Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Fillmore vs. 9:30 Club - A Comparison

I'm bummed I missed the Fillmore's open house on Monday, but having an infant at home makes attending such weekday evening events somewhat more challenging than it used to be. Fortunately, there has been plenty of coverage of the new venue by publications like the Post and Washingtonian.

Photo via Washingtonian's Fillmore Slideshow
It would appear that in addition to the aforementioned community open house, there was also some sort of much-more-interesting VIP launch event the following night hosted by Silver Spring native and future Fillmore performer Lewis Black. (Incidentally, I believe his show is the only scheduled performance at the Fillmore that has sold out thus far.) I hadn't heard about this event beforehand, but I just came across the invitation by googling it. Had I discovered this earlier, I would have just gone ahead and RSVP'd even without having received an invite. Oh well.

(An aside: in retrospect I was a total whore for Live Nation when they used me to drum up community support for their proposal, yet now that they are up and running I don't hear a peep from them. No invites to events, comp tickets, nothing.)

During the event, Black had this to say about Silver Spring:
"I was born and raised around here. This, where we are — this whole area was a shithole. You have to realize that 40 years ago there was nothing out there. So to return here now, and to see what they've done with this area, fucked me all. I don't think the children should have any of the advantages that I was deprived of."
I fully agree with the last statement. Kids should have to take the bus to Wheaton to see movies. Uphill both ways.

Anyway, on the eve of the Fillmore's first show and in light of all the constant back and forth in the comments on this blog and elsewhere about the relative merits of the Fillmore vs. a hypothetical IMP-run venue in Silver Spring, I decided it might be worthwhile to compile some actual data to compare the Fillmore with IMP's existing venue, the 9:30 Club.

My methodology, far from scientific, was to create a simple comparision of the respective venues' acts by analyzing the following:

- All remaining acts scheduled for September and October at each venue
- Each performer's primary musical genre (from Wikipedia)
- Performer's active date - what year they started (Wikipedia)
- For performances where multiple acts were billed equally ("Act 1 and Act 2"), I factored in each performer's active date separately, while maintaining a single entry under ticket price
- Did not consider opening acts. ("with")
- Factored in only lowest face value ticket price for each show, disregarding any additional fees.*

So without further ado, here are a few facts and figures for acts booked at the two music venues:

Average Ticket Price

Fillmore Silver Spring: $35.38
9:30 Club: $24.35

Median Ticket Price

Fillmore Silver Spring: $30.00
9:30 Club: $20.00

Clearly, tickets at the Fillmore are pricier on the whole, a fact which has already been noted ad infinitum. Of course, it could be that The Fillmore books more established acts who can command a higher appearance fee and must pass that down through the ticket prices, though I don't have any hard data to determine that either way. The Fillmore also has a greater capacity than does the 9:30, so a band's performing at the former could be an indication of greater demand.

Max Ticket Price

Fillmore Silver Spring: $89.50 (Mary J. Blige)
9:30 Club: $55.00 (Smashing Pumpkins**)

Mary J. Blige might be the biggest act performing at either venue during this period, so unsurprisingly her performance commands the highest price. As I believe hers is a special appearance scheduled expressly for the grand opening of the new venue, this high ticket price will likely remain an outlier.

Average Artist Active Date

Fillmore Silver Spring: 1990
9:30 Club: 1997

Median Artist Active Date

Fillmore Silver Spring: 1995
9:30 Club: 1999
I wanted to come up with some sort of metric, however imperfect, to address the complaint that the Fillmore caters to The Olds with a lineup of "nostalgia acts". Their slate of New Wave and classic rockers does lend some credence to those charges, but to be fair the 9:30 club does have Cindi Lauper and Loretta Lynn on the slate for October (not that there's anything wrong with that). It may not be the best metric to measure relevance, but I averaged the "active date" (the date they started performing) for all scheduled acts in order to have some comparison of the recency of the venues' respective performers. Obviously, this doesn't fully represent a performer's relevancy, but its the best I could do in a short timeframe.

With an average active date seven years later than that of the Fillmore, the 9:30 club does book a lot more recent acts, many of whom have only been around for a few years. While some of these lesser-known - and perhaps cheaper to book - acts may someday blossom into superstardom, many more will ultimately fade into obscurity. They'd probably be delighted if in 25 years people still want to pay to see them. Meanwhile, it would appear the Fillmore goes the safe route in booking the more established acts.

