Gen Z is Drinking Less and it’s Affecting Concert Venues

Gen Z—i.e. those born between 1997 and 2012—is drinking less alcohol and it’s affecting concert venues that rely on alcohol sales to keep their lights on, according to a new report.

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David Slutes, who is the entertainment director at the 300-plus-capacity Tucson venue Club Congress told Billboard that he’s noticed a 25% decrease in money spent on alcohol by those in the Gen Z bracket as compared to those older.

“Coming out of COVID-19, everything about the live music business was turned upside down,” said Slutes. “We weren’t sure why the numbers were like this. Then we did a deeper dive, and at every event aimed at a Gen Z crowd, we saw numbers that were very different.”

Likewise, Dayna Frank, the President and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis said at the Music Biz conference in Nashville that she too has seen this change in behavior from the younger audience.

“One of the big trends we’re seeing is that Gen Z doesn’t drink as much,” Frank said. “They’re either eating edibles before they come or there’s more of a sober, mental health [focus]… Most of the ticket price goes on to the band, so really what [venues] subsist on is beverages. That’s not going to be a sustainable revenue stream.”

In a 2020 study by Ty Schepis, a professor of psychology at Texas State University, results showed that 28% of students aged 18-22 were abstaining from alcohol in 2018 as compared to 20% in 2002. Schepis told Billboard that marijuana use has grown from 33% to 37% among college students.

All of these changes are affecting small venues and could spell doom given their often-razor tight margins. As such, there is a rise in craft non-alcoholic beer (something more rare in the past) as well as a look to be able to serve CBD-infused drinks.

In a 2019 article, Seattle Theater Group’s Adam Zacks, who deals with big-name artists and used to put on the Sasquatch! music festival, said smaller venues are crucial to the larger musical ecosystem. Decreasing their numbers would be bad, he notes.

“Small venues are critical for artists to develop their craft and build an audience,” Zacks said. “They are the beginning of the pipeline that leads to our theatres and beyond. These are our modern day clubhouses and community centers. Intimate venues create community and provide an opportunity for us to interact and see what each other looks like beyond our profile pics. It feels more critical than ever to protect that.”

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