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Music Blog

$5 Admission for Twilight Concerts: Good or Bad Idea?

by Austen Diamond
Posted // 2012-05-10 - The 25th season of the Twilight Concert Series announced its lineup today along with a number of important changes (detailed here), namely that the event will no longer be free. Each of the nine shows will cost $5, or $35 for the season. It stirred some debate in the newsroom, which we decided to put out to the readers.

What's Your View on the $5 Twilight Concert Fee?

A good idea and long overdue:
Austen Diamond, City Weekly music & listings editor:

Top notch artists ain’t cheap
Take a look at this year’s lineup. It is effing incredible. These are some of the finest national touring musicians who might have otherwise passed over Salt Lake City and certainly didn’t give the series the time of day a decade ago. Sure, a free concert with some washed up ‘90s act -- like Blues Traveler or Better than Ezra -- would be nice, but far -- very far -- from incredible or eliciting of fist pumps (me at the press conference) and “wows” from music lovers.

If the concerts outgrow Pioneer Park, where would they go?
Each of the several venue relocations took, on average, seven years before it happened, and all were due to construction, but also because attendees said that it was too crowded for the locale. At Pioneer Park, however, people were kvetching about the numbers after the first show: the Modest Mouse debacle of 2010. With the 2011 season-closing Lupe Fiasco performance clocked at 52,000 attendees, where else could the series move? To any place that I could surmise (Usana? Rice-Eccles?), I’d say this to: No, thanks.

Sky-high costs
More and more attendees means more and more costs -- from added security to additional portable toilets -- and who’s going to foot the bill? Taxpayers who don’t give a shit about music? This minimal fee is an excellent way to keep the series afloat and also keep public funds from being drained on the concertgoers who aren’t even there for the concert.

Be gone, riff-raff.
Sure, the free event is about creating a vibrant downtown, and everyone deserves music, but some (thousands) of the attendees were not there for the music, but rather the scene and to be seen. I feel like my grandpa when I think about “those darn hooligans,” but I’d rather be comfortable and enjoy myself than navigate through some of SLC’s riff-raff.

Join Austen Diamond on Twitter: @AustenDiamond

Hell, no! Keep the Concerts Free!
Jerre Wroble, City Weekly editor

Free access to art and entertainment such as we have in SLC makes living here a triumph.

The first time I set foot at a Twilight concert, I got that "life is good in the SLC" feeling. Here we were, crammed into what was essentially a mosh pit at the Gallivan Center -- hot, but moving and grooving together, cooling off with a plastic cup full of beer.

Twilight outgrew Gallivan and moved to Pioneer Park, only to attract larger crowds. Why wouldn't they? They've got a kickass concert series and a bunch of music fans who are priced out of Red Butte Gardens and Deer Valley summer concerts. It became such a fine and happy tradition to bring a blanket and balloon and meet friends at Twilight.

The concerts got better and the crowds grew in response to the quality. And now, there's a fly in the ointment: five bucks. It's the opening of the "fee" door, marking the end of an era of free downtown concerts that were a gift to the people and all that. Sure, it's only $5 per concert this year. What about next year, after organizers run their fingers through all those $5 bills? I predict $10, then $20, then $25. And we will have a downtown version of the Red Butte Gardens Concert Series.

And why does anyone think that $5 will deter the "riff-raff"? That amounts to chump change. The scenesters will be there, talking and flinging Frisbees while you're trying to listen intently to your favorite band. Five dollars is not enough but is too much, all the same.

The concerts should remain free, but tickets should be required. They could be picked up in advance from various Downtown Alliance members. Temple Square does it all the time with its Christmas concerts. There should be no admission without a "free" ticket. Keep it free and if "top artists" cost too much, scale it back to what can be afforded. That was the beauty of Twilight. It was pretty damned good music that was free. But we're upping the game in recent years; the ambition of this concert series may be a problem.

With fees, we're kissing the whole marvelous free-concert notion goodbye, because money changes everything.

* * *

Readers, what do you say? Pay or keep it free?

