Opinion: Bakersfield lacks music diversity by focusing on rock and country artists


Tour posters for the Mechanics Bank Arena performances were obtained from the websites of Mechanics Bank Arena and 98.5 The Fox.

Braden Moss-Ennis, Opinions Columnist

  Being the residence of the late Buck Owens, Bakersfield is known for its deep country music roots. These roots are reflected in the artists who come to perform in Bakersfield, including Blake Shelton’s performance on Feb. 20 at Mechanics Bank Arena. However, aside from country artists and the occasional rock band, Bakersfield concerts rarely appeal to newer generations’ interests in genres like rap and indie.  

  The city of Bakersfield could appeal to younger generations by bringing in a larger variety of artists to perform in the city; this is potentially beneficial to both the residents of Bakersfield and potential performers.   

  The growing shift in musical interests among younger audiences in Bakersfield is not new. In Jan. 2010, The Californian’s staff writer Steven Mayer wrote that while KUZZ-FM was still popular among Bakersfield listeners, Hot 94.1 was the most listened to station for listeners over the age of twelve. 

  Hot 94.1 is a station that plays a variety of genres, including R&B, hip-hop and pop. Some of the artists you might hear on any given day while listening to the station could include Post Malone, Dua Lipa and Drake. 

  The popularity of Hot 94.1 highlights the demand that audiences have to listen to more modern artists of a variety of genres. While there is nothing wrong with the country or rock artists that are brought to perform in Bakersfield, it does seem like a disservice to Bakersfield residents to only appeal to limited demographics of music lovers when some residents do not have any interest in country artists. By bringing in a variety of artists, it improves the social lives of Bakersfield residents, and could prove very profitable for local venues like The Fox Theater or Mechanics Bank Arena. 

  Bakersfield audiences could also prove lucrative for potential entertainers. 

  According to World Population Review, Bakersfield is not only the ninth most populated city in California with an estimated 383,579 citizens, but it’s also the 52nd most populated city in the United States. 

  By performing in Bakersfield, artists would be appealing to what is a largely untapped audience that still gets excited about entertainers coming to town. Not every city where all performers stop by each tour will have the same demand and appreciation. Performers would likely be able to sell out shows with ease because they likely have never performed here before; new entertainment is exciting for audiences. 

  Classic rock band KISS is performing at Mechanics Bank Arena on Mar. 3 as part of their farewell tour. The band has played in Bakersfield numerous times in the past. Given the legendary status of the band, one may assume that tickets to the event may have been difficult to obtain. However, the tour is struggling to sell; hundreds of tickets were still available for purchase on AXS’ website the day prior. This highlights the fact that some of the entertainment coming to Bakersfield simply isn’t what is in demand among the general public. 

  However, there are some limitations that do exist which prevent Bakersfield from being a must-go location for entertainers. 

  First, Bakersfield isn’t a viable performing option for any current superstar among the likes of Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar or Drake. Artists like these often only perform at arenas with large seating capacities that greatly exceed any Bakersfield could offer, like the Staples Center which seats approximately 21,000 individuals. Performing in Bakersfield wouldn’t be as profitable for these types of artists. 

  With that said, Bakersfield still is a solid option for up-and-coming or other popular artists. 

  As an example of some artists who represent genres typically underrepresented in Bakersfield, look at artists like The 1975, Megan Thee Stallion, and Lil Baby. They are all artists that have recognition among younger audiences and are growing in popularity. They are also all currently at a popularity level where Mechanics Bank Arena, which Stub Hub lists at a 10,000-seat capacity, would be well-suited, as it has a similar seating capacity to the other venues they currently play. 

  The 1975, an indie pop rock band, current plays shows that are estimated to be similar in size to those that occur in Bakersfield. They are currently scheduled to perform at Baxter Arena in Omaha, NE, which seats around 7,900 individuals according to Stub Hub. They are also set to perform at Daily’s Place Amphitheater in Jacksonville, FL which is listed as seating 5,500 individuals. 

  Rappers Megan Thee Stallion, who was listed on Time’s 100 Next 2019 list, and Lil Baby have upcoming shows at the Columbus Civic Center in Columbus, OH which seats 10,000 individuals. 

  For artists with a little less name recognition or who are better suited for smaller venues, The Fox Theater seats approximately 1,500. 

  The second issue that exists in bringing other artists to Bakersfield is that locations like Los Angeles or Fresno are only a few hours away. If an individual seeks to attend a concert by a certain performer, artists are almost always performing in Los Angeles, and the travel isn’t completely unreasonable because it’s only a few hours away. This brings to question why an artist would come to Bakersfield if Bakersfield residents are willing to travel for concerts that are in larger venues. 

  However, not everyone is willing to travel for shows as tickets, gas, food and potential hotel costs can make a single concert a pricey investment. While the travel to Los Angeles itself isn’t awful, the time investment of driving to the location, waiting for the show, watching the show, and then driving home can be quite tedious for a single concert. More individuals would be willing to attend a show if it were more convenient and less expensive for them.  

  If more artists came to Bakersfield, it would not only appeal to Bakersfield residents, but Kern County residents as well because the travel requirements are much more manageable financially and time-wise. The more convenient a show is for a person, the more likely it is they’ll want to attend. 

  California State University, Bakersfield does have a yearly event called Runner Nights, where they bring in a musician to perform. This year’s musician is T-Pain, a hip-hop and rap artist. This event, which is highly anticipated every year by students, is scheduled for March 27. The event does fulfill the desire to bring in more appealing artists for younger audiences; however, the event is only accessible to CSUB students and faculty. The event is a nice step forward in terms of diversity in artists coming to Bakersfield, but it’d be nice to see that eventually expand to the rest of Bakersfield and not be limited to a show for CSUB students and faculty only. 

  While Bakersfield has started to offer more activities for younger audiences like escape rooms and virtual reality experiences, there is still a gaping hole in the terms of concert options for young music-lovers. With more consistent attempts to appeal to this audience, it could prove to be a win-win-win scenario for artists, venues, and the people of Bakersfield. 


Is there a musician you would like to see come to Bakersfield? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.