Selling-Out Isn’t Good, It’s Great!!!

To start, wanted to follow-up on working hand-in-hand with brands.  Please follow the link to see our designer Jim Lenahan take Ford and Toby Keith from conception to reality. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB1plbRXytM …now to the subject at hand.

Mike Krebs from Golden Voice/AEG Live in LA is a great concert promoter, and most of you in the music business reading this would probably agree.  Last week Andy Somers and I had lunch with Mike.  Among the many things we discussed was the importance of shows selling-out, and how few do these days.  “Krebsy” got into detail about the impact a sold-out show has on the promoter, public, press, artists (even if they are in Feld’s Disney on Ice) venue staff, and yes even the secondary ticketing market.  Maybe it’s time we all look at the venues we are playing and remember what kind of impact the words “Sold-Out” have on everything. 

I wish it was Monday so I could call on our friend Gary B. over at Pollstar to see if he has stats on how many concerts sold-out in 2007 and so far in 2008.  My guess is a lot fewer than you would think.  Fact is we aren’t playing the numbers much differently than the folks in the mortgage businesses that are now failing.  Instead of “I’m going to make more money so we will be able to afford this house”, its “we can sell the tickets this time”.  The theory is the bigger buildings have higher gross potentials so, let’s just have our show play there.  If your ticket price is low enough, this tactic could work but it usually doesn’t.  Just as those who thought they were going to make more money and thus bought houses they couldn’t afford, never did get that paycheck they were hoping for.  So then we start looking at ways of “making the house look better” for the show.   And as Mike Krebs brought up at lunch, papering our shows is doing no one any good.

If your show can sell 10,000 tickets in a market, put it in the appropriate venue.  Probably an 8000 seater if they have it.  Going bigger puts your show in a position for the bean counters to start talking about papering (giving tickets away) it.  This is good for no one in the long term.  In the short term, it sells parking, beer, and hot dogs.  It doesn’t sell tour merchandise or do anything else positive for the artist, show or event.  Papering does; trains the public to wait for free tickets, pisses off the fans that paid full price, and ultimately weakens the market for show (artist, touring property, etc), promoter, venue, etc.  Paper in a market long enough and even those ancillary sales the venue accountants are relying on will dry-up.  You may already see it happening. 

Here are some suggestions to follow during the down economy.

1) Start early, get your venue holds as early as possible.

2) If you work with a promoter, listen to their opinions on venue, dates, days of the week, ticket price, advertising and promotion, etc.  Otherwise, promote the show yourself.

3) If you have sponsors, make sure they are part of your marketing campaigns and collaborate with promoters.  In some cases, you should take less money in favor of targeted advertising (just make sure you get approval of those ads in writing).

4) Summer concerts need to stop going on-sale so early.  It is killing your summer.

5) Price your show smart.  In talking with concert promoters this summer they told me that John Mayer’s numbers actually went up this summer…ticket price + good product = success. 

6) Play venues that are either the “right size” or even a little smaller than your show should be in.  Selling-out has huge impact on the market and will keep fans coming back.

In a recent copy of our friend Bob Lefsetz’s The Lefsetz Letterhe spoke with Irving Azoff about his plans for the future after taking over as CEO of the newly branded Ticketmaster Entertainment.  One thing Irving said that rang in my ears was that too many of us were still living in the old business.  One part of the old business that we should try to hang on to with everything we have is selling-out our live shows.  If you need an example to help, remember that U2 doesn’t play stadiums anymore and they are doing just fine. 

As always, would love your input.

Talk with you soon…

Jim

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