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Posted // June 20,2013 at 10:16

I can't believe there's even a debate.  I was born and raised in SLC, but live in Portland, OR now.  $5 is a mere pittance for the quality of entertainment you're getting.  For a little perspective, I'm paying 10x's the amount for the same bands here, as I suspect are most of the nation.  You're getting A-list entertainment for less than a usual concert ticket "service-fee".  Yes, it may open the door for raising the prices in the future, but that's when you start the protest.   Until then, feel blessed and enjoy the music.  


Posted // May 23,2012 at 00:07

Well, it's occurring to me that part of the problem is exactly the fact that we've started going "to see a band" (esp. a bigger and more current name) instead of "to be outside on a lovely night, enjoy a beverage, hang out with friends and friendly strangers, and catch a little music."  It's one thing to have a variety of bands, some of which are Sonic Youth 20 years after their heyday or The Black Keys before they were widely known, and another for it to almost always be Edward Sharpe or Common, contemporary and very popular acts. Sonic Youth didn't draw 50,000 people, so it was really fun. We had intended to go to Modest Mouse and just were too tired that night, then were relieved after hearing about people being crushed up against fences, etc. We tried to go to She & Him, and after nearly half an hour of looking for anything within a mile, gave up and went home, taking that too as a sign that there were just too many people. So maybe it should go back to being acts with a more limited draw, so it can still be a "free" public concert (already publicly covered) without being a public danger. And if it's again just "some band in the park on a nice night, for free," there probably won't be as many loud-talking scenesters... and we won't be as annoyed by those who are there.


Posted // May 15,2012 at 08:25

$5 is a fair price. This was bound to happen. They need a revenue stream to handle all the expenses of a concert series that draws THOUSANDS of people (50,000 for Lupe Fiasco!!!). So get real, You can't have EVERYTHING for free, my Gen-Y friends...


Posted // May 21,2012 at 15:15 - Damn straight. It's about time they started charging for this behemoth. Why should the tax payer foot the bill for a bunch of obnoxious hipsters? Eventually, they'll start charging fees that actually prohibit the majority of the disinterested loud-mouths from showing up, and then these shows might be worth attending again.


Posted // May 12,2012 at 10:17

I agree that these summer concerts don't need to be big names, and I don't think an "admission fee" should have a primary goal of really helping fund that. But I have for some time been attracted to a fairly small fee, such as $5, to help deter the seemingly increasing numbers of those who seem to just want to come hang out at the park, talk loudly the entire time, and see and be seen while doing so by clogging the pathways. I've thought that with a very small fee, maybe more of them will choose to do that for free at some other "cool" place. But maybe that small-to-me $5 really isn't enough to deter them from Modest Mouse, while still being unfair to those for whom that $5 is a deterrent, and who have already helped pay for the concert with taxes. So maybe the primary solution really should be to revert to highlighting newer up-and-coming bands with these concerts, so it's again really about coming out to spend a beautiful evening in the park listening to some music, not so much "Wow! Cool!"--and perhaps even discovering something new that you like?....


Posted // May 10,2012 at 16:26

I miss the days of the free concert at the Gallivan Center. I always went to have a beer, enjoy music, and see friends. I always walked because I lived downtown. It wasn't an "event", it was just something to do on Thursday's.

I don't think the $5.00 fee is really going to help pay for the event nor is it going to deter the "riff raffs." I think the fee is sign of the end of something much more. I agree with Jerre Wroble, next year it will be $7 then $10 and so on...

I liked seeing up and coming artists. Some of the artists that were accustomed to playing smaller venues finally getting a chance to play to a larger crowd. I don't want to see national bands that could sell a reasonable about of tickets at a larger venue such as Red Butte Gardens. Lets save those bands for those venues. Bring back the local and regional talent, these artists are the ones originally caused the stir.

Now the Twilight Concerts series is a "event." Marketers, promoters, vendors, and entrepreneurs make money at "events." Somewhere second or third in that line the music and artist come.

Sad indeed...