New York

Transit Strike No Obstacle For Concert-Goers (We Hope)



More strike and you’re gonna see a lot more of this guy

Other Music, Knitting Factory, Others Weigh In On Strike

Not getting to work is one thing; not buying records or going to shows, people are starting to get ripshit.

“It’s killing our business, without a doubt,” says Other Music store manager Josh Madell. “Yesterday we probably did about half of what we should’ve been doing.”

Scott Mou, another store manager at Other Music, noticed that the people who did make it to their East 4th and Lafayette location were stocking up as if they were going to be snowed in. “They were just picking up stacks and stacks of CDs. We had somebody putting two of every John Martyn reissues on hold too, and he had already bought all of the reissues himself.”

Mail order could have been the week’s saving grace, but this late in the season Madell is unsure whether the packages would even arrive in time. “I’m hoping that a lot of people who didn’t come into town yesterday, because they can blow off work for a day or two, are gonna be forced to start coming in.”

While record sales take a considerable hit, live music venues around Manhattan seem to be in a better spot because of ticket presales. “Yesterday we didn’t have a show anyway, so we were closed,” explains Paolo Suarez, Booking Manager at the Knitting Factory. “We’ll be closed Thursday too. Tonight we have Sunn0))), and that one has really good presales, so we’ll see tonight how it’s gonna pan out, if folks are gonna want refunds. It seems like people are coming for it.”

Bowery Presents‘s Rachel Perry, who works the box office for the Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, and Webster Hall, might disagree. “I’ve had one person come in all afternoon, and I’ve been here for three hours.” To her knowledge none of the shows have been cancelled though, and the John Waters Christmas Special at the Bowery Ballroom has strong presales as well.

Not that there’s any great week for a transit strike to happen. But at least for live venues, as BB King Blues Club‘s Marketing and Promotions director Chris Zahn explains, “This is a holiday week, so you do things that are less risk, not too crazy. There could have been shows tonight or tomorrow with guarantees laid out 30-, 40-thousand dollars, big name acts. But I wouldn’t have booked something like that anyway.” Last night Zahn booked a Phish listening party–600 people came, “not bad for just playing a CD in a room.”

This morning Ticketmaster, who services BB King shows, warned potential buyers about the strike, and Zahn has noticed a decline in ticket sales. “Wednesday is a huge ticket-buying day. Your Timeouts and Village Voices comes out. I think a lot of people are just waiting. There could be a huge surge afterwards. It’s certainly not affecting New Years Eve–people just assume it’ll be over by then.” New Years at BB’s, James Brown will play both an early evening and late night show.

Zahn has also taken advantage of BB’s prime Times Square location to lure people waiting to travel back home into making a night of their delay. “The lines were so long to get into Port Authority and Grand Central, we figured, hey, what a great way to flyer. We sent a couple flyer guys over there, and hey, if you don’t feel like waiting for two hours…”

The Knit’s Suarez has also thought about proposing drink specials to bring people into shows this weekend (“What I Like About Jew” happens both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), as a compromise for the cab fare money people have to spend to get back home.

No editorializers in this crowd–even Other Music’s Madell gave a somewhat hedged opinion on the transit strike, what side’s right, etc. “I’m sure the workers have something to say, I’m sure the MTA is right about some things too. I definitely have no sympathy for them striking over this–there’s a reason this is illegal. Every business is losing tons of money. We shouldn’t all be suffering because they’re upset about a pension.”

Looming now are Thursday and Friday mornings’ commutes–bring your iPod, though Madell has advice: “There’s a lot of amateur bikers out there, a lot of crazy frustrated drivers. Keep your headphones turned down so you don’t get run over.”

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