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Exploring Different Kinds of Music Venues

Emily Vaughn | September 15, 2022
Exploring Different Kinds of Music Venues

With many different types of venues available, from music to sports venues, theaters to amphitheaters, it can raise the question: why? And what are the key differences?

What is the difference between an amphitheater and a theater?

The key difference here is how the audience is arranged around the stage. In modern regular theater, the audience is typically seated in an indoor venue, in front of the stage, facing the performers (excluding particular variations that will be talked about later). We get the word amphitheater from ancient Greek & Roman architecture. The term quite literally translates to 'theater on both sides'. So, with that being said, an amphitheater tends to be an outdoor venue, with multi-tiered seating that can surround parts of the stage/performing area. You'll also find that amphitheaters have a more round or ovular shape to them than theaters, but it's not exclusive to the amphitheater.

What about music and sports venues?

Surprisingly, there can be some overlap here. We do however want to establish the key differences. Music venues tend to be indoor, with varying sitting and standing capacity depending on the size of the venue, amenities offered, etc. On the other hand, sports venues tend to be outdoor (with exceptions to sports like basketball), with more sitting capacity than standing, and will likely have some food, merch, or other such amenities available. However, there are cases where a band may perform at a stadium or other such sports venues; the most famous case being the Beatles performing at the Shea Stadium back in 1965. Even recent musicians, such as Ariana Grande and Harry Styles, have done the same. It is unlikely, however, to see a sports event at a music venue.

What is the average capacity of each type of venue?

This can vary widely between venues. Sage Publishing has some general guidelines on seating for various venue types, as follows:

    - Sports Venues (i.e. Stadiums)- Can have upwards of 30,000+ seats.

    - Amphitheaters-average between 5,000 & 30,000 seats.

    - Theaters-this will depend if the show is On Broadway, Off Broadway, or Off-Off Broadway.

    - On Broadway-required to have 500 seats or more

    - Off Broadway-required to have 99-499 seats

    - Off-Off Broadway-required to have 99 seats or less.

    - Mid-Sized Music Venues-1,000-6,500. It should be noted that this will likely have low-capacity seating, so this is the estimate with standing room.

    - Small Sized Venues/Clubs-capacity can cap at approximately 1,000 people. Much akin to mid-sized venues, you may find limited seats, and if there are, it may only be a chair you can move or small tables with few chairs.

What are the seating layouts of each venue? And how do they differ between different types of events?

With there being hundreds upon hundreds of venues, the list of what each venue seating layout looks like would go on indefinitely. However, there are some general stage and seating types you will see pop up time and again between venues, which we will go in-depth into, as well as list some well-known examples of each.

Proscenium Stage. These stages are likely the most well-known types of stages in modern society. More often than not, they're associated with performing arts theaters, as well as small to midsize concert venues. Sometimes described as a picture frame due to its appearance, most of the performance is contained within this frame. Here, you will find the audience only on one side of the performance, typically facing or mirroring the stage/performance.

Famous Proscenium Stages:

Thrust Stage. The thrust stage is aptly named for the fact that the stage "thrusts" into the audience. This sort of stage allows for audiences to be on three sides of the stage, allowing for a closer look for more people when watching the performance. The main drawback to this is more so for the performance's side, as the machinery and tech that helps the show run may not be hidden as easily as it would be for stages like a proscenium one. This type of stage is commonly associated with Shakespeare and Ancient Greek plays, so you'll likely find them at venues that specialize in these types of performances.

Famous Thrust Stages:

    - The Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre, London, England

    - The Globe Theatre, London, England

    - The Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkeley, CA

    - The Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City, New York

Arena Stage. Also referred to as "[theatre] in the round", this type of stage has seating arrangements on all sides of the stage. Whereas a thrust stage may be more square or rectangular (with some exceptions) in appearance, the stage here can be round or square, allowing more freedom in arrangements. This venue is typically associated with Wrestling in modern times, especially WWE Events, but you can also find this in smaller performing arts theaters.

Famous Arena Stages:

Found Space Stages. This type of staging is unique in that it uses a building, park, field, or the likes, for something different than it's intended purpose. This can range from former churches to city parks. This allows for probably some of the most freeform seating arrangements, as you may even find the performance moving directly into and weaving with the audience, climbing up on available surfaces.

Famous Found Space Stages:

In summary, having different venue types allows for unique experiences when attending an event, performance, or concert. Should you decide to treat yourself to such an experience, please shop your venue options on the Event Tickets Center website.

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