THE CAA BOOK

August 22, 2016

This book is not for everyone and the reviews haven’t been stellar (my experience was good), but if you work in the entertainment business, you should read James Andrew Miller’s Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artist’s Agency.

Knowing many of the cast from my short time with the agency, it was great fun hearing from all the players and it follows their story accurately.  You get to feel of what it’s like to be inside. Here are some observations and facts I took away from the book:

1)  Information is power. Companies that have this view and make sharing a part of their culture ultimately win.

2)  Working with a team of talented, smart and creative people makes you better. You learn, grow, and try harder. Although agency life isn’t for everyone, the experience of working at CAA was a great one for me (even though I was sick much of my time there).

3)  In entertainment, perception is reality.

4)  Some of us should be working harder. The book will inspire you or deter you from continuing.

5)  Everyone loves Ron Meyer. My two brief experiences with him while he’s been with NBC Universal support that statement. A true gentleman! Proves you don’t have to treat people like shit to be successful.

6)  Everyone loves Michael (Vino) Levine and Howie Nuchow, the two men that run CAA Sports. I immediately bonded with both of them the minute they arrived at CAA, and miss their positive energy in my life.

7)  Our business can be rough. Trying to find a path where everyone wins is the right one. When you start lying and cheating your friends and partners, it never ends well.

8)  Tom Ross is an officer and gentlemen, and more credit is due to him.

9)  The current managing partners should get more credit for where the agency is today. As an example, according to the book, CAA Sports was the number one earner for the agency in 2015. For years, there’s been a narrative that getting into sports was a mistake, and that’s been proven wrong. 20 years in, they shouldn’t be compared to the Ovitz/Meyer/Haber CAA. For better or worse (depending on where you sit), it is a much different company 20 years later.

10) There are many lessons, both positive and negative, to take from this book. Hopefully you will know which is which.

p.s. There’s one story in the book about little bad behavior by the sports guys at their first CAA retreat, and the real deal is actually better than what’s written. The book says it was a special bottle of wine given as a gift to the hotel owners (true) and stolen and consumed by CAA (also true) after the final dinner. But, the special bottle was actually a huge magnum (the biggest I’ve ever seen) and resembled the Stanley Cup for some reason. The hockey guys grabbed it, hoisted it over their heads, then opened and passed it around. Many from the old guard were pissed as the book describes, but most loved them for it! When the story of CAA Sports first retreat came up, I thought they were going to spill on the senior sports agent (not Vino or Howie) that got caught on camera doing some no-no with a junior executive on the gold course. Maybe that’s the next book.

PAY IT FORWARD

April 23, 2016

“Pay if forward.” That’s what Paradigm’s Lynn Cingari asked us to do on Friday…for Chip. And now I’m asking you to do the same…for Chip Hooper.

I first met Chip through Dave Frey and the H.O.R.D.E. Festival in 1993. Chip was Blues Traveler and Phish’s agent, two of the acts that led the “jam band” scene of the 1990’s along with the Dave Matthews Band (also Chip’s client), Widespread Panic, moe. (Chip act), Medesky, Martin, and Wood, Big Head Todd, Hootie, Spin Doctors, etc.…and the festival’s agent as well. That meant that I started off on Chip’s team, which was always a good thing. It wasn’t fun being on the other side as Chip was a fierce competitor and always had to win.

So many friends, some of the “whose who” of the music business told similar stories about Chip. Everyone he met became his best friend, the late night calls that went on for hours, stories about his son Max’s basketball career, his “second career” as one of the top landscape photographers in the world, music, sports, wine, fancy hotels, anything Chicago, how every call ended with his trademark “you’ve got it”, anyone to be taken seriously was “the real deal”… I honestly cried for over 3-hours.

Friday was a heavy day, yet one filled with love and remembrance. After the moving speakers, and in the case of legendary New York concert promoter Ron Delsener, a hilarious and inappropriate stream of consciousness (Chip would have loved it), the first person I ran into at the reception was one of Chip’s famous clients who had obviously been deeply affected. “How badly do you want to hug your kids right now? How are we supposed to socialize after that? They should have little rooms with therapists for us”. He was right, and as the afternoon progressed, everyone acted as each other’s shrink.

