Generational Talk At Pollstar Live

Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Linksters and how each interacts with the music industry was the topic of this panel hosted by the International Association of Venue Managers. These generations, represented by each panel member, shared insights on how they get their information on concerts, buy tickets and find new music.

“Speaking of My Generation, I’m pretty sure the music industry was a little bit different when Pete Townshend wrote that song a couple of generations ago,” said co-moderator Kim Bedier of Comcast Arena At Everett. “[Now] five generations are working side-by-side in the music industry.

“Today we’re looking for a little perspective. We want to understand how to harness the power of the generations and talk about some of [their] traits to help us have a successful show.”

Dick Alen, retired from William Morris Endeavor, represented Traditionalists born between 1922 and 1945. This group is fiscally conservative, social, respectful of hard work, are still in the work force by choice or necessity and believe in building a legacy.

“It describes part of it. The people who enjoy working, especially in the music business, you just stay as long as you can,” Alen said. “I would have stayed longer except I made a fatal mistake. I got old.

“‘Traditional’ is not that different. The names are different but the work is the same as the young guys just starting in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Bedier, co-moderator Scott Mullen of iWireless Center and Ed Rubenstein of Arena Network, represented the largest group, the Baby Boomers. Born between 1946-1964, this generation is loyal, hard working – the first generation of workaholics – appreciates the finer things in life and has a goal of putting their “stamp” on things.

“I haven’t got my BMW yet but I’m working on it.” Rubenstein said. “I think the term ‘workaholic’ does apply but I will tell you, too, being a workaholic in this business is as much fun as it is work.”

Jim Allison of AEG Live represented Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980. Raised by the Baby Boomers, this generation is described as working to live with less overtime, tech-savvy and considers personal life, balance and maintaining independence priorities.

“Some of that describes me but more and more I find myself influenced by the Boomers. I think I tailor my work habits after them,” Allison said. “I’ve seen so much from the people I work for. ‘I came up the hard way. I had to do it, and so should you.’”

Kiersten Dunn of Pepperdine University represented Gen Y born between 1981 and 1994, who are at home with advanced technology. They believe they can do anything, are regularly praised by their parents and require constant feedback. Hoodies, iPhones and constant texting are the norm but face-to-face communication skill may be lacking.

“I do think this nails my generation. We’re technologically savvy, everything we do is via Facebook or texting. The Internet, I don’t know life without it,” Dunn said. “I grew up one way but going to college and meeting new people, everyone has an opinion and their opinion is the only way to go.”

Taylor Howser of Robert A. Millikan High School represents the Linkster or Facebook generation born after 1995. This generation lives, sleeps and breaths technology, has a shorter attention span, sticks to abbreviations like OMG, needs a steady diet of connection and, like Gen Y, may not be too experienced in face-to-face communication.

“I do use Facebook all the time – it’s on the home screen on my phone – and I do text a lot. It’s usually the best way to communicate for me,” Howser said. “I really don’t like talking on the phone. It takes too much time and texting is way faster.”

Mullen then asked the panel what outlets they use to find out about shows, to buy tickets and obtain new music.

For show info, Alen said newspapers and radio, Rubenstein said mostly newspapers, radio and television, and Allison, Dunn and Howser said radio, Facebook, Twitter, text from a friend or word-of-mouth.

As for buying tickets, all panelists except Howser said they buy online. Howser said “I don’t buy tickets. My dad buys them.”

For music, CDs were low on the choice scale. Allison said he still buys CDs but Alen and Rubenstein said they usually don’t. Dunn and Howser stick with iTunes.

However, musical tastes aren’t necessarily specific to each age group, with everything from Big Band to R&B and rock to grunge to the latest “new big thing” catching the panelists’ interest.

Mullen brought up how some of the Top 10 acts overall that still sell out large-capacity arenas are from the mid-’60s’s to 1980 and early ’90s. He asked the panelists why they think acts from the mid-90s and on haven’t been as successful.

“Without the record companies spending money and without the radio playing the music so everyone can hear it, it’s very, very difficult to make a star,” Alen said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the business changes to make international stars.”

Allison said it could be a symptom of using social media in general.

“A lot of that could be due to our own attention span, from me on down. We have a really short attention span and maybe that’s something we as an industry has enforced,” Allison said. “It’s here today, gone tomorrow and we make that really easy with the Internet and social media.

“You can’t develop the kind of affinity to an artist like I still have with U2 because I’ve listened to them since the beginning.”


Pollstar Live 2011 Panel Index