The following charts illustrate the mix of genres of performers on the schedule through the end of October. Clearly, the 9:30 club skews more toward the indie and alternative acts, and has a fair number of bands whose music falls under the "folk" umbrella. The Fillmore, meanwhile, has a greater percentage of conventional rock and "New Wave" bands as well as a number of Hip Hop and R&B acts. Of course, this is based on less than two months of shows, so take from it what you will.

One thing I would have liked to have factored in is some measure of a performer's popularity (album sales, etc.) that might justify a higher ticket price. A band might have indie cred, but there may be a reason they can only command $20 per ticket. It's not that they are simply trying to keep ticket prices low out of the goodness of their hearts. I'd also like to have included information on Birchmere acts as a comparison. But really, I don't care quite that much.

What it really comes down to is that if you think an IMP-run club would have been superior to what we got with the Fillmore or vice versa, you do so based on your own personal musical tastes. I do think we can all (ok, not all) agree that The Fillmore certainly beats out a long-abandoned department store.

* Of course, Live Nation/Ticketbastard is notorious for fees.

** Meaning Billy Corgan and some other people you haven't heard of. What's the difference between this band and Zwan? I guess it's that play old Smashing Pumpkins songs. Speaking of Smashing Pumpkins, I think they gave me permanent hearing damage in 1998 so I should really consider suing them.


Pershing Drive said...

Very have a lot more time on your hands than I do. And it looks very professional and all scientific like.

"Ticketbastard". Heh heh heh.

My daughter babysits and is walking distance to your house. Go on a date with your wife.

Anonymous said...

Tuesday's VIP party was awesome. Best part was the Little Tavern sliders that were served...and the open bar.

Stuart said...

> Speaking of Smashing Pumpkins, I think they gave me permanent hearing damage in 1998 so I should really consider suing them.

I also blame Smashing Pumpkins for hearing damage! At the new 9:30, but I don't remember the year. There was a big snowfall that night. They did an "acoustic" set that was loud, then an even louder set after that.

~Rupe said...

Fantastic overview - very well done!

Terry in Silver Spring said...

From your pie chart, it looks like the Fillmore is booking a nice diversity of acts. I tried to get tickets to Lewis Black's show but they sold out quickly. It'd be nice to see him in his hometown. He can make fun of the place to our faces. ;)

"My daughter babysits and is walking distance to your house. Go on a date with your wife."

Yeah, and do or buy the lady something nice for no reason at all. She gave you a child, for goodness sake!

Anonymous said...

I think it definitely makes sense that the Fillmore and 9:30 club book different kinds of acts. I recognize almost all of the Fillmore acts, while recognizing almost none of the 930 acts (and I'm 23, and decently "with it"). So it makes sense that the Fillmore would be more expensive and it makes sense that, since it's a larger venue, it can't book a bunch of artists without name recognition.

Also, over time, avg. ticket prices will likely go down for the Fillmore, assuming the premier acts of MJB, Mos Def, etc. won't be the norm. If I am wrong about that, that'd be nuts!

Oh, and Patch had a few sellouts listed as of a couple weeks ago, and using the Fillmore site at least a few shows I checked don't have any tickets avail. when trying to book, even though it doesn't say "SOLD OUT."

Anonymous said...

"What it really comes down to is that if you think an IMP-run club would have been superior to what we got with the Fillmore or vice versa, you do so based on your own personal musical tastes."

Some taxpayers in Montgomery County who are on the hook for the $11 million handout to Live Nation may disagree with this...

Anonymous said...

Still hasn't sunk in that Silver Spring is getting one of the 5 Fillmores in the world.

Pete said...

There's only one Fillmore that merits the name, the others are as much the Fillmore as Uno is "real Chicago pizza."

It's true that musical taste plays into it--most of the people (including me) who love the 9:30 club and assail the Fillmore skew rock, and indie rock in particular. There's been a lot of good stuff written about what that says about us "rockists" as music fans and people. We tend to value what we perceive as authenticity and artistic integrity; coolness. And we dismiss what we perceive as cash grab and pure pop acts--uncool.

