Bob Dylan warned us…"the times they are a changin’."

How many of us can remember talking with our grandparents, astonished at the changes they had witnessed in their simpler, harder working lives. My "nana" learned to drive on a Ford "Model T." Her last car was a 1979 Chevy Camaro "Berlinetta." Just thinking in terms of how cars changed in her 83 years, saves us the obvious discussion of the vast changes in culture, style, homes, food, travel and more.

Most of us haven’t thought of the changes the 38-year-old Star Plaza Theatre (Holiday Star to many of us) and the music industry have seen since it opened in 1979. The changes in the live music business have been in many ways insidious, incremental and almost imperceptible, that is until you consider them in total in 2016.

Our parents and grandparents favorite entertainers grew up touring and performing in theaters for small, intimate crowds. These entertainers were used to being among their fans, and relished the interaction. Bob Hope, Perry Como, Gladys Knight, The Temptations wanted to play 3000-4000 seat venues. It is where they were comfortable and it is what the fans demanded. Supper clubs, and the great historic Vaudevillian theaters were the venues that launched entertainers of the "Greatest Generation" and they felt a loyalty to tour that way during their entire careers.

But while mom and dad, grandma and gramps were going to Star Plaza, our first rebellion as a generation (musically speaking) facilitated our favorite artists using mega venues. Like lemmings over the cliff, we raced to Rosemont Horizon or the World Music Theatre and were happy to be two of 25,000 to see the Journey "Escape" tour, or Billy Joel’s, "The Stranger" tour. We paid too much for the tickets, the t-shirts and the beers – but we were there! We inflicted the first wound to places like the Star Plaza Theatre, and we did not even know it.

Enough of the old guard "middle of the road" (MOR) entertainers, R/B and country stars still wanted to tour the small "houses," and guys like former Star Plaza VP/GM David L. Steuer, would go to the NYC talent agencies and cobble together the venue’s performance calendar. It was a delicate balance of ego, date availability, price of the talent, relationship with the agency, and willingness to take on additional shows that would not sell – think of a ticket selling disaster like Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Every Robert Palmer booking had a price. Anyone can sell out Tina Turner, but the Robert Morris agency has other acts that need bookings as well.

There were hundreds of other details in the contract "riders" (no brown M&Ms, fresh flowers daily, no staff on stage during dress rehearsals) so you quickly see that this was no easy feat. We as residents and fans got world class entertainment, millions of visitors, a thriving economy and a booming corridor all along I65 and US 30, because of the foresight and vision of one man, Mr. Dean V. White, and the community’s pride and joy, Star Plaza Theatre.

Fast forward through the decades. Fewer entertainers now play Star Plaza. Those that do, can be paid substantially more, because casinos and outdoor music festivals are everywhere. That increase in demand allows entertainer to charge more, pricing a venue like the Star out of the market. Casinos, unlike my old days at the Star, do not have to "sell" concert tickets to break even. Music festivals, like Hammond’s Festival of the Lakes, can co-mingle sponsor money, city resources and parking revenues to drive up the offer price of the headline entertainer as well. The casino has a huge pot of money to spend, and doesn’t have to break even on concerts. An act that used to cost the Star $25,000 is now getting $60,000-80,000 at a casino or music fest.

National convention, university and stadium management companies like SMG, can offer a talent manager 85-95% of a tour locations with one phone call. The opportunity to get a bite at the touring apple gets more difficult for the small independent houses as markets consolidate.

The same negative effects of consolidation on the Star were seen in the consolidation of media outlets. When Star Plaza was booking the hair bands of the 80’s, there were 5-6 independently owned rock stations vying to be the media partner. The same went in R/B and country markets. While a few independently owned radio stations remain, the traditional media available to promoters has shrunk, and most promoters have not seized the potential of emerging media.

The biggest and most dramatic changes came in how music itself is now accessed, distributed and consumed. Think about it, DJs on WLS, WLUP and WXRT played what we listened to. They made the decisions, we bought the records. We went to the album tours.

Today, the artist no longer needs all these middlemen. I can hop into my vehicle turn on the Sirius/XM radio. When I hear a song I really like, pick up my phone, "Shazam" it, download it and replay it, all with in 30 seconds. I’ve just found a new artist, and a new song. I will probably not download the rest of the album. I will add it to a play list, and put it on my blue tooth sound system. All of this with out ever hearing an add, going to a record store or buying a concert ticket. Every time I stream a song on Spotify or buy it on iTunes, the artist gets paid. They no longer need to tour nationally, or at least not as many dates, as artists now have 45,000 seat venues to fill in 12 dates, versus 80 stops at 4000 seats each… Simply stated the model has changed.

The artists and smart technology have disinter-mediated so much of the music industry, that I am compelled to ask, "what constitutes ‘live’?" If Warren Haynes and the Lumineers are live broadcasting via social media, is that a "live" event to me, as I enjoy a scotch on my deck at home? With all the changes yet to come (virtual reality, social media, augmented reality, etc.) casualties like the Star Plaza Theatre will continue, and fewer venues will dot the landscape.

What is the future of live entertainment and venues when we cannot agree on what defines "live?"

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