Music is one of the few things left in society that can bring people together regardless of politics, race, class, or gender. You don’t need money or education to appreciate notes played on an instrument. That’s something that I’ve always found beautiful about music. A melody can capture someone, lyrics can resonate, and suddenly a stranger builds a connection with another person through song. This connection is possible with distance thanks to the internet. But there’s something special about building that connection in person through live performances.
Crowd at Bonaroo | Image by Wendy Wei via Pexels
In 2022, we saw concerts come back in full force after in-person live shows came to halt from the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. What also returned was the joy and connection felt by fans from experiencing a live performance. 2022 still saw a few restrictions and scares from COVID-19, particularly in the colder months when illness becomes more common. As long as vaccine boosters are available among the population and the risk of catching the virus continues to decrease, hopefully, in 2023, we’ll see the music industry continue to “get back to normal.” It’s funny, that term, “normal,” when referring to the music industry because there was a whole lot about the industry that has been dubbed “normal” that weren’t good things to be normalized. On the flip side, there are parts of the pandemic that have changed how concerts run from now on – and they’re not all bad changes.
When I look at what it’s like going to a concert now compared to 10 years ago, you wouldn’t be able to count all that has changed on two hands. From ticket prices to venue restrictions to concert etiquette, little has stayed the same. In reflecting on this, I thought it would be interesting to think about what I’d like to see the music industry do in 2023 as they continue to evolve with the times.
More Genre Blending
As music continues to evolve and artists continue to experiment with new sounds, I’d like to see genre blending as more accepted and applauded in 2023. Sometimes labeling music or an artist into a certain genre can do more harm than good, especially when the genre for which they’re labeled doesn’t quite fit. This isn’t anything new necessarily. There have always been artists that don’t fit neatly into one genre or perhaps they jump between various ones as their career continues. For example, Taylor Swift started in country, but as her career has gone on, her work has morphed into pop. But just because Taylor is considered one of the biggest pop artists out right now, does that mean she could never return to her country roots, even if it’s just one song? Or what if she decides all of a sudden that she wants to do a punk album? Could she do it? Well, she’s Taylor Swift so she can do whatever she wants, but how would fans react? My example shows a big jump in genre, but it gets my point across. I think as genres continue to blend, we as fans should work toward being more open-minded in 2023 to songs that can’t be pinned down to a single genre.
I couldn’t tell you the difference between metalcore, metal, and hardcore because, to me, they all share very similar ingredients. It’s easier for me to use the general term metal to describe my taste in music, but there are plenty of artists that don’t quite fit that labeling. I think that our obsession with labeling genres, insisting that something is or isn’t jazz, for example, takes away from the enjoyment of the music. If you like a song, but it’s listed under pop punk instead of rap, does it change the song for you? Does your enjoyment wither if it doesn’t fit into the genre that you like and listen to?
I don’t think a pop artist should have to play only pop if they want to experiment with other genres. Jazz and rock are two different genres, but should a rock artist never dabble in jazz influences because it’s not their genre? Of course not! We’ve started to see genre blending more often, particularly with pop artists, and I hope it continues. I may not listen to jazz regularly, but I have some songs by pop punk or rock bands that fuse jazz melodies or instruments into their songs, and I love them. Just because something is different for an artist, doesn’t mean it’s bad, and I hope in 2023, people continue to go into these genre blends with an open mind so artists can feel free to explore genres they have an interest in without pressure to maintain one specific sound.
Another Touring Festival
There’s been a void since the Vans Warped Tour stopped their cross-country runs in the summertime. They used to be a staple of summer for emo, punk, and metal kids. Since the tour has stopped running, other festivals have tried to step up to fill the gaping hole. One of those was Sad Summer Fest, which toured about 20-30 cities with about 10 pop-punk acts on the bill. While it’s captured the summer vibes that Warped had, it just isn’t the same, with only a few tents of merch and not as many interactive elements. Another recent attempt wasn’t a tour but more like a few festival stops across the country. The Ohio is For Lovers Festival put on by the Ohio-born band Hawthorne Heights put together a lineup mixed with nostalgic punk acts and new age ones for just one day across 3 stages. They also hit up Kansas and Colorado. This one felt the most like Warped Tour mostly for its all-day, single-day run feeling. But it wasn’t quite the same magic as Warped Tour. I was lucky enough to have the festival come through my city, but most of the country had to miss out.
