Small vs Large Concert Venues: Which is Better



People go to concerts for a myriad of reasons, but most reasons boil down to one thing: a passionate love of music. There’s nothing quite like seeing some of your favorite artists in person. When attending concerts, people expect to see and hear live music, but there are many other factors that contribute to the overall experience. A hugely important one? The type of venue.

Concerts are held at all kinds of venues, from smaller capacity venues like the House of Blues chain to sports arenas or stadium concerts such as the outdoor Twins Stadium. A great show can be put on at any venue, given the right performers and proper set up, but when it comes down to smaller venues versus larger ones, which one is better?

In this guide, we’re going to cover some of the major advantages and disadvantages of both smaller and larger concert venues. But first, let’s take a brief look at some of the different types of venues.

Different Types of Concert Venues

  • Stadiums. The largest venues for concerts, with many stadiums offering seating for up to 30,000+ people. Most of these multipurpose, large venues primarily host sporting events and are not designed with concert specific facilities. Concert preparation requires extensive set up and tear down, but can lead to expansive, memorable performances.
  • Amphitheaters. Unlike stadiums, amphitheaters are usually designed for concerts and other musical performances. These are open-air venues that can host anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 people.
  • Festival Grounds. These are outdoor facilities that primarily accommodate seasonal entertainment events, such as county fairs and music festivals. Music festivals are organized events, usually multi-day, featuring performances by various artists. Depending on the location, these venues can accommodate between 10,000 and 120,000 concertgoers.
  • Arenas. There can be a lot of overlap between stadiums and arenas, but arenas are typically enclosed, whereas stadiums can be open-air. These multipurpose facilities usually seat between 5,000 and 20,000 people.
  • Mid-Sized Music Venues. Unlike most of the venues listed above, this type of facility is designed for concerts and features a permanent stage. Mid-sized music venues typically hold between 1,000 and 6,500 people.
  • Small-Sized Music Venues. This type of indoor venue almost always has a permanent stage, with a typical seating capacity of less than 1,000.

Advantages of a Small Venue

From an Attendee’s Perspective

  • More intimate. One of the biggest perks of attending a concert at a smaller venue is you’re closer to the band! Even if you’re not in the first few rows, chances are you still have a pretty great view and are actually able to make out who’s who on the stage. Depending on the artist, you might even have a better chance of meeting the band. This also often means shorter ticket lines, that you’re less likely of losing your friends, and sometimes better sound quality.
  • Price. Ticket prices are generally cheaper for smaller venues, and many shows only offer one type of general admission ticket at a single price. Refreshments are more likely to be cheaper at these venues.

From an Organizer’s Perspective

  • Permanent stage. Many of the smaller concert venues have a built-in stage ready for the performers, requiring less preparation, set up, and tear down before and after the show.
  • Price. It is significantly cheaper to book out a smaller venue than a larger one.

Disadvantages of a Small Venue

From an Attendee’s Perspective

  • Standing. Many of these venues offer general admission and are standing room only. While many concertgoers prefer to stand in order to get a better view of the artist, it can be nice (or necessary) to have the option to sit when needed.
  • You need to show up early to get a good spot. One of the downsides of standing room only is that it can be difficult to grab a good spot. Most of the time, you need to show up early, before the doors open. Once you’ve found your spot, you’ve got to stay there. If you need to leave to use the restroom or get food, you’ll likely lose your spot.
  • It can get claustrophobic. Unfortunately, when attending a standing room only concert, you essentially give up your right to personal space. Although being in the middle of the excitement is part of the fun, it can get uncomfortable.

From an Organizer’s Perspective

  • Less promotion. Playing shows at smaller venues doesn’t come with same promotion and a publicity that playing a larger venue does.
  • Limited resources. Many smaller venues may be limited in the resources they can offer, meaning the artist will have to provide a lot of their own equipment.
  • Less revenue. A smaller number of tickets sold means less money made.

Advantages of a Large Venue

From an Attendee’s Perspective

  • Better sound, equipment, and effects. The bigger venues are where most acts bring out the big guns. If you attend a show at a stadium or amphitheater, you’re more likely to see effects such as pyrotechnics, backup dancers, bigger names, larger bands, and more of a performance.
  • Premium seating areas. If you have the cash, you can splurge on premium seating. Whether that means you’re in a dedicated box or a VIP section consisting of the first few rows can vary, but either way…you’re not in the nosebleeds!
  • Multi-use areas. Concerts held in big stadiums are usually catering towards large metropolitan areas as a whole. For some fans in small towns or more remote areas, their favorite band playing the stadium in the major city three hours away may be their only chance to see them. This means that many people will be traveling for the concert and making a full day of it can be much more fun (and fuel efficient) than showing up at the concert an hour before and leaving right after the show. These multi-use areas are often filled with merchandise stands, activities for fans, lots of delicious food vendors, lounging areas, and more.

From an Organizer’s Perspective

  • Better publicity. Stadiums, amphitheaters, and arenas are generally well known. If an act is headlining a larger venue, word will often spread simply by way of prestige. Concerts are also usually advertised during other events held at the venue, such as sporting events.
  • More revenue. More seats mean more money. Stadiums often have a floor area that can be used to add more seating as well as a general admission floor. The multi-use areas mentioned above can also be used for additional revenue streams.

Disadvantages of a Large Venue

From an Attendee’s Perspective

  • Lines. Larger capacity means you’ll have to navigate through more people. That includes long lines for ticketing, parking, security, refreshments, using the restroom, and more.
  • Cost. Tickets for shows at larger venues tend to be more expensive than those at smaller ones. While you might have more options to select where you sit, it costs a pretty penny to do so.
  • Sound can be distorted. Despite often having much better equipment, the sound in larger venue can be delayed or distorted as it has nothing to bounce off of. Keep in mind, some artists will be better suited for larger or smaller venues.
  • Expensive refreshments. Planning to buy some food and drinks at the show? Be prepared to fork over some cash!

From an Organizer’s Perspective

  • Higher overhead. There are much higher costs associated with organizing a show at a larger venue. However, most acts booking these venues have the resources to do so and will earn more than enough back in revenue.
  • Extensive set up and tear down. Facilities like stadiums aren’t always optimized for concerts, meaning the stage will have to be set up from scratch and taken down after the show, including on multi-date stadium tours.

Each type of venue comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and no concert venue is perfect. Just try to remember that whether your next show is at the House of Blues or Madison Square Garden, that at the end of the day, it’s all about the music.

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