Independent music venues grapple with 50% no-show rate in the US

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Photo credit: John Matychuk

Last month, a disturbing report revealed that live concerts were struggling with a serious no-show problem, with 20% of ticket holders choosing not to attend some big name concerts. Now, ahead of a busy calendar of events for the rest of 2022, the figure has soared to 50% for independent music venues, according to the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).

NIVA representative (and co-owner of Branson, Missouri’s Presleys’ Country Jubilee) Raeanne Presley divulged the disheartening statistic during a speech to the House Small Business Committee, as part of a recent hearing titled “The Power, Peril and Promise of the Creative Economy”.

“Today the pandemic roller coaster continues,” said Presley, whose venue seats 1,500, hosts more than 200 events a year and employs 70 people. “Traditionally, about five percent of ticket buyers don’t attend performances. But now, waning consumer confidence is driving national no-show rates as high as 50%.

“It’s devastating as most of our locations rely on inside sales to pay basic bills. We’re also facing increased costs due to inflation. Just in the last month I’ve received notice of impending price increases from our waste hauler to our concession suppliers to our concierge service.

“And like many other businesses, we face the difficult challenge of finding workers in a competitive environment. Remote work is not an option for our business,” Presley’s five-minute opening statement continued.

Later, during the more than two-hour remote hearing, Presley – whose 56th season is set to begin in March – was asked about his plans and how government policy can be adapted to help theaters independent music and other live entertainment establishments.

“It’s a tough choice; there is no way around it. I think consumer trust is really what we focus on as an association, with NIVA. As we talked about, my company is here, we take care of our guests, our customers and our employees. We encourage masks and we encourage vaccination. But that’s where we are here in Missouri.

“For other sites across the country, there are multiple rather different views on this. And of course, going forward with COVID, it’s very hard to know,” she said.

Finally, Presley reiterated that independent music venues – which have suffered unprecedented financial damage due to bans on large gatherings and lockdown measures – face problems beyond a no-show rate in rise.

“I definitely see increases coming – and shortages as well – in the type of merchandise we sell. I see this in terms of supplying our dealerships. We saw that last fall – not only price increases, but we saw [an] inability to secure cups and different things we need for our business. We know it’s real. This is still unknown in terms of cost of insurance, but we anticipate it could also happen.

“It’s not just anything, I would say. It’s just cumulative. And when you’re running a small business like our independent venues do, it’s the cumulative things that are actually the hardest to manage,” she concluded.

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