Because of increased viewership for the Grammy Awards last year, a 30-second ad can now run for $800,000. While extravagant live events bring on interesting advertising along with a celebrity or two, I did not watch the Grammy’s. However, I know that I will hear of all the highlights by noon today. And that you can still find gems like this shot of Cee Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow.
While the music industry is on an upswing in terms of earning dollars from viewership and awards shows become an even bigger display of pageantry, there seems to be a bigger disconnect between music artists and fans. This can be remedied through a live show in an intimate venue. However, while one facet of the music industry gains strength, a smaller and less mainstream music culture suffers another loss through the closing of yet another New York music venue, Southpaw.
On Friday night I went to Southpaw in Park Slope, an infamous music venue that will be shutting down at the end of this month. In its ten years of existence, acts like Cat Power, Dave Chappelle, Big Daddy Kane, Built to Spill, Joan Jett, Slick Rick, Sufjan Stevens, TV On The Radio and Devendra Banhardt graced the upstairs stage. The venue owners Matthew Roff and Michael Palms want to focus on their other bars like Public Assembly in Williamsburg and No Name Bar in Greenpoint, so they are shutting it down and making room for strollers – NY Kids Club will be taking over the location.
When I was there on Friday, I found myself in the basement for a free dance party with a bar where the only offerings for beer were PBR and Tecate in cans. The crowd was an indistinguishable mix between Park Slope residents claiming the last few years of their youth and hipsters hoping to find a place not taken over by the bridge and tunnel crowd. While the DJ seemed to know my secret (shamefully) favorite songs like Madonna’s “Hung Up” and Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet,” the place was far past its heyday and it was the right decision for Roff and Palms to shut it down.
While legendary venues are filled with history, the stories of epic live performances are better able to live on than before. The building itself can’t endure for all time. However, the passing down of information and stories about what had happened during the heyday of X venue will. This is thanks to great storytellers and every member of Gen Y and their need to capture and share everything they experience, including those epic live performances. I’ve had a few “legendary” venues from my youth shut down in the last few years. It’s a personal loss because a memento of the past no longer exists. However, looking back, they were all dingy places that sold overpriced beer, and it makes more sense to make room for the strollers.
In terms of mainstream music and spectacles like the Grammys, it seems like the industry has found itself in a place where real performers with true talent are able to have the spotlight. (Hear me out), I think social media has helped music fans discover quality over mass quantity and can easily share their own criticism. The music industry is still an industry that helps people make a living, but at least now it relies more on who is actually doing the listening.