Pittsburgh And The Failure To Attract Big Shows

Photos by Sarah Bader

First we asked the people, took the information collected, and asked three individuals (Jeff Betten of Mistra Records, DJ Motor Mane (Taylor Gang & The Burgh Boyz), and singer Sierra Sellers) to respond to the survey and replies from concertgoers that spoke on why Pittsburgh doesn’t consistently attract big events and touring artist.

[All numbers and comments below originate from our “Why doesn’t Pittsburgh get the big shows/popular tours consistently?” survey in which 192 people voted via Twitter.]

Poor Promotion 34%

Weak Attendances 32%

Ticket Prices Too High 18%

Too Risky For Promoters 16%

Do these numbers surprise you and how does that make you feel being apart of events that are affected by these answers/numbers?

Jeff Betten: It surprises me that the audiences identify weak attendance as a primary cause. I don’t dispute the claim, but it’s interesting that concertgoers are essentially blaming themselves. However, since the topic is specifically about big shows, I have a hard time believing that a Jay-Z tour stop (to name one recent high profile snub, for example) wouldn’t be promoted well and think that particular response is misguided. On smaller levels like mine? Sure, but that’s a whole other conversation.

DJ Motor Mane: In my opinion, these numbers don’t surprise me because this city wasn’t built on Hip-Hop/Rap or R&B music. Its historically been known to have a deep rooted Rock (specifically), Soft Rock vibe. The younger generation are changing the demographics but there isn’t enough BIG DOGS that leave here continuing to push the culture back here.

Sierra Sellers: These numbers don’t surprise me. Honestly, I’ve grown apathetic towards them because it has been this way before I was making music so I knew what to expect.

– People don’t care about quality events because it “just Pittsburgh” instead of a growing place

– Poor radio presence, high tax, no one in charge believes in what it could do for PGH

– Pittsburgh’s not a presale town due to population size and low overall median income

– Smaller market and not directly between 2 major cities

What sticks out most about the comments above?

Jeff: It makes me sad that they don’t think anyone in charge cares. I know from talking with people in radio, for example, that there are things they’d like to change, but they’re up against a lot of red tape and limitations. I sympathize with the “just Pittsburgh” mindset, though. It’s something I fight against all the time and even occasionally feel myself. There’s nothing we can do about not being directly between two major cities. It’s not our fault that Cleveland is right on I-80 between New York and Chicago and we aren’t. 

Motor: Poor radio, high tax, no one in charge believes in what it could do for PGH – because it speaks volumes when we want the major shows but we don’t have the major radio presence to push it. The high tax would be a problem when it becomes a bigger risk than a reward. Unless maybe your Kenny Chesney.

Sierra: All of the comments stated something negative about the opportunity, or lack thereof in Pittsburgh; however, we are blessed with the freedom to establish a foundation from which artists can flourish.

As a resident, does it seem like Pittsburgh is the D League and people learn skills, leave and don’t add anything to the city (also businesses who come but don’t directly support the cultural infrastructure)?

Jeff: The popular answer would be to say that, while historically this may have been true, Pittsburgh is now changing. However, in my heart of hearts, I still feel that like we have a long way to go (although I derive no pleasure from saying that). Obviously, the problems are bigger than any one fix and I don’t claim to have all the answers. Even if things are trending in the right direction, systemic issues can’t be resolved overnight. 

Motor: I think that’s a matter of perspective because the communities are thriving. We may not have the prominent rap communities like an Atlanta but we do have artists that exist in this very community like D.S. Kinsel and so forth. I don’t see it being the D League. We are the WE LEAGUE. Take what we want from this beautiful city and dip. Ask anyone who has left. They’ve been back though at least once. 

Sierra: Pittsburgh is not in the D League. This city is a great place to get started. There isn’t a distinct sound or brand, so there isn’t pressure to be someone you’re not. People come and go for different opportunities, but ultimately it isn’t their responsibility to put everyone else on.

Written by Thomas Agnew