How Live Music Clubs in New York City Have Adapted to Gentrification: The Case of the Bowery Presents. Fabian Holt (University of Roskilde, Denmark)
In the past decade, legendary underground rock clubs on the Lower East Side have closed or moved to Brooklyn, while the Bowery Presents has established itself as the major player on the scene. Why and how did this happen? This paper introduces the idea that the general process of socio-economic gentrification in New York City has been accompanied by a major cultural shift in the cultural image of rock venues. Rock clubs have adapted to gentrification in their music programming, venue design, and marketing. Based on fieldwork and archival materials, the paper examines the contrasting images of the underground rock clubs of the pre-gentrification era with the contemporary image of the ballroom-style venue developed by the Bowery Presents. Drawing from urban sociology and music venue studies, the paper argues that adaption to gentrification can be identified in clubs across music genres. The popularization of indie rock via the internet, moreover, has helped create a new live music market for rock clubs. The paper builds the overall argument that live music clubs are deeply embedded in the urban social environment around the club and therefore requires theory that takes into account not only the music but also the complex character of urban life and media culture.