Peter Shapiro’s Long Strange Trip: What Putting on 10,000 Concerts Has Taught the Veteran Promoter About Life and the Live Music Business

·2-min read

Peter Shapiro is a concert promoter, venue owner, magazine publisher and has just added author to his resume, with the Aug. 2 release of his book “The Music Never Stops: What Putting on 10,000 Shows Has Taught Me About Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Magic” (written with Dean Budnick).

Based on 50 pivotal shows which helped define Shapiro’s life and guide his businesses, the book chronicles a career lived at maximum volume, starting with his 1997 purchase of the Wetlands, a New York City club that catered to fans of the Grateful Dead and Phish and incorporated social activism into its programming, his later purchase of Port Chester New York’s Capitol Theatre and the 2009 launch of Brooklyn Bowl, the first of five combination concert halls-bowling alleys-restaurants, which has hosted giants (like Robert Plant), rarely-seen legends (Ms. Lauryn Hill) and regulars (Questlove).

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Shapiro’s portfolio also includes several festivals, like Lockn’ which has been held annually in Virginia since 2013 (with a pandemic pause in 2020); the magazine Relix, a leading voice of the scene since 1974; film projects (you can watch his 1993 doc, “And Miles to Go Before I Sleep,” on YouTube) and all manner of content based around hippie principles of the musical kind.

But his penultimate achievement was undoubtedly 2015’s Fare Thee Well, a series of concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead — and 20 years since Jerry Garcia’s passing — and featuring surviving members of the band (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann) joined by Phish frontman and guitar virtuoso Trey Anastasio, as well as keyboardists Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti.

Shapiro went into the live music arena after the 1995 death of Garcia, an important benchmark because it left open the question of what would follow in Jerry’s spirit — and could a scene be sustained without him? The answer was yes (see: Dead and Company featuring John Mayer), Shapiro had bet on it and it paid out.

Shapiro joined Variety‘s Strictly Business podcast to talk about his experiences as an entrepreneur and a dreamer, and also get into the complicated history of ticketing — from the pioneering moves of the Dead, who instituted their own mail order system (think: verified fan in its analog form), to the more controversial dynamic pricing model which has caused some consternation for Bruce Springsteen and his just announced tour.
Listen to the episode below or wherever you get your podcasts.

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