On to Pasadena
The city of Pasadena is known for the Rose Bowl, the Tournament of Roses, the Rose Bowl and DooDah parades. It is a beautiful place, with mild weather year-round and artistic influences from many cultures. There is the annual Chalk Festival where artists create incredible masterpieces on the sidewalks of the theater district, the Make Music Pasadena music festival and music in Old Pasadena feature a plethora of young, local musicians and bands.
The Levitt Foundation, based in Los Angeles, operates the Levitt Pavilion Amphitheater in Pasadena and permanent facilities in nine other locations nationwide, offering fifty free concerts during the summer with headliners and local musicians. The foundation offers funding for 15 additional venues around the country and funds existing AMP programs , including Santa Fe, NM, all producing free concerts for their communities (leviit.org)
Although there are only about 140,000 permanent residents in this bedroom community of Los Angeles, Pasadena has committed itself to the arts because of its tourist economy. The city itself invests over a half a million dollars in cultural services in a 475-million-dollar tourist economy. Pasadena and most of the LA basin has specifically targeted Chinese tourists and they want to provide them with a total American experience. For music’s part, that means that there needs to be not only a wide variety of music, but also a single corridor where tourists can find the music. That area is the section of East Colorado Boulevard near downtown known as Paseo Colorado.
One of the gems at Paseo Colorado is the Rose theater. There you can hear national acts like Kris Kristofferson, Tower of Power and Jefferson Starship. The theater is one of four venues in California owned and operated by the same company. Each venue shares acts, with some moving along the coast for three or more performances in a row. Despite the high caliber talent that the Rose Theater attracts, there is room for local artists. Each venue offers local acts the opportunity to open for a headliner, something rare among venue owners. Each act must audition, have a following that will draw an audience, and in some cases, pay to play. For bands and artists with a large enough following, the shared ticket revenue is often enough to offset the pay to play costs and turn a profit.
How did they adopt this performance strategy? Management says that it is just good business. When the theater is looking for local acts to fill the spaces between larger shows or for private events there is a pool of bands and artists that have proven themselves with an audience, are familiar with the venue and its policies and already have a marketing strategy in place.
Every club, restaurant and hotel that we visited has a budget for music and most have sound systems and staging for the bands. There is intense competition for the tourist trade here, especially the international traveler. Younger tourists want a vibrant night life while others seek authentic traditional American style music genres like Country, Mariachi, Jazz and R&B.
How adaptable are these programs? It will take some compromise from both artists and management and from city government, but it is doable.