Posts Tagged ‘Ann Marie Wilkins’

WHY OBAMA’S STIMULUS WILL WORK

April 14, 2009

I only know one person (that I’m aware of) that knows our President personally.  She called me in 2003 and asked if I would contribute to his run for Senate in Illinois.  What got me was what Ann Marie said…  “Barack speaks to our higher angels”.  I don’t know about you, but I had never heard anyone describe a politician in those words before and wrote a check on the spot. 

You have all read articles about those that have dropped everything in their lives to be a part of Team Obama…either during the campaign or now as part of the President’s Cabinet.  When these people are asked why, they always talk about President Obama’s character.  It is this character that will make the President’s stimulus plan work.

Was it a good idea to bailout the banks and Detroit?  Who knows.  The President really didn’t have much of a choice.  If the banks failed, there would be millions of Americans without homes.  That is not the kind of course correction we need right now.  No, his plan will work simply because he is a good man.  In my opinion, President Obama is the honorable person to sit in the Oval Office since Abraham Lincoln.  He wants the best for our Country…for all Americans.  It is this kind of leadership that will help all of us strive to become better people.  The President certainly proves that good guys don’t always finish last.  In fact, they can become leaders of the free world.  So start planning a bright future because there will be one.

Need a place to start, the next Dinner Club social is Thursday, May 7th.  Meeting places and times in each city TBA (btw, there has been a call-out for a Toronto meeting so get on it Canada). 

BTW, you can also find me on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/jimlewi

Speak with you soon…

Jim

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“IF I WERE…MICHAEL RAPINO

December 1, 2008

You can call me a sucker.  I bought Live Nation stock when it was at $20.  Friday it was trading at $4.89.  So why when Live Nation CEO, Michael Rapino had just announced that the company’s third quarter numbers were up significantly over 2007 would the stock price actually slip?  If you were to take out the sale of Live Nation’s motor sports division to Feld Entertainment, they were still up.  So why did the stock fall, and what can our friend Michael do to restore confidence on Wall Street?

In talking to friends who have also looked at the numbers, Wall Street just doesn’t seem to believe in Live Nation’s business model as it currently stands.  Their margins are just too small for analysts, investors, and if you own your own business, probably you too.  When Michael Rapino first took over as CEO of Live Nation, he spoke in public about the consumer’s “value proposition”.  Michael told us at conferences about his plans to make the “amphitheater experience” better.  He talked about food selection, price, the potential of taking out ARAMARK, etc.  Then what happened?  The realities of running a public company, quarterly numbers, and the like must have set-in.   That customer experience stuff was not heard about again.  Instead Live Nation’s message shifted to branding (Live Nation, Artist Nation, Fan Nation, House of Blues, Fillmore, etc), an international platform for brands to reach consumers (e.g. the Citi deal), and deals with Madonna, U2, and of course Carrot Top (just seeing if you were paying attention).  Brands, bands, and fans you might say.  Problem is the fans are last in this equation.  Now you add the Ticketmaster Entertainment scenario in there just for shits and giggles and it really becomes a migraine for Michael.

We will stay away from the Ticketmaster in this letter and just focus on Live Nation and Michael.  Starting with Jack Welch?  Well, Jack may be a business leader from the past, but his brave steps to form GE Capital and move General Electric away from less profitable businesses the company was known for such as small appliances (toasters, can openers, etc) make for a good example of what Michael and company need to do.  Live Nation needs to show Wall Street a plan and a leader that will get the company to the goal line.  So without further B.S., here are some of the things I would do…”If I were Michael Rapino”

·     HIRE SOMEONE FROM DISNEY PARKS TO RUN VENUE OPS – There needs to be a complete overhaul of everything (employee training, venue maintenance, F&B, VIP programs, ticketing, parking, security, transportation, etc).

·     BRING IN A CMO FROM A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY – Certainly Live Nation has its share of marketing pros to count on (Jim’s from the East, Brad in the West, Lulu in Texas, etc), but what our business needs is are marketers that are used to dealing with big ad agencies, big brands, big budgets, and have worked for publicly traded companies.

·     HIRE A CUSTOMER SERVICE CZAR – Disney, Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, and other customer service culture oriented companies are great places to look.  Live Nation should stand for customer service.

·     TICKETING, OK I’M BREAKING MY PROMISE – Live Nation’s new ticketing system should bring them greater revenues from ticketing… in theory.  But with Ticketmaster Entertainment now owning a management company that supplies so much talent to Live Nation venues, Live Nation’s ticketing is looking much more complicated.  As stated in earlier LiveWorks Newsletters, Irving Azoff is an artist manager first and foremost.  So as an example, both Irving and his partner Howard Kaufman know that their client Jimmy Buffett is probably better suited to play outdoors.  The company Irving now runs makes out better (at first look anyway) if Buffett plays indoors.  Will Buffett play the amphitheaters next summer?  If he does, where do you think all the extra ticketing money Live Nation might be making on their new deal will be going???  Do you think ticket surcharges are going to go down?  Is it too late to talk to Irving about getting Barry Diller to buy LN out of their ticketing commitment???  Just asking.

·     MARKET THE EXPERIENCE – Maybe I sound like a broken record, but in this case LN has something special.  I believe strongly in the amphitheater experience… at least the old one.  Yes, for acts that carry huge productions, they may not be the best places to play.  But for the fan experience, when done right, there is noting like seeing a concert outdoors.  Just ask a Buffett, Dave Matthews, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, James Taylor, Warped Tour, or any other artists’ fan that has frequented the “sheds” over the years.  Same can be said for many Live Nation clubs.  Have your newly hired CMO come up with some kick-ass marketing that reminds fans how much fun it is to be at a concert with your friends, family, etc.  It brings people together.  Gives them something to share.  That’s why fans buy the event shirt.  So they can show all their friends they were there.

·     FORBID PAPERING – Papering a show (giving away free tickets for gig that doesn’t sell) or selling-off lawn tickets for $10 after the show goes on-sale should not be allowed at any Live Nation show.  As Gene Simmons put it in his Keynote at the Billboard Touring Conference, “it is like letting the fox into the hen house” (can’t believe I just quoted Gene).   Fans find out about these things real fast, and the ones that paid full-price this time will wait for the free tickets or the fire sale the next time the act is through.

·     HIRE A CHIEF TECH OFFICER – This isn’t an IT guy.  This is someone like Joe Rospars.  Joe ran the tech side of Obama’s campaign, while the company he founded with his partners, Blue State Digital was responsible for the online fundraising.  Live Nation needs someone that can speak to music fans and figure out a way get those fans to help make new ones.  Fact is, in 2003 when Ann Marie Wilkins called me to contribute to Obama’s Senate run in Illinois, I had never heard of him.  He is now President Elect of the United States.  In early 2007, most Americans still hadn’t heard of our new President.  Guys like Joe can do a lot for our business.

·     BUY METROPOLITAN AND JAM – I know they certainly don’t want to sell to you and you may not want to buy them, but John, Jerry and Arny are all legends in our business with great relationships your people don’t necessarily have.  Do you really need one more competitor in markets that has seen nothing but turbulence?  Imagine the artists you could potentially promote in NY and Chicago with those guys on your side.  This seems like a no brainer to me…other than getting them to do it.

·     GO ON A ROAD SHOW – All of the above cost money and in the short term, earnings will suffer.  This could be hard for investors and analysts alike to swallow but you must remain strong.  Put a plan into place and then go out on the road and sell it to your entire staff, local “town hall meetings” and finally, Wall Street.  But don’t just go to NY.  Speak with analysts, traders, and business leaders in every community you do business in.  Let consumers see a face to Live Nation.

·     PRICES – We all know that on top of tickets, the prices for concessions, parking and merchandise are just too high.  With that said, it is funny that an act will make a comment on stage about the price of a beer, popcorn, or parking at a Live Nation venue but won’t say a word about those same prices (or even higher) in the arena.  Why is this?  In many cases, the fans feel ripped-off, and the bands