I feel pretty comfortable saying the Fillmore is uncool. I'll go there; I'm happy it's there rather than a vacant storefront; and I can get over the fact that it's run by giant faceless entertainment conglomerate. But it's not cool, and the county/us got at least a little screwed by LN/Lee.

Thanks for your analysis!

Anonymous said...

the ss fillmore looks nothing like the original in sf. the ss fillmore looks more like the highline in nyc.

Anonymous said...

"Some taxpayers in Montgomery County who are on the hook for the $11 million handout to Live Nation may disagree with this..."

eh, as one of those taxpayers I'm happy to pay for entertainment. MoCo taxpayers handout plenty of dough for other services, I may actually use this.

"There's been a lot of good stuff written about what that says about us "rockists" as music fans and people. We tend to value what we perceive as authenticity and artistic integrity; coolness. And we dismiss what we perceive as cash grab and pure pop acts--uncool."

How great for you that everything you like is "cool" and everything else is "uncool." What are you, 12?

Anonymous said...

"We tend to value what we perceive as authenticity and artistic integrity; coolness."

Key word: perceive. As opposed to a little concept we call "reality."

Curious: Does suing a potential competitor out of little more than spite fall under "authentic" or "artistic integrity"?

What about taking absolute cheap shots at those who may be outside your narrow demographic in a major newspaper?

In short, your perceptions are laughable. Reminds me of the "just rolled out of bed" hair look that actually takes an hour of gelling and primping.

Pete said...

To both anons. Yeah, the key word was "perceive"--I'm saying "This is how I feel, and I admit that my perception is fallible." I hope the Fillmore is successful and a boon for Silver Spring; I do wish it were cooler (and cheaper).

Anonymous said...

What do you pay to go to a Redskins game or the Wizards? Both at most second tier acts.

I sat in $99 dollar seats at FedEx in the rain behind a TV camera. Fortunately my daughter had comps. So for $10 to $30 average for a show at least secound tier, you complain?

Anonymous said...

Please remember that $11 million bought us, the taxpayers, a nice building instead of an eyesore with an empty lot behind it. We own it. LiveNation is just the operator. Someday they may not be, but the county--i.e., us--will always own it.

Sligo, you're anonymity may have worked against you, if you wanted invites to events and such.

Sligo said...

"Sligo, you're anonymity may have worked against you, if you wanted invites to events and such."

Well, I did meet with Live Nation reps in person (by their request) back when this whole thing was starting out, but haven't heard from them since.

Anonymous said...

Whatever. Anything to drive up my property value.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Something we all can agree on!

Rob said...

I'd love to meet you and have you and your wife come see a show anytime. Shoot me an email or stop by any time!
Rob Muller - Marketing Director

Anonymous said...

Well there ya go, Sligo.

Squeaky wheel and grease, as they say.

Jason said...

This is why tickets at the Fillmore are more expensive and why they have "name acts." Nice analysis but you should have factored in ticket fees as well - that's a huge part of Live Nation / Ticketmaster prices.

Pete said...

Yeah the fees can be killer. One thing that I noticed on the Fillmore site: If you buy tickets at the box office, rather than online, "Applicable service and venue fees will apply."

I hate that crap. I often buy tickets in advance at venue box offices b/c they reduce or just don't charge service fees (and why shouldn't they? There's no "added convenience" or shipping when I buy at the door).

Interesting that the Washingtonian piece strikes such a different tone than most other press so far.

Dumbek said...

At one point the service charge was only $1, if you bought tickets at the box office. I don't see that mentioned on the site anywhere now though.

Mike said...

You all talk like ticket fees are only charged by LiveNation/Ticketmaster. But I just looked at buying a 9:30 Club show and there's a $6 ticket fee and a $4 processing fee. $10 extra on a $30 ticket. On a percentage basis, that's outrageous.

Concerts for which the ticket is under $40 at The Fillmore only have an $8 charge. The ones I saw that go for more than $40 add a $9 fee. So why all the bitching about LN's fees and not the competitions?

Clancy said...

Like Mike indicated, 9:30 also charges fairly exorbitant fees on tickets. I just bought two $25 tickets for a show there and paid $16 in fees (a 32% premium).

Also, I just discovered that Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) will be performing at the Fillmore on November 1. So, they do seem to be filling in the gaps with some decent performers.

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