I would love to see a production/planning company come forward to take the torch that Warped Tour left atop the metaphorical tower, dimly lit, awaiting a new person to light it. I love seeing the touring festival energy coming back in small ways, but I would love to see this style come back completely. It seems these days that the caliber of lineups is being relegated to one city and the same lineup over a couple days, (see When We Were Young Fest). It may not be as feasible as it once was, which is in part why Warped ended, but the formula worked pretty well for over 20 years. There has to be someone out there who can take the formula, build upon it, and make it even better for all parties. Could you imagine a new age of Warped Tour? I’d be so ready for it.
Crackdown on Ticket Scalping
The internet is great for so many things. It makes it easier than ever to get products from the comfort of our homes. You can buy and sell things online with ease. It’s this ease of access however that is also a major negative. Ticket scalping is nothing new. It can be traced back as far as the 1800s, in fact. Back then, they were called “sidewalk men:” because they would stand on sidewalks and resell tickets at the doors of shows. You can still see a few of them around today, but more common is the online sidewalk man. “In 2016, the secondary market industry – the industry of ticket resellers – was reportedly valued at $8 billion…After a mere 24 hours of being online, approximately 20% of tickets find their way onto secondary websites, including StubHub and VividSeats” (Source). Ticket scalpers may not be anything new, but I don’t think many would disagree that it’s a scummy profession. Taking advantage of people’s excitement for an artist and using it to price gouge people is a jerk move.
Ticketmaster, one of the biggest ticketing websites, has tried to combat it in recent years but it’s still a big problem. One of the methods to combat scalpers is artist presale where real people who are fans can get in to buy tickets before general on-sale occurs. They’re usually verified as human and not a robot before being let in for purchase. Twenty One Pilots, for example, have set up sign-ups before their tours to have your number entered into a lottery for a presale code, limiting how many can receive these special codes. They even had a campaign for Tour De Columbus tour where they used the terms “beat the bots and screw the scalpers.” Only verified fans could sign up for codes and tickets could only be picked up at will call and were nontransferable.
While this does help stop some of the scalpers from snatching up all the tickets first, it’s not a foolproof method. Scalpers are finding ways around the restrictions. After all, what’s stopping them from signing up for a presale code, pretending to be a fan? How would they police something like that? While I don’t have the answers for that, I definitely think it can be improved. Right now, the limit for tickets is usually six. Maybe there can be a limit for tickets purchased within 24 hours? Maybe they can ask something only a fan would know. I’m just throwing out ideas, but the bottom line is that I hope there can be some other form of cracking down on scalpers. Fans should not have to shell out $600 for a $75 ticket just because they couldn’t get onto the ticketing website within the first 10 minutes.
More Affordable Ticket Prices
I get it. As time goes on, the prices of things go up. Life becomes more expensive. But come on. Nosebleed seats in an arena for over $100 after fees? In what world is that a fair price? I could complain about the ticketing sites that charge these insane prices for 10 paragraphs, but I won’t. I want to focus on what I’d like to see artists do. In 2023, I’d like to see artists try to do what Twenty One Pilots did for their hometown tour. For those artists like Blink 182, My Chemical Romance, and Paramore who are making comebacks, I’d like to see them book a couple more intimate shows at smaller venues. Obviously, these bands can sell out arenas, and they know that, so they play in arenas. It makes sense from a business standpoint, but that leaves the fans scrambling to afford even the farthest back seats to get a chance to see these bands. I don’t think that’s fair to loyal fans who patiently awaited their return. Someone who cannot afford to shell out hundreds for a ticket should not be gatekept from seeing an artist they love.
In 2023, I’d love to see artists find ways to give those fans with less spending money a chance to see them, whether that’s capping the general admission tickets at lower prices or playing a venue with a variety of price points for people. Outside venues aren’t always feasible depending on the time of year, but from my own experiences, those types of shows are a lot more affordable since many have a cheaper “general admission lawn” option. Having artists with typically higher ticket pricing do a couple special shows where admission is all the same price (before scalpers snatch them and hike up the price that is) would be a big deal and make their shows that much more accessible. It may not be a feasible wish, but it would be something I’d like to see happen in 2023. Live music should not be only for the privileged upper to middle class. Artists can’t always control prices of their tickets, but I’d like to see them come up with some workarounds to do things like Twenty One Pilots did.
