When it comes to concerts, Hawaiʻi doesn’t have many. Why is that?
According to Vittana, Hawaiʻi is isolated from the rest of the world. Stuck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean means locals are about 2,400 miles away from California, over 3,800 miles away from Japan and 6,980 miles away from the U.K. However, that’s not the only deterrent, as USA Today points out that there’s not much of a difference distance-wise from Los Angeles (L.A.) to Honolulu and Los Angeles to New York.
The one thing that sets it apart most is travel costs. For example, when there’s a sale, a roundtrip from L.A. to New York costs $250, while a roundtrip from L.A. to Honolulu costs $450 or more. Part of the expenses come from supply and demand, but another portion comes from the Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards (ETOPS).
Shipping costs in Hawaiʻi are expensive too, and for a touring band, that says a lot. According to Hawaii Life, the average cost of shipping a car to Hawaiʻi ranges from $1,000 to $1,500. The price varies depending on the size of the vehicle, where it’s shipped from and how they choose to ship it. With this in consideration, we can assume that bringing musical production would be significantly expensive as well.
According to Honolulu-based concert promoter Rick Bartalini, Hawaiʻi is a high-risk gig given how expensive it is to bring a whole lot of production here. For venues like Aloha Stadium, both the promoters and artists can lose hundreds or thousands of dollars if tickets don’t sell. Artists are taking a huge gamble if they play shows here, so for a place as isolated as Hawaiʻi, it may not be worth it.
Another thing worthy of consideration is the potential public and how accessible concerts are to them. It is already expensive living in Hawaiʻi, so why would people pay to attend a concert?
Real Hawaii pointed out that as of 2020, Honolulu is the 8th most expensive city in the U.S. and North America, and the 19th most expensive in the world. The article went on to note that the average salary in Hawaiʻi is $65,000. In terms or renting a place, a studio in Oʻahu can range from $800 to over $1,200 per month, not including essentials. The median cost to buy a single-family home is around $835,000, with a condo costing $461,500.
Another factor worth nothing is the size of available venues. New York Magazine noted smaller venues for local acts, which include Blue Note Hawaii, The Republik and Hawaiian Brian’s. In addition to those, Hawaiʻi Public Radio holds a series of concerts twice a year in their studio space, which had to stop due to COVID-19.
The more well-known places to hold concerts for bigger acts include Aloha Stadium, which has hosted artists such as U2 and the Rolling Stones, as well as the Waikiki Shell and Blaisdell Arena. Although these venues are in the same category of size, it’s worth noting that selling out Aloha Stadium, which can hold at least 113,000 people, is very different from selling out Blaisdell Arena, which can hold up to 8,800 people with seats on the floor. The type of venue an artist books depends on how popular they are and how much airplay they get on the radio.
Cultural Foodies brought up the fact that local radio stations don’t have enough variety in their musical selections. They don’t play anything other than pop, rap or rasta music— a mix of Jamaican and Hawaiian music. From a 2014 list on Cision of Hawaii’s top 10 radio stations, most of the stations play either pop, R&B or Hawaiian music. The only channel that stood out was KUCD-FM, which plays indie pop and alternative rock.
Therefore, saying that Hawaiʻi rarely has concerts could be an inaccurate statement. In fact, Hawaiʻi has a lot of concerts, but who is interested in those highly depends on musical tastes. For example, a rock fan might be left disappointed. Def Leppard came here in 1983 and 2018. Does Hawaiʻi have to wait another 35 years to see them live again? Iron Maiden hasn’t toured here since 1985, the Rolling Stones haven’t toured here since 1998, and Metallica hasn’t toured here since 1999.
In conclusion, Hawaiʻi does have concerts, but it may seem scarce depending on musical taste. Big-name artists don’t come here often due to travelling and shipping costs, residents can’t afford to attend concerts and the size of the venues are unaccommodating.
Until concerts return, residents can continue listening to their favorite artists, buying their albums and requesting for them to come here. Let’s hope they listen one day.