Is San Diego’s House Of Blues Headed For The Chopping Block?

Jul 24th, 2008 // 15 Comments

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The concert-business woes in the San Diego market have been chronicled here in some detail, even though the closest member of the Idolator writing staff is a few hundred miles away. So it’s not all that surprising that the San Diego Reader is hearing rumors about the impending closure of its home city’s House of Blues outpost, which, despite gaining notoriety when Britney Spears played there on her aborted “comeback” tour in spring ’07, sells the fewest tickets of all House of Blues nationwide, according to Pollstar. For its part, owner/operator Live Nation is denying the claims–while acknowledging that times have been tough.

Two well-connected music-biz professionals say they have been told that the local House of Blues may be in trouble.

“I heard that if they don’t have a rapid turnaround [in business] by March they might be closing,” says one of them.

Another insider says he did not hear specifically about a March turnaround deadline for the local HoB club, “…but I did hear that three of their clubs were in trouble: Cleveland, San Diego, and Atlantic City. And they already gave up [control of] the one in Atlantic City.”

Obviously, the economic downturn has hit San Diego harder than other cities, so we should file this under the developing-story mantle. (Also, I haven’t managed to find any confirmation of who the Atlantic City House of Blues’ operations were turned over to.) But would returning control of the club to perhaps a local production company cut overhead and allow Live Nation to at least focus on one aspect of a business, the larger venues in the area that it owns, that can definitely be described as being “in transition”?

The Struggle [San Diego Reader via Coolfer]

  1. Anonymous

    Maura,

    Obviously I’m jaded because I live in New York and most of our shows sell out because there’s just so many goshdarn people living in this metropolitan area.

    However, I forget to think about smaller markets and the fact that there are just too many bands on tour, too many shows (big and small) for consumers to choose between and with gas prices up, San Diego not really having much in the way of transportation, it’s no wonder people can’t afford to see Shinedown at HOB-San Diego for $30+ with fees.

    Speaking of NYC, is it just me or does anyone else ever wonder how so many venues operate here? Seriously: Hammerstein, Roseland, Irving Plaza, Terminal 5, Highline Ballroom, Hiro Ballroom, Webster Hall, Nokia Theater, Knitting Factory, Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, the list goes on and on…

  2. alec_baldwin

    I like how LYV keeps saying that people will attend two events per year despite what’s going on with the economy. The media spin doctors are stupid for buying that crap. You can make polls say anything, especially if you pay for them.

  3. Anonymous

    @cosmiclove: I attend over 80 shows a year. But, then again, I am a freak and should not be used as any sort of statistical example.

  4. Audif Jackson Winters III

    I’m not sure the HOB in San Diego was doing too well even before the current downturn in the economy. While San Diego’s downtown has changed quite a bit over the last decade, I’m still not sure that people from all over San Diego County — which is pretty well spread-out — are used to going downtown to see a show. There are venues to see concerts dotted all over the county, including a small club up in Solana Beach, the Belly Up, that gets some surprisingly big names. I think that intertia is the primary downfall, on top of the other reasons discussed (gas prices, lack of parking).

  5. alec_baldwin

    @2ironic4u: Wave your freak flag. I wave mine every day, all day. I’m talking about the average consumer. You seem to be an exception…I do wonder about all of those venue, too, and how they sustain themselves. The Knitting Factory, as I’m sure you know, is moving to Brooklyn.

  6. Maura Johnston

    @cosmiclove: I would think that the high number of industry types/writers/people who get into shows on ticket buys arranged by companies would help the money flowing into the venues a lot.

  7. Anonymous

    @cosmiclove: Ha, thanks. I do live in NYC so I have a lot of options available at my very fingertips. For example, the week of 8/4-8/11, I literally am going to a show every night of the week. I’ll be draggin’ come Sunday at the 2 Skinnee J’s.

  8. alec_baldwin

    @Maura Johnston: I know. Right! I always bought my tix, even from the heavyweights who really made it easy not to. If they insisted, I took them, gave away at the office, and bought my own.

    @2ironic4u: I have not been home in months. So jealous.

  9. Anonymous

    I just hope that when the Knitting Factory relocates, it’s still willing to have rap shows. Bowery Presents is clearly afraid of black people.

  10. Anonymous

    @StuntKockSteeev: Nope, probably all “cool” bands from here-on out. Ever notice that all the blogger bands love having “The Bowery Presents” above their names on the ticket? Does that somehow give them more cred than Live Nation or AEG?

  11. alec_baldwin

    @StuntKockSteeev: That’s crazy cuz it used to be that Brooklyn, except for the Heights, was pretty much the sole provenance of blacks and *the others.* Now it’s all nilla, which is fine…It is what it is.

  12. mackro

    San Diego has always had a terminal case of lack-of-venue-itis. Some perspective: the one year I booked shows in Orange County, most of the headlining bands were well known rock groups from San Diego, who were very appreciative of the opportunity to have a place to play. This was in 2000.

    San Diego as a whole never appreciated the talent that they had and they have in their own backyard, with exceptions.

    And given that there’s Cane’s, which seems like the equivalent size and feel as HOB, not to mention the Belly Up, which wants to be an HOB type venue, an actual HOB in San Diego is really redundant. San Diego needs a greater variety of venues, but not the HOB kind. So, in brief, this is no surprise, no matter the year this would have happened.

  13. Aaron Poehler

    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t actively dislike the SD HOB, but I definitely don’t consider it a great place to see a show. Generally, when I see someone is playing there my reaction is similar to this: “Hey, Motorhead is coming to town…mmm, but it’s at the House of Blues…I don’t know, do I want to deal with that? Maybe I’ll hold off and see if they drop the tickets to half-price (which they very frequently do – apparently their lack of consistent attendance figures is not a new thing) and then I’ll go, but…”

  14. catdirt

    i could have checked this out for you. the san diego reader “blurt” feature is notorious for lots of stuff, but they have a decent track record on these kind of insidery prognostication.

    everyone- even the people who go- hates the house of blues. they have to much competition and not enough goodwill to do well in this competitive market. there are similar size venues that don’t even pretend to be a seven nights a week place to see live music.

  15. The Liquor Fairy

    I rarely buy tickets to SD HOB unless it’s a band I really want to see. Most of the shows are all-ages, which means you have to wait in line for a wristband to go upstairs to the ridiculously tiny balcony/bar area. Frequently it’s at capacity and you have to wait to get into the bar area. Even if you do get in it’s claustrophobic & impossible to get a drink.

    Downstairs it’s generally a bunch of underage, drunken douchebags with backwards baseball caps who are there to have obnoxiously loud conversations with their frat buddies and don’t give a shit about the band.

    Any other venue in San Diego is preferable. And it’s not just the all-ages thing, SOMA is all-ages and I always have a great time there.

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