Booking Outside the Box: New, Unusual Live Music Trends

Bill Leigh

Oct. 29, 2018

By Chris Zaldua, originally published on the Eventbrite blog

Everyone involved in music booking knows it: Fans and showgoers are hungry for something new and different. That desire has given rise to a slew of outside-the-box shows, like these picks from across the United States, Germany, England, and China.

These four show trends offer up novel experiences outside the live music norm — and draw crowds outside of your typical 20-something showgoer. Read on if you’re looking for inspiration — or simply a good way to change up your weekend plans.

Three-dimensional spatial audio performances

Think “surround sound,” and most of us think about movies: Immersive, three-dimensional technology that allows us to hear a distant footfall (or an up-close explosion!) and “place” it in real space. It’s a clever, creative trick we’ve figured out how to play on our brains.

What if we took the same technology, upped the ante (and the number of speakers), and let musicians have free rein on it?

Now they can do just that, thanks to new, cutting-edge software that allows artists and musicians to “map” music and sound across time and space. A handful of venues and performance spaces around the globe are now equipped with state-of-the-art, multi-channel spatial sound systems. (Think 24 or 32 speakers, not five or six.) These setups are inspiring and enabling artists to create an entirely new kind of immersive, live audio-visual experience.

Where you can find it:

  • In San Francisco, Envelop SF, a venue inside The Midway equipped with 32 speakers and custom-built software, showcases artists performing works written specifically for their space
  • In Berlin, MONOM — a unique space within the city’s historic Funkhaus — features 4DSOUND, a 48-channel spatial sound system, currently the world’s largest and most advanced
  • And for venues lacking their own purpose-built 3D audio spaces, Dolby Atmos offers custom spatial audio solutions

Live ambient music performances

Ambient music, a genre coined by Brian Eno in 1978 to describe music “able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular,” generally forgoes rhythm and traditional song structure in favor of atmosphere, tone, and mood. Niche music, in other words.

But thanks to a quirk in how online streaming platforms have changed how we discover music, ambient music is experiencing newfound popularity around the globe. Several new high-profile events now showcase this low-key sound on stage.

Where you can find it:

  • Ambient Church, based in Brooklyn but soon expanding to Los Angeles and beyond, presents live ambient music in “architecturally unique spaces” — like churches
  • In Durham, NC, this year’s Moogfest made ambient music a central component, with an eight-hour “sleep concert” on offer
  • In Shanghai, an event series called Space Out! offers a relaxing, soothing respite from the hustle and bustle of the Chinese mega-city

Live scored films

Sometimes, film soundtracks can loom larger than the films they come from: Movie paraphernalia has become a minor cottage industry unto itself. For example, Texas-based company Mondo does brisk business reissuing luxe vinyl soundtracks (and much more) for dozens of beloved cult films.

Now, this trend has made its way to live shows. Film (and music) lovers can experience the soundtracks to their favorite films in full glory, performed live and direct by talented musicians, set to a (silent) screening of the film.

Where you can find it:

  • Italian horror classic Suspiria features a beautifully nightmarish soundtrack, by Goblin, which has taken on a 40+ year life of its own. In late 2018, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (a re-envisioning of the original band led by Simonetti) will tour, performing the score live set to a screening of the original film.
  • Morricone Youth, a New York City-based band who performs only “music written for the moving image,” released their own take on the soundtrack to the Australian dystopian classic Mad Max. They toured extensively in support, performing their score live alongside the film in theaters nationwide.
  • The Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival features a slew of indie film shorts with soundtracks by talented composers — all performed live at the festival.

Artist-themed parties

Everyone loves a theme party. When the theme involves some of the world’s most well-known pop stars and musicians, nightclubs and venues do, too.

The appeal for venues is obvious: Low talent spend and a built-in audience (who probably aren’t their usual crowd) make for an easy win. Just don’t host them too often — lest you become known as “that theme-party spot.”

Where you can find it:

  • The Drake Party, which travels to clubs throughout California (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside, Irvine), throws a party dedicated to, well, Drake, attracting sell-out crowds who dance to DJs playing his own songs and remixes
  • Prince & Michael Jackson parties, hosted by a slew of promoters around the U.S., feature America’s two most soulful, sultry singer-songwriters going head-to-head in heated dance-offs
  • LCD Soundsystem vs. Daft Punk is a roving party (San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, and other cities) that showcases late ‘00s indie dance and “blog house” by the eponymous acts and beyond

Looking for additional inspiration without going too far off the beaten path? Read our report on up-and-coming trends in live music.

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