It's that time of year again, and did it come quickly! It's hard to believe we are already at another holiday season. People buzzing around, still visiting stores and shops, getting gifts and gift certificates, despite all the online purchasing going on. Yes, there are people who STILL find fun and value the tradition of visiting the local family-owned stores for the holidays.
And that goes for music, too. In an ironic effort to take the music biz into this next millennium, new technology had inadvertently structured itself in a fashion set to kill the ways we listened to music growing up. CDs tried to take the place of vinyl record albums and 45 RPM singles, then online downloads and music subscription services tried to take the place of CDs. Massive festivals including Lollapalooza and live concert streaming encroached upon the personal experience of live concerts. But as it turns out, much like mom's warm apple pie, there is nothing that can compare to that old-school goodness. Vinyl albums and small theater live concerts are thriving! Thank goodness for that!
Quietly, vinyl record albums have hung in there, avoiding extinction thanks to vintage shops and musty record stores with yellowed concert posters on the walls and hand-lettered dividers between stacks upon stacks of bent-cornered album covers. For many years there wasn't a garage sale or Salvation Army outlet store out there that would not have an array of one-dollar record albums available for purchase. Amid the classics you would also find records by The Vienna Boys Choir and "Sing-A-Longs" by Mitch Miller, but when a Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Beatles or Elvis record appeared, it was worth that dollar!
And while CD sales are plummeting, and downloads are also seeing a massive decline, what is back with a vengeance? VINYL RECORDS!
Forbes Magazine reports that since 2009, vinyl record album production is up 260 percent! Los Angeles record stores are reporting over a thousand albums being sold per day! The industry is in a bit of a panic because the machines that were used to press record albums have all been sent to the boneyard, and nobody is manufacturing new machines. Small boutique record makers are unable to keep up with the demand, as large record companies are now looking to them for mass production. Welcome back my 33⅓ friend!
When asked why the resurgence of vinyl that began as a projected "fad" has remained steadily on the rise, industry insiders say it's because the thrill of holding a musical product in a hand cannot be replicated with a download, and the inconsistent, grainy sound of an album gives each record its own unique personality.
I never thought of it that way!
Then there is the evolution of live concerts that for the most part, have become an experience many people are complaining about. Notwithstanding obvious security concerns we have today, the herding of concert-goers like cattle, high ticket prices, skyrocketing ticketing fees, expensive food and beverage options and the bombarded exposure to sponsors has made seeing a show a serious commitment.
But still, Pollstar magazine, the monthly concert industry bible, states that live concert ticket sales are up 15 percent, to a whopping 64 million tickets sold this year, worldwide!
But the most interesting thing about that is the fact that the top three shows this year were bands popular more than 30 years ago! The No. 1 show this year was U2, then Metallica, then Guns 'N Roses! In fact, many of the recent top touring acts over the past several years have been from the '70s and '80s. Every time they went out, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Cher were among the biggest touring acts of the year!
And that's why so many people love The Arcada. I am a true fan of the music from the '30s through the early '80s, and I book the acts that I love. It just so happens that I am not the only one who loves that stuff!
So in honor of that Jazz Age of the Roaring 20s, I opened a 1920s Speakeasy & Showroom on the third floor of the theater. That music of the Prohibition Era just makes me happy. Then, downstairs in the theater, at anytime you could see The Glenn Miller Orchestra from the '40s, Doo Wop with The Flamingos from the '50s, Petula Clark from the '60s, America from the '70s or Pat Benatar from the '80s.
Over 200 shows this year were from those eras of popular music. And I still have all my vinyl records from each and every one of them!
Music makes memories. In my case, I try to bring back those memories made when the music first came out. It's fun to hear countless stories about how the entertainers that come to The Arcada affected the lives of their respective fans. It's also wonderful to see parents and grandparents sharing their memories in between songs with their kids. It doesn't have to be the holidays to share the gift of music with loved ones. Especially with those who can keep the memories of a generation alive. Merry Christmas, folks!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.