People who graduate college always talk about all the things they didn’t get to do because they lived nearly penniless. They prioritized eating not-so-nutritional food because of the cheaper prices and it taking less time to make. They list the countless tweaks they made to their lifestyle to make living more affordable and their student loans less overwhelming. But what if we flipped the script?
What if we focused on things to add to your college experience instead of taking away from it?
In this case, my top pick would have to be general admission concert tickets. When I moved to Boston, I figured I needed new hobbies. People from the East Coast don’t drive to the beach every day to surf and my small liberal arts school definitely did not play enough pick up soccer games for my liking. I already felt the need to change my appearance, so what’s the difference if I get a few new hobbies? I turned to the one thing that distance didn’t divide: music.
My hometown didn’t possess a lively music scene. Underground shows happened here and there, but no up-and-coming indie artist ever came to San Jose, California to showcase their new EP. Luckily for me, Boston and my campus in particular were a train ride away, if not a walk down the street, from many small concert venues that artists and bands I love came to perform on tour. It seemed criminal to pass up an opportunity like that to go see them.
This made me realize how much I deprived myself from music in high school.
Everything always took place in San Francisco (an hour away). No one’s parents wanted to drive a bunch of 14-year-olds to see Khalid on a Tuesday night. I can’t imagine how much that Uber might cost. I assumed every concert ticket cost over $100 because of all the mainstream artists I saw with my parents as a little kid. Then I discovered the magic of following my own artists and bands, which helped me curate my own music taste.
Not only was Boston the epicenter of live music for me, everyone seemed to tour during my freshman year. Of course, COVID restrictions lifted and 2021 proved to be a large revival of live music as a whole. However, experiencing it as an adult showed me that I had quite a few concerts to catch up on. I didn’t take advantage of it nearly enough in high school.
I was lucky to see popular artists like Harry Styles and Phoebe Bridgers fill stadiums to the brim.
Those tickets definitely put a dent in my wallet, but I don’t regret going to those shows one bit. I must say that they lacked one thing: intimacy. For some reason, I just didn’t feel like I came out with a unique experience at those shows because of how many others came to see, feel and hear the same thing. I decided to take a chance on smaller shows, even if I stood outside in the rain three hours prior to get a good view of the stage.
At my first smaller show, I faced the hard reality of figuring out the difference between the times the doors open and the time you should actually show up. My friend never went to a general admission show before either, so we assumed that “doors at 7” translated to “get there at 6:30.” That was certainly not the case. It was pouring outside and everyone who got there early enough had the awning to stand under. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t part of the crowd who did. Now I know to come at least two hours early to a general admission show.
The same show also made me realize that openers have talent.
They don’t just fill up space on stage or take up time. The artist performing obviously chose them to open for a reason, so you should give them the attention they deserve. Sarah Barrios performed tremendously, but she also made sure to connect with her audience. She made a comment on how she reads young adult novels and connects them with her lyrics. I also realized that these artists might stand up on a stage, but they are just as human as us. I loved her performance so much that I talked to her at the merchandise stand after the show (another thing I didn’t know that happens). It meant so much to me that she took the time to have a conversation with me. I love how something so simple had such a lasting effect on me.
It seemed obvious to me that people would prefer to spend less money on a ticket, get to see and hear the artist clearly and have a one-on-one interaction with them rather than spending hundreds to view a concert from the jumbotron. I started to fall in love with getting to know the personal side of the artists I saw in concert. I asked them about their backgrounds, what their songs were about and occasionally complimented their outfits. I realized that I never wanted to stop doing so.
As a writer for a music publication on campus, I started taking advantage of my experience of going to smaller concerts.
I often posted pictures or videos of openers and tagged them on my Instagram story. More often than not, I received a kind response back from the artist or band about how they appreciated me documenting the show. From there, I’d spark conversation about why their band stood out to me. I then asked if they would agree to an interview for more publicity. A year later, I have yet to be turned down. I advise aspiring music journalists to do the same as it never hurts to ask. Who knows? You might have the chance to interview some really amazing artists like I have.
I find it somewhat comedic that a small artist I saw a TikTok of sparked my career in music journalism. Had I not seen their video and spontaneously bought their concert ticket, I might not have ended up where I am now. These conversations with smaller artists helped connect me to the well-known ones that they open for. This opened many doors for me as a growing writer. As a student still in college bound to make questionable decisions with her money, I advise finding affordable hobbies in the city you live in. You might just find yourself on a new path to your dream career.