Paperlate: Why aren't people going to prog shows anymore?

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Attendance at prog gigs up and down the country, or rather non-attendance, is one issue that we see cropping up almost as regularly as clockwork on forums and social media. And it’s true that plenty of very worthy shows often seem to suffer from poor attendance, which begs questions such as: is this an overall indication of a lack of interest creeping into the genre, or is it the inevitable age of the audience factor, which does have to be taken into account? As the Editor of this magazine, I’m often asked about the state of the genre, and perhaps I’m in a good position to state that from where I sit, I don’t see the need to worry. Too much.

That said, attendance, in some cases, is a worry, and none more so than when you see a band like Kentucky-based trio Dream The Electric Sleep venture over to Europe for their first batch of dates outside the USA. Making the costly trip across the Channel from mainland Europe, the band’s sole London date was a free show at Camden’s Black Heart pub. It was attended by only about 50 people!

Quite frankly, that’s poor. Very poor. And anyone reading this who thought about going but chose not to should feel bloody ashamed of themselves.

Now I appreciate that you can’t make people go to certain gigs, and there are other mitigating factors such as travel, other pre-arranged plans and the like. And often it can be reasonably argued that promoters don’t really do enough to push gigs, but even though the Prog magazine website wasn’t up and running at the time, we still used our social channels and the newly-formed Prog Magazine Readers Facebook group to get the word out. But aside from some gig-going die-hards, it was a disappointing showing from an audience who seem to pride themselves on their passion for prog.

As a magazine we’ve tried to help push free gigs before – both Dec Burke and Supertramp’s Carl Verheyen played free shows at Camden’s Unicorn pub several years ago. The attendances were pitiful. Excuses for these, and other shows as well, range from “I don’t know the venue” and “It’s a bit metal, that venue” to “Don’t know the artist”. None of these cut much sway with me – who the hell has not heard of Supertramp? And snubbing venues out of snobbery is arrogant and a pretty poor excuse, if you ask me. If you love the genre of music as much as you claim, every now and then you should be prepared to step a little bit out of your comfort zone. it’s not like your favoured artists don’t do that on a regular basis.

We’re a long way from crisis point, but the DTES show simply forces this issue back to the forefront again. The guilty are simpy doing progressive music a great disservice!

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Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.