Musicians have objected and the number of paying customers is down, so the Old Mill District in Bend will no longer allow concert-goers to sit across the Deschutes River and get a free show from the likes of Pink Martini, the Steve Miller Band, Norah Jones and ZZ Top.
For 11 summer seasons, the Central Oregon concert venue has allowed people to congregate in the area of grass and paved recreation path on the east side of the river, but that will stop Sunday with a performance by Michael Franti & Spearhead at Les Schwab Amphitheater, The Bulletin newspaper reported.
In an era when music acts make their money on tour rather than from recordings, said venue manager Marney Smitth, “we’re getting a reputation that we want to nip in the bud: that we’re a venue that people can see the music for free.”
The free shows are drawing larger crowds, she said.
Typically, the non-paying crowd is 25 percent to 40 percent of paying crowed, and sometimes that reaches 50 percent.
For a recent Pink Martini concert, “there was not an available inch of grass to add another chair,” Smith said.
And the acts are aware of the people who aren’t buying tickets.
“Steve Miller Band’s manager walked over and had dinner at Anthony’s and was astounded and didn’t like what he saw,” Smith said. “That translates. It’s a small world and they all communicate with each other.
Smith said sales for the first four shows of this summer were down 19 percent from the first four last year, and she projected that, unless sales pick up, the 2013 season will come in roughly 33 percent under 2012.
She said the crowds sometimes left behind litter and human waste.
The Old Mill district owns the property that people will be excluded from during concerts.
Smith said it considered options, such as selling tickets for the east side, but the venue can’t always be sure what paying customers would get for sound quality because some artists control the system.