Episode 137: Concert Promoter Peter Shapiro

Episode 137 of The JamBase Podcast, a partner of the Osiris Media Network, features an interview with impresario Peter Shapiro. JamBase’s Scott Bernstein stopped by Shapiro’s office at Relix HQ in New York City recently for a chat about the concert promoter/Relix publisher/filmmaker and venue operator’s new book, The Music Never Stops: What Putting On 10,000 Shows Has Taught Me About Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Magic, and much more.

Peter’s life was changed after attending a Grateful Dead show at Rosemont Horizon in 1993. He left the show inspired to turn his passion for live music into a career. The Northwestern film student spent a month the following summer on tour with the Grateful Dead to create the documentary And Miles To Go Before I Sleep. In 1996, Shapiro purchased the legendary New York City club Wetlands Preserve from founder Larry Bloch. Shapiro owned Wetlands until it closed in 2001.

Future/current ventures included owning and operating The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York as well as Brooklyn Bowl venues in New York City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Nashville, serving as the publisher of Relix, producing films such as U2 3D and organizing the LOCKN’ festival. Peter is one of the biggest independent concert promoters in live music history who, as the title of his book points out, has presented over ten thousand shows.

The Music Never Stops, out now via Hachette Books, was co-written with longtime collaborator Dean Budnick. Dean helped Peter put on the Jammys celebrations in the ’00s and now is co-editor-in-chief at Relix.

One of Shapiro’s most famous and successful projects was Fare Thee Well, a celebration of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary held in 2015 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California and Soldier Field in Chicago. The book starts with a chapter about Fare Thee Well and the rainbow that appeared above Levi’s Stadium at the first show. Peter wrote honestly and articulately in chronological order (following the Fare Thee Well chapter) regarding his incredible career. The book is jam-packed with fascinating anecdotes and inside stories.

Bernstein and Shapiro discussed why the time was right for the impresario to write the book to begin their chat. Peter detailed the crucial role Budnick played in its creation and how the pair came up with the tome’s format of telling stories through the lens of 50 different concerts. When COVID hit, the live music industry veteran had plenty of time on his hands and really dove into the project.

Shapiro was direct and frank in talking about his career with Bernstein. Peter recalled the difficult process of launching Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas. He told Scotty about how the venue nearly went bankrupt and the story of a chat with a friend who is one of Sin City’s biggest dance club operators that sent him into a tailspin on opening night as The Roots took the stage.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Peter Shapiro isn’t on social media. He explained why he stays away from personal accounts on the different platforms. However, Shapiro still keeps up with live music news so much so that he contacted Bernstein minutes after JamBase published Scotty’s report from LOCKN’ in 2015 that was 99% positive but had one paragraph about the poor condition of the bathrooms. The pair recalled Shapiro resolving the situation within hours of the article’s publication.

The Music Never Stops is also an excellent guide for those who are interested in entering the live music business or putting on events of their own as Shapiro shares many of the lessons he learned over the years. He spoke with Bernstein on the importance of using college as time to try different ventures. Other topics hit upon were the multiple generations of jam acts, hanging with members of the Grateful Dead, the vital role good weather played in the success of ‘Fare Thee Well’ and the economics behind guest appearances.

Hear Episode 137 of The JamBase Podcast via all major podcast services including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcast.