BILLBOARD TOURING CONFERENCE REPORT

Last week I attended Billboard’s Touring Conference (thanks Ray Waddell).  Here are some observations that may help you. 

Mother Hubbard– As I started my opening remarks moderating the Tour and Production Manager panel I looked down to see Barbara Hubbard with one of her students wearing her usual smile.  At 84, Barbara has more energy and passion than most kids just out of school.  Barbara doesn’t just work in the concert business, she teaches it at New Mexico State. She can get anyone from our business on the phone and although promotes in a tertiary market (at best), manages to bring in acts as big as the Stones. If Mother Hubbard doesn’t inspire you, nothing and no one will.  Just follow her example.  Passion is the key.

The Brooklyn Bowl – In the early 90’s, one of the great music scenes in New York City was happening downtown at The Wetlands Preserve. As owner Pete Shapiro points out, “it had terrible sight lines”…yet the audience didn’t seem to mind.  It is hard to think of a “jam band” from that era that didn’t play the club.  At the same time, pin-pointing one thing that made it so popular is next to impossible.  There was a beautiful wooden bar (facing away from the stage), artists were encouraged to play 2-sets versus one, and the basement was a great hang (no stage in sight).  Ultimately it had to be the owners as they created the experience for the artists and audience. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the big buzz venue in New York is The Brooklyn Bowl, another Pete Shapiro room http://www.brooklynbowl.com/

The venue is open 7-days a week with a 600-cap concert venue, 16-lanes of bowling, and serves food to guests through a partnership with Blue Ribbon Restaurants. They are very aggressive with social media and use it as part of the experience.  On the Club panel, moderated by Dan Steinberg of Square Peg Concerts (best moderator I’ve ever witnessed…one tweet from the audience suggested that after watching Dan, compared the other panels to “sitting jury duty”), Pete explained how they are able to facilitate last-minute shows (e.g. act plays club…then weather forces a cancellation in the next city…so they just add a show the following night @ Brooklyn Bowl) by announcing them on Twitter.  It benefits everyone and has created a community.  Communities, Tribes (as Seth Godin would say), Friends, Connections, whatever you want to call it, we all want to belong.

 Nic Adler– Also appearing on Billboard’s Club panel was The Roxy’s owner, Nic Adler.  Nic also subscribes to the overall experience and has used his personal brand (vegan, music lover, etc) to bring young people back to The Sunset Strip.  Nearly 18,000 follow Nic on Twitter while The Roxy is closing in on 100,000 followers! 

Another piece to Nic’s (and partners) puzzle for bringing the strip back to the center of LA music culture is The Sunset Strip Music Festival http://www.sunsetstripmusicfestival.com/.  It will celebrate its fifth year next August…and I will be attending for sure.  How about you?

Tour & Production Managers– With experience comes knowledge and wisdom, and the Tour and Production Manager panel had plenty of both.  Here are a few things I picked-up from moderating.

a)    No matter who signs our checks, it is about the fans and this should never be forgotten.  Remember who the real customer is.

b)    Whether we like it or not, catering is one of the most important elements to a show.  Honestly it sets the tone.  So the next time you are thinking about a comment like “Corn Flakes are good enough for my kids, they are good enough for the crew”, remember the crew and artists are your guests.  Putting them in a bad mood to save a few hundred dollars (or thousand for that matter) isn’t worth it. 

c)     Everyone wants to win!  There shouldn’t be sides (e.g. promoter, band, crew, venue, etc)…we should be pulling for each other.

d)    Make large directional signs to toilets, stage, dressing rooms, catering and production offices prior to the crew’s arrival.  Also have any keys needed for the day handy.

e)    All gates and entrances needed for load-in should be unlocked prior to the crew/act’s arrival and should remain open till you see the last truck/bus depart.

f)      Please have the venue’s Wi-Fi on when buses arrive and stay-up until the last vehicle has left the parking lot.

g)    Runners should know the local area well…and have a positive attitude.

h)    Create a laminated phone list with all important cell and land line numbers for your show and give it to everyone to put on their lanyards.  This will make everyone’s job easier.

i)       If your show is not going to make money, go to the act for a reduction rather than trying to save at the show.  The crew, and more importantly fans should not be punished for lack of ticket sales.  Cutting staff, security, catering and local crew could help a promoter/venue’s bottom line in the short term…but how much and is it worth it?

Next is Aspen Live!  We are less than a month away and have been able to open-up more rooms at the Limelight Hotel to accommodate guests as we have nearly doubled our numbers from 2010.  Our dates are December 8-11 and you can still register for only $225.  Find out more @ http://www.aspenlive.com.     

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