I read with interest in The New York Times that many baby boomers are still boarding buses and trudging through muddy fields upon their retirement to see their favourite bands in action. There are many boomers who have made attending rock concerts their lifetime passion – some of them attending more than 100 shows a year, spending thousands of dollars travelling to concerts.
In fact, concerts aimed at the mature population are big business. According to the music industry tracking firm Pollstar, the six-day music extravaganza Desert Trip, featuring The Who, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Neil Young, took in US$160 million last year. Tickets at US$399 and higher were not inexpensive and tickets to other concerts, such as the Classic East and Classic West, featuring Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, scheduled for New York and Los Angeles this summer, are also selling strongly. A 2015 study conducted by Harris Poll found that 44 percent of those aged 51 to 70 are attending more live shows now than they did in 2005. Of those concertgoers, 40 percent say they want to stay abreast of current pop culture. The New York Times reported that for many retirees, concertgoing is a lifestyle, and not a new one. Now that they’ve retired, many music-loving boomers are now doing more concerts than before because they have the time and the disposable income to pursue their passion.
So long as they still have the stamina, aging concertgoers are willing to navigate through large crowds in the summer sun from morning till dusk two or three days in a row. There is a misconception that only millennials go to concerts because they love loud music and huge crowds and they value experience over material things. But boomers and seniors also want the same experience, but more from a nostalgic point of view as they were the ones who attended Woodstock, The Newport Folk Festival and the US Festival. The same Harris Poll survey found boomers, like millennials, see “experiences” as an important part of their fulfilled life. According to Billboard Magazine, legacy artists, in particular, drew more boomers among concertgoers – The Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Paul McCartney who were among the top-grossing tours of 2014.
In Canada, casinos have been so successful at entrenching themselves in the concert marketplace that they are almost indistinguishable from traditional performing arts centres. Baby boomer tastes are the heart and soul of casinos’ entertainment policy. Club Regent Casino in Winnipeg launched a new 1,400-seat theatre in 2014 to help the casino host bigger-name acts such as Huey Lewis and the News, Glass Tiger, The Doobie Brothers and Roch Voisine. Grey Eagle Resort and Casino in Calgary also opened a 2,600-seat entertainment centre in 2014 which hosted acts such as The Temptations.
In Ontario, Casino Rama and Fallsview Casino have long been recognized as the concert venues for big-name musicians. This year alone will see boomer-drawing artists such as Three Dog Night, Kenny Rogers, Burton Cummings, Diana Ross, Santana, Kiss, Donny and Marie Osmond, and Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at Casino Rama. Fallsview Casino also has an impressive lineup in 2017: The 5th Dimension, Donny Osmond, Art Garfunkel and Chubby Checker, just to name a few. In fact, a trip to these casinos nowadays often does not include any gambling activities at all.
But marketers are making a very sweeping assumption that only legacy artists will be a draw for boomers. They’ve very often neglected the fact that boomers want, not only nostalgic experiences, but they also want to remain young at heart and keep current with the latest in pop and rock music. I, for one, would attend concerts by younger, contemporary artists such as Lukas Graham, Joss Stone and Meghan Trainor. Casinos and concert promoters who start marketing musical acts by contemporary artists to baby boomers will be pleasantly surprised.