We learned life lessons to pay forward Friday. We learned of the incredible sacrifices friends and family made to help Chip at the end of his journey; Jackie Nalpant (my hero), Dan Weiner, Fred Bolander, Lynn Cingari, Dr. Koontz (Chip’s Oncologist that made house calls when Chip was too weak to travel), Sam Gores and the whole Paradigm Agency (Sam was the one who arranged for Chip to travel from California to Michigan to surprise his son Max for his college basketball team’s senior day…watch here http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=14857467), and especially Chip’s daughter Val who took a semester off from Duke to take care of her Dad, THANK YOU! Not only have you helped a dear friend/family member through his toughest time, but taught us all how to be more human (crying hard again).

Friday’s reception’s theme followed another core Hooper value, sharing. Chip was giving of his time, money, loves, and passions that included food and wine. So the champagne for the toast, and wines served were from Chip’s personal cellar. The food (including Ben and Jerry’s) was some of his favorites. Chip’s incredible photographs (Lori and I have 3 hanging in our home, go to http://chiphooper.com/www/index.html) were displayed around the beautiful Sunset Center in Carmel, the perfect venue to hold a celebration of a great man’s life.

Uber lawyer Elliot Groffman started everything off by sharing a video that Chip watched all the time, sometimes on endless loop, and now I’m paying forward to you. Truly inspiring! https://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_nature_beauty_gratitude?language=en.

Please pay it forward. Call your friends and family, hug your kids and significant other…and please go to http://www.cfmco.org/about-us/fund-list/chip-hooper-foundation/ and give what you can.

P.s. Moving forward, the Aspen Live Conference will make a donation each December to The Chip Hooper Foundation as well as creating an annual award (the only one we will give each year) to honor those that follow Chip’s messages of passion, art, music, family and sharing.

 

 

 

SETH GODIN’S POST

February 1, 2016

Writing without anything to say is hard. Even with all the information that came out of the Aspen Live Music Conference’s 20th Anniversary in December, I still haven’t had the drive to tell you. Then today one of my marketing heroes, Seth Godin wrote his blog below (thanks Seth)…using the music business to make his point, and even mentions one of our amazing guest speakers from Aspen, Scott Borchetta (thank you Scott)…so knew I had to share it with you. Just wished I had written it.

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Living with your frustum

David Bowie left behind an estate worth about $100 million.

And there were perhaps five hundred musicians of his generation who were at least as successful. From Brown to Dylan to Buffet to Ross, there were thirty years of big hit makers.

That’s the top of the pyramid. Lots of people tried to make it in the music business, and there were many thousands at the top, hitting a jackpot.

In geometry, a pyramid without a top is called a frustum. Just a base, no jackpot.

The music industry is now a classic example…

The bottom is wider than ever, because you don’t need a recording studio to make a record. And you don’t need a record store to sell one. More musicians making more music than ever before.

And the top is narrower than ever. Fewer hitmakers creating fewer long-term careers. Radio is less important, shelf space is less important, and so the demand for the next big hit from the next reliable hitmaker is diminished. Without Scott Borchetta or someone similar leading you to the few sinecures left, it’s almost certain that you’ll be without a jackpot.

A similar thing happened to the book business, of course. The big bookstores needed a Stephen King, a Jackie Collins and a Joyce Carol Oates, because they benefitted from having something both reliable and new to put on the shelf. Printing a lot of copies and using a lot of shelf space is a gamble, best to bet on the previous winners. The ebook world doesn’t care as much.

The long tail, easy entry, wide distribution model does this to many industries. It’s easier than ever to be a real estate broker or to run a tiny dog shelter–easier, but harder to get through the Dip.

While the winner-take-all natural monopolies get the headlines and the IPOs, it’s not surprising that many industries are frustrating frustums.

The frustration, though, doesn’t come from the lack of a top to the pyramid. It comes from acting as if the peak is the point of the entire exercise. For more on this, check out Derek Siver’s honest and generous book.

The good news is that it’s entirely possibly you don’t need the peak of the pyramid. The leverage that comes from digital tools means that it’s entirely possible to do just fine (and have a powerful, positive life) without being David Bowie. Once you know that this is it, perhaps this might be enough.

Enough to make a difference and enough to make a life.

