] gotten a lot of ‘can’t afford to go’ responses this past year…so we do what we can.”

From Luke Chandler of Reason to Rebel and Above Ground Records: “[I] am involved with a lot of bands in [North County], and I think that the economy has definitely had an effect on us.… When we have control over the cover charge at our shows, we make it as cheap as possible, even at our own expense, in order to get people to come out.”

Nick Razor, singer of GFI, attested to the financial hardship on fans and posted that though “the Warped Tour and Street Scene lowered their ticket prices this year, local venues refuse to. So, [local bands] are not getting paid anymore.”

While many in North County agree that the situation is unfortunate, there are bands that have seen a different effect on the music scene. Josh Arend of the Morning Riot posts, “I don’t think that the music scene has taken a hit at all. If anything, it’s spiked in a lot of areas where it was once maybe weak — it’s creating unity!”

Of a similar mindset are the Hillstreet Stranglers. Singer-bassist Dick Strangler and drummer Kendall met with me to discuss their observations on the economy and the band. “Being the only one in the band with a job,” says Strangler, “I can see the effect that the economy has had on the members of my band. It’s been hard to get our new release out because not everyone can pitch in, but I try to remain optimistic.”

Kendall, unemployed, described to me his daily conflict of having to weigh eating against “replacing the cord that broke last night or the cymbal that cracked.”

Strangler expressed a similar concern for fans of other NC bands: “We know that many people are having a tough time right now. That’s why we try to keep the shows we play cheap or free.” Contrary to some of the other bands’ experiences with the recession, Strangler says, “I’ve found that the fan base has gotten better. It seems that instead of big arena shows, most people have been attending small dive-bar shows. The glitter and glitz crap is gone, and I say good!”

Though the release date of the new Stranglers album is uncertain, Strangler stuck to his optimistic guns, reassuring me that “the Hillstreet Stranglers have been through a lot, but we always keep pushing ahead and so will America. I don’t see that changing.”

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