Fabian Holt

Fabian Holt, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Roskilde. Holt specializes in the consumption and production of live music and cultural events in the digital age. His publications include Genre in Popular Music (Chicago 2007), Musical Performance and the Changing City (forthcoming), and articles in various international journals.



"How Live Music Clubs in New York City Have Adapted to Gentrification: The Case of the Bowery Presents"

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 and that they need to be seen in the context of changes in media culture, too. The popularization of indie rock via the internet, for instance, 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. Such an approach also allows us to see live music clubs as sites of musical and social change.