The way music used to be. And is again.

 

TOP 10 CUSTOMER SERVICE LESSONS

September 14, 2015

In our busy lives, we touch so many products and services, we are bound to call, email, or chat with those businesses (perhaps your business) for help with directions, questions, and problems we are having. Over the past several months, I’ve had more than my share of interactions with customer service departments. Here are the 10 most important lessons I learned:

  1. Don’t Leave Customers On Hold – If the government knows this, why don’t we? When your customer service lines, live chat, or even in-person CS desk starts to stack up, offer customers the option for a callback. It really makes all the difference. Even the IRS does this!
  2. Ask For A Callback Number – Great way to get permission to follow-up, can be used to identify the customer in the future, and of course gives you a way to call the customer back if you get disconnected. If you haven’t already, you should read this by Seth Godin, his first big hit… http://www.amazon.com/Permission-Marketing-Turning-Strangers-Customers/dp/0684856360.
  3. Ask How To Pronounce The Customers Name (and what they prefer to be called) – Calling someone by his or her name makes a big difference.
  4. Listen Carefully To Your Customer’s Questions and Concerns – Although many customer issues can be very similar, every customer is unique, and so are their concerns. It isn’t enough to say; “I understand” from a script. Sure there are tricks like repeating back what the customer said, but without authenticity, it feels hollow. Disney rocks it here!
  5. If Transferring To Another Representative, Stay On The Line Until That Connection Is Made – My bank (Wells Fargo) does a great job with this. It makes the customer feel safe and shows you care.
  6. Don’t Script Everything For Your Reps – A simple example, delivering a rehearsed apology without real knowledge of what you are sorry about is worse than not saying you’re sorry at all.
  7. Train, Don’t Just Script – Go to the Genius Bar in an Apple retail store and you will see and feel what good training will do. Knowledge of a product or service is everything. Spend the money to train your staff properly.
  8. Follow-up – So easy to do, yet so few of us do it. Make sure you have resolved your customer’s question or concern. It can be as simple as an email. Less than a minute. Asus makes the best routers, their customer service is amazing, and they followed-up to make sure everything was straight.
  9. Keep Your Promise – If you say you will call on a specific day, do that. If you promise to have your customer’s issue resolved by Friday, make sure that happens.
  10. Don’t Reward Only New Customers – I’m an AT&T and DirecTV customer, and have been for many years (been through several name changes with AT&T…remember Cingular, AT&T Mobility). AT&T is running a promotion with DirecTV but the small writing in their TV ad says “DirecTV new customers only”. Rewarding loyal customers will get you far.

When is the last time you went through your own customer service process? If you haven’t lately, do it now! You may be shocked at what you find, and remember, the customer service team should be a big marketing advantage for you. Want to create a message for your customers to spread? Solve a problem for them. Exceed their expectations. The money will come.

 

 

THE NO COMPLAINING RULE

June 17, 2015

The title jumped out at me. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but over the years, I had become a negative person. Someone you didn’t want to be around because they find a way to bring you down too. And negativity is infectious. If you consider yourself in this boat, and even if you don’t, read The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.

If you are looking for new non-fiction books, there are some good ones out there to read…Becoming Steve Jobs, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, and The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business are all great examples. Yet The No Complaining Rule is a quick read that has the ability to make you happier…almost instantly.  You don’t even have to read the book, just give one exercise a try.

For one week, try not to complain…about anything to anyone. At first it takes a little effort, especially if complaining has become habit, but don’t give up, you will see positive effects in just a day. Get your family, friends, and co-workers to give it a try with you. Just as being negative is infectious, so is being positive!

And speaking of positive tools worth sharing, have you watched this TED Talk from Amy Cuddy on body language http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en?? Nearly 27 million have. If you haven’t, watch it now…and share it, a smile, and have a Coke (for those old enough to remember “Have a Coke and a Smile”).

P.s. Did you know that good friend and Aspen Live family member Greg Schmale is now the VP of Industry Relations at SongKick? Greg puts it this way…”With the recently announced merger between Songkick and CrowdSurge (http://bit.ly/1KThbcv), I’m reinvigorated by the opportunities that lie ahead for the industry and consumers.” You can reach Greg at greg.schmale@songkick.com. Make sure you say congrats!

