Chesterfield venue sees ‘huge shift’ in audiences as older people remain nervous about live events

The co-owner of a popular Chesterfield venue said she has seen a ‘huge shift’ in the customers coming through their doors, with older people still cautious about returning to live events.

By Tom Hardwick
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 8:10 pm
Much younger audiences have been attending gigs at Real Time in recent weeks.
Much younger audiences have been attending gigs at Real Time in recent weeks.

Niki Stephenson, co-owner of Real Time Live in Chesterfield, said her venue had seen a drastic change in terms of audiences over recent weeks, with a drop in the number of over 55’s attending shows.

“A promoter did a 90s event at Real Time a few weeks ago and it was absolutely rammed. They did an 80s event and sold all of their tickets, but only 65% of the audience turned up.

“There’s been a huge shift in ages. We’ve just had a run of 10 weeks that has been the best we’ve had in our 10-year history, but it’s been really interesting to note that we’ve had so many new faces, all under 30 - there’s very few people over 55 coming out.”

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Niki Stephenson believes older customers are not confident enough to return to venues yet.

Mrs Stephenson said this change in demographics was down to a lack of confidence, and said this could impact venues and artists that normally attract older audiences.

“I think it’s down to confidence, we’re still being bombarded with the negatives, and people don't understand that this is now normal. Covid is going to be with us for decades to come - this is a fundamental shift in the way we live.

“I don’t think the industry is back to normal, I think we’re in recovery. A lot of venues have disappeared, so there are less places for musicians to play, and attendances will depend on the audience you appeal to.

“If you play music for younger people, you’ll get a pretty good turnout, but if you’re putting on 60s type shows, for example, those people are not going out. The night time economy has now got to think about doing things in the summer that older people feel more confident doing- it’s going to be an uphill battle for a lot of independent businesses after the 18 months we’ve had.”

For those customers who might be more tentative to return to gigs, Mrs Stephenson said Real Time were still taking stringent hygiene measures to make sure the venue is Covid safe.

“I think it’s important for people to realise that at venues like Real Time, we aren’t open during the day, we clean all the time- from leads, mics and stools to every surface. We have airflow all the way through the night, we open doors for hours before people come and hours afterwards, and the aircon releases fresh air.”

Mrs Stephenson said there were positives to the shift in audiences, with an influx of first-time customers enjoying themselves. She said that she hoped those more cautious gig-goers would find a balance that allows them to return to live events soon.

“On a positive note, this means we’re seeing hundreds of new faces, which is fantastic. It’s tremendous to see Real Time bouncing again, and the support for local bands has been great - it makes my heart swell.

“I think if you’re double vaccinated, you’ve got to live your life- that’s just my opinion, and everyone is entitled to theirs.”