Concerts post-covid have been different in one major way. People actually know the idea of personal space now. If you’ve been to a general admission show in the last couple of years, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. I had been to so many shows pre-covid where everybody wanted to get as close as possible, so they’d fill every possible space. It didn’t matter if that place there meant they couldn’t lift their arms. It didn’t matter if they were so close to someone, they could feel a stranger’s breath. Even writing this, I’m shuddering. I cannot believe this was the norm. I can’t even fathom doing that now. There are definitely people who clump together at shows and probably do some of this absurdity, but it’s definitely less common. In the past when someone would give you a few inches, they now give you a foot or two. It may not seem like much, but it makes such a huge difference. This is something I’d like to see continued in 2023. Leave some space for people to move!
I’m so grateful that we’re in an age where artists aren’t able to get away with doing shady things as easily. Fans will not put up with rude, abusive, or misogynistic behavior from artists. This is one of those changes I mentioned in the intro. For years, so many things were normalized in the music industry, one big one being underaged groupies. Steven Tyler, David Bowie, and Jimmy Page, among others, had relations with girls underaged, as young as 14. A 30 -year-old dating a 17-year-old wasn’t seen as a big deal 20 years ago. These days, thankfully, that doesn’t fly. People are far more aware of these common threads in the industry, and if fans catch word of any illegal or problematic activity, it will likely come out. There are people out there who hate this idea of canceling people, but I think there are times they’re necessary, and some of those cases are absolutely when it comes to predatory, racist, or abusive behavior from artists.
I’ve noticed it, especially with the pop punk and metalcore scenes that I’m a part of. People are not tolerating the predatory behavior that has lingered over the scenes for the last 20 years, and I’m glad for it. There’s nothing worse than discovering an artist you admire is a gross or terrible person. Some can argue that you simply separate the art from the artist, but depending on the extent of the crimes, that may not be easy to do. It’s not always easy for me. While fanbases are doing a good job calling out problematic behavior when they see it, I’d also like to see music artists in 2023 call it out too. And for the repeat offenders to get their act together. Artists are in the public eye so everything they do is placed under a microscope. I get that sometimes things can be blown out of proportion or misconstrued. But really, is it so much to ask for artists to stop assaulting fans just because they think they’re owed things as an artist? Is it too much to expect a musician who holds a lot of power and eyeballs to not spew hateful or racist things because they think they’re invincible? Clearly, I’d love for musicians to not be terrible people. But I’d also love for them to notice those kinds of behaviors in others and call it out. If a band has a sexual predator for a frontman, I’d like to see a band openly oppose them and that sort of behavior. I’d like to see a band, when asked to open for an artist who has an ongoing history of abuse, decline the offer. We have made great progress in making the music industry a safer place to be, but there’s progress to be made, and it comes back to artist accountability.
It is absolutely insane that some music venues refuse to supply water for free, especially outdoor venues. In 2023, I’d like to see accessibility to water improve. I get that venues need to make money and recoup from being closed for a little over a year from the pandemic, but there are other ways to make money. Concerts can get hot, and with people jumping around and singing along at concerts, water should be available to ticketholders, especially if the venue has a bar. Water is typically free at bars as it’s essential for people drinking to have access to water. Why is it not the same for music venues where people are not only getting hot from exertion but sometimes also drinking? I’ve heard the argument that plastic cups getting left on the ground is too much of a hassle, but I don’t see how that’s different from a plastic bottle or can. They all get left by people who don’t use the trash like adults. Even if It’s little paper cups next to a water cooler, I think venues should have some sort of access to water. I’ve been to a few places where water is free, but they’re so rare, it feels like Christmas when you ask for water and aren’t charged $4 for it. Venues need to start hydrating their already-paying customers in 2023.
These are just a few things that I think would be nice to see out of the music industry in 2023. There’s always room for improvement and how to best benefit the consumer and suppliers. What would you like to see happen in the industry in 2023? Let me know in the comments! The year’s just begun, so we’ll have to check back at the end of the year to see if anything has improved. It may not happen in a year, but I do hope some changes are implemented over time. I think of all my hopes for 2023, the water seems most doable. Thanks for reading, and let’s hope for another great year for music!