I love live music.
As someone who writes about music for a living, that is probably as unsurprising a sentence I could type. I love going to concerts, hanging out with like-minded music lovers, and watching professionals execute their craft at the highest levels possible. I love music music that drags your mind into the moment and commands your undivided attention. The vibrations of bass, the crackle of distorted guitars, the view you can get only by camping out at the front of the stage for an hour as less-devoted fans fill in the spaces behind you -- these are just a few of the things that make live music such a moving experience.
These are universal experiences you get at any concert, regardless of genre. But the wonders of live music come with a downside. Hearing damage is a serious occupational hazard for any serious concertgoer. There is now evidence that going to just one show can potentially cause permanent damage to your hearing. And constant exposure to loud sounds can lead to tinnitus -- a permanent, endless buzzing in the ears. Just look at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's guidelines for workplaces with loud noise exposure:
If your job requires you to be exposed to noises exceeding 100 decibels for two hours or longer, the law requires your employer to provide you with ear protection. Rock concerts, many sources report, measure somewhere in the 105- to 115-decibel range. Manowar reportedly cracked 139 decibels during a sound check once. The conclusion? Treat rock shows like you would casual sex. Use protection. If you don't, you might end up with permanent damage to your ears.
No one wants that. And since no one wants to stop going to concerts, either, enter earplugs. Cheap earplugs block at least 20 decibels from getting into your ears, which is enough make even the loudest concert safe for your ears. (For those who complain about how earplugs destroy the sound mix at a show: If you shell out $20, you can get reusable ear plugs that reduce noise yet don't make a concert sound like it's coming from the other side of a pillow.)
Charlie Levy of Crescent Ballroom gets it. And he offers them to anyone attending a show at his venue. You might not realize it, but in the back of Crescent, near the restrooms by the merch table, there is a dispenser on a wall (it looks like a paper towel dispenser) that dishes out free earplugs. They're free with price of admission.
Other venues should do this, too.
I'm not advocating that Phoenix should go the way of Minneapolis and actually pass a law requiring venues to provide them. But I think every venue that allows bands to crank it up to 11 should consider handing out earplugs for free. It makes good business sense. If a ticket-buying music fan starts stressing about forgetting earplugs and damaging their hearing during a show, they might be less likely to return. But if they know they can grab earplugs somewhere in the venue, it creates nothing but goodwill toward the establishment. And the goodwill there is toward a venue, the greater the possibility of a future ticket sale.
The more ticket sales, the better bands Phoenix can attract. And if Phoenix becomes one of the most attractive cities in the country for touring bands, we all win.
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