Why do touring bands often skip San Antonio?


If you’ve ever wondered why your favorite bands pass San Antonio on their nationwide tours, you’re not alone. Partly based on past history, the city has earned a reputation as the third wheel in Texas, playing second fiddle to its more popular urban cousins.

Depending on the point of view, the reasons can be economic, demographic or more difficult to pin down. taste problem. Regardless of why, several local promoters have decided to make San Antonio a go-to stopover for touring bands.

Chad Carey opened the capacity of 1,000 paper tiger music club in 2015 for “personal satisfaction”, he said, but his motivation was also cultural. “I was tired of seeing bands that I love jumping into San Antonio, and I thought it was important for the cultural infrastructure of the city that I love to have a good-sized independent music venue. .”

The former occupant of the St. Mary’s Strip space, the White Rabbit, had hosted local music and toured hip-hop such as Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar before his rise to national stardom, but had fallen into disrepair and needed revamping.

At the time, Paper Tiger was the only venue of its size trying to bring in national touring bands from the indie music scene. Reflecting, Carey said, “It’s crazy that in a city our size, we don’t have a place trying to do things like that.”

Paper Tiger Chad Carey behind the bar at Paper Tiger when the venue opened in 2015.

Representative of “Metal City”

Musician Chris Smart said one of the reasons San Antonio didn’t establish itself on the indie music scene was because of its strong reputation as a heavy metal city, dating back to the days of KISS FM radio. and DJ Joe Anthony, known as the “Godfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, deciding to play only “British Steel” metal bands, including Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Scorpions.

“They didn’t play any punk. They didn’t play new wave. They didn’t play anything [else]”said Smart, a situation that carried over into the 1990s.

For music promoters programming shows, this meant a lack of awareness of the burgeoning indie scene. “No one would ever come to San Antonio because they wouldn’t sell any tickets. Or the developers weren’t really willing to take the risk,” he said.

For Smart, a turning point came in early 2011, when indie rock band Interpol played at Josabi’s music club in Helotes, a venue that now mainly hosts private events. Everyone thought the show was going to blow up, Smart said, because “nobody’s ever heard of it. … They were a top group … everywhere but San Antonio.

When KSYM radio started playing music aimed at college audiences, things started to change, Smart said. And with Paper Tiger now in the fold, “it seems like we have a lot more shows now. Even 10, 15 years ago, you had to drive all the way to Austin to see anybody, and I don’t have rarely need to do so.

While some have touted a renovated Sunken Garden Theater as a necessity to attract musical performers to San Antonio, club owner and live music advocate Blayne Tucker said the issue isn’t as simple as “if you build it, they will come”.

A major issue is advance ticket sales, Tucker said, which promoters rely on to judge whether shows are likely to turn a profit. “If you look at ticket buying data, San Antonio is probably the worst city in the country for selling advance tickets. And Austin is number one.

Another issue, he said, is that San Antonio is a “very different market.” In a way, it’s a collection of small, disparate communities, he said, giving the example of the sell-out Aaron Lewis Show at Floore’s Country Store at Helotes during Fiesta, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to downtown and other areas of the city.

“Everyone sort of lives in their own little world. So that’s the challenge first and foremost,” Tucker said.

Harvey McLaughlin and the Bottom Feeders perform at The Mix.

Profit margins and logistics

Carey said changes to the promotion side of the music industry have created new issues that limit which bands play where, in part because independent promoters are being squeezed out of the business. National promoters such as Live Nation, which books bands at the Aztec Theater, will create routes for the bands they represent based on the economy, Carey said, looking to make $20,000 with one show in Austin versus 10. $000 for a show in San Antonio.

David Viecelli, Founder and President of National Boutique Artists Agency The society of billionssaid the ratio is closer to one-third for what a group can typically expect to earn in San Antonio compared to Austin, and that playing here must make economic sense for the group.

But many factors come into play, Viecelli said, including the simple logistics of touring. When indie rock band Pavement booked a reunion tour, Austin was on the itinerary, but not San Antonio, in part because the band was leaving for London just after Austin to continue their international tour.

Another problem is that promoters often have “radius clauses”, which restrict artists from playing shows within a certain radius to prevent audiences from being too spread out.

The problem for San Antonio is also historic, Viecelli said. Even though the city was growing, “people didn’t see it as a growing thing. It didn’t have the cultural cachet of Austin. To some extent, agents and managers are also creatures of habit. You get used to thinking of it as a triumvirate of Texas cities,” he said, pointing to Houston, Austin and Dallas.

Viecelli compared the situation here to Milwaukee, which had traditionally been overlooked in the Midwestern triumvirate of Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis, similar in size to Houston, Austin and Dallas. Individual developers can make the difference for an isolated town, he said, referring to operators of the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, a restored 1895 venue that now hosts 100 shows a year of all musical genres.

Thanks to the hard and long-term work of the promoters, “it turned into something. They’ve treated the artists really well, they’ve invested in the venue, and they’ve really done a fantastic job of turning that market around. This is, frankly, what San Antonio could really use.

“Hand to Hand Combat”

San Antonio promoters continue to work to change the musical dynamics of the city. Solitary lounge sessions at the Lonesome Rose features popular artists such as John Doe and Bill Callahan, and is supported in part by sponsorships including Texas Public Radio and Period Modern, which provides fashionable furniture for the unique shows. The new Stable Hall, a former private event venue at the Pearl, will become a 1,000-seat music venue next year, to showcase local musicians and national tours.

The Pearl has announced a redevelopment of the historic stables into a Stable Hall, a concert hall and an outdoor biergarten.
The Pearl has announced a redevelopment of the historic stables into a Stable Hall, a concert hall and an outdoor biergarten. Credit: Courtesy/Clayton Korte

Carey said he puts in the time and effort to show promoters and agents a new face of the San Antonio music scene.

Indie band The Mountain Goats played Paper Tiger last August, but the show was the result of years of “hand-to-hand combat” with agents, Carey said lightly. “We begged and begged and begged, and they finally did a show, and the show blew up, it was so awesome. The band had a great time, they tweeted the next day that all bands should come play Paper Tiger in San Antonio.

Although indie rocker Ty Seagal will play in Austin and Dallas in June at venues of similar capacity, Seagal will skip Paper Tiger. However, Carey said, “The downside of being this magical unicorn city for music that Austin has been for the last 20, 30 years is that their market can be pretty jaded. But if [Seagal] were to play in San Antonio, I think people would go crazy about it.

Aaron Zimmerman is vice president of programming at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, and also curates shows with Tobin Entertainment for the Real Life Amphitheater and the new 3,100-seat Tech Port Center and Arenawho sold out his first Smashing Pumpkins gig on Monday night.

“While San Antonio is a physically bigger city and a bigger population, we can’t compete with the cool factor or the music scene in Austin,” as well as other music cities such as Nashville and Chicago, said Zimmermann.

However, he says, things are changing. “The music scene in San Antonio has grown exponentially over the past decade,” and with a variety of venues, “I almost don’t think [bands are] skip town more. For the most part, we stand a chance of everything.

Zimmerman said that as a music promoter, “I really believe in this city. I’m one of many who have tried to be part of a growing scene, and I think it’s really happening, it’s happening right in front of our eyes. It may not be as fast as we all want it to be,… [but] I think the mentality is really changing and changing quite fast.


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