USING DISCOUNT CHANNELS

April 23, 2015

“Our job is to take the emotion out of discounting” is a line I use when talking with industry peeps about our consulting client, Goldstar. And emotion should never play into your decision to use discount channels to move tickets when making money, reaching an audience, and filling seats is the goal.

At the Pollstar Conference a few months back, a national promoter told me that “if I have to use Groupon or Goldstar, that means I didn’t do my job”. What? Do all of your shows sell-out or are they even projected to? If you are like the rest of us, the answer is no. In many of those cases, there is an audience that doesn’t even know your show is coming to town, so why not use all the tools at your disposal? Once the act hits the stage, every empty seat means $0 in revenue…and not just for that seat.

Shouldn’t we be counting the zeros when average ticket price tells us nothing? We should be measuring revenue per seat like the airlines do. For instance, if the Jim Lewi Band played a 15,000 seat arena and only sold 4-tickets (to my family of course) at $500, the average ticket price would be $500 even though a majority of the house is empty. But by counting your unsold tickets as $0, you find out how much each seat contributes to your bottom line. Based on the example above with a 15,000 cap, your average ticket price is $500, but your revenue per seat is only $0.0333. Revenue per seat tells us what we really need to know.

In music, many tell us of the perception that the show is a dud if you’re listing tickets through a discount channel. The truth, this “perception” is only in the eyes of the business, not the fan. It is an emotional response we give based on protecting the act’s brand and value in the market, but most fans aren’t doing research to find the best deal like they would with other products. Maybe someday there will be a “Kayak for live entertainment” where a consumer can search for the best deal, just not yet. Goldstar, Groupon, Living Social, etc., are all marketing avenues that need a new measurement scale. CPM (cost per thousand people reached) is generally how marketing is measured. It doesn’t apply here as there is an actual sale, so the more tickets sold, the higher your CPM goes. It should be going down.

The only way you will really know is to “test and measure” results. Don’t assume that you are hurting your show or act by discounting (unless it is to your own list) when chances are you are doing the opposite. There is a lot of data to back this up. When done properly, using a discount channel helps move the primary market. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. Otherwise, you are just guessing…and probably wrong.

LESSONS FROM COACHELLA

April 13, 2015

Coachella fever thundered through Southern California last weekend like a speeding train. And not just in So-Cal, all over the country. Every media outlet imaginable covered the star-studded 3-day music festival outside of Palm Springs, where tickets sell-out in minutes, and if you didn’t attend, you somehow felt left out. So what lessons can we take away from what Goldenvoice has built? Here are three:

  1. Trust – In the Lefsetz Letter’s recent Coachella post, Bob’s first point is the most important, “it’s a matter of trust”. You can say this about any “product”. If you make something great, and can find an audience, that audience will trust that the next thing you bring them is at least worth trying. Goldenvoice has built trust as both superior event producers and music/art curators. Building trust takes vision and guts. Charlie Jones,  one of the C’s in C3 Presents, and producers of  Lollapalooza and  ACL festivals talks about “taking a hickey”. He means losing money the first few times at the wheel. C3  believes in building a great product (acts and experience).  That’s the reason why they can sell their events out without announcing a line-up.
  1. Tenacity – You can’t give-up. Coachella lost money for years. In fact, there probably wouldn’t be a Coachella if it weren’t for AEG Live coming in at the right time with financing and support. Yet Paul, Skip, and Rick had the vision and guts to push on without knowing what the outcome would be… and have been rewarded for it. It is good to second guess yourself, but don’t stop at your first hurdle. Being awesome isn’t easy.
  1. Over Deliver – How do you go beyond your fan/consumer/guest’s expectations? Coachella takes place on the same field in Indio every April, and each year those polo grounds are turned into a sound, visual and social experience unlike any other. I’m not talking about having a Ferris wheel, VIP area, or RFID wristbands (although that can be part of it). That’s easy. It is the whole experience; the art installations, carnival games, the unique venue lighting, the polo field itself, arts and crafts vendors, local food and drinks, the music, how fans are communicated to, staff…basically every touch point needs to “wow”. Are you exceeding expectations?

Next weekend is round two in Indio. See what lessons you can take away to make your next product WOW.


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