According to a new report from Billboard, Gen Z is drinking far less alcohol at concerts than their elders, and while that may be good for their health, it could spell doom for live music venues.
“One of the big trends we’re seeing is that Gen Z doesn’t drink as much,” the report reads, citing Dayna Frank, President/CEO of Minneapolis venue/promotion company First Avenue Productions. “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.”
David Slutes, entertainment director at Club Congress in Tucson, confirmed the trend, measuring a 25% decrease in money spent on alcohol among those born between 1997 and 2012. “Coming out of COVID-19, everything about the live music business was turned upside down,” he told Billboard. “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.”
Broader research into Gen Z’s alcohol consumption supports the downward trend as well. A 2020 study by Texas State University professor of psychology Ty Schepis found that 28% of college students from ages 18 to 22 abstained from alcohol in 2018, compared with 20% in 2002, and alcohol abuse in the same age range dropped by 50% in the same time period. Schepis noted in an interview with Billboard that Gen Z’s reduced alcohol consumption is “a continuation of a trend.” Cannabis consumption, on the other hand, has continued to rise as more and more states end pot prohibition.
With a major revenue stream starting to dry up, venues are trying to recoup their losses with non-alcoholic offerings like kombucha and CBD-infused drinks, private event bookings, and venue merchandise, and now some festivals, which also rely on beverage sales, are beginning to explore legal cannabis. Just last week, two festivals announced plans to be the first festivals in Illinois to allow onsite cannabis consumption. Adopting cannabis may be more difficult for indoor venues, though, due to restrictions and regulations on smoking.
It will likely take a long time for the industry and regulations to adjust, but if these trends continue, cannabis may help make up some of the revenue lost from declining alcohol sales. In the mean time, support your local music venues in any way you can, even if it means buying a kombucha.
Read the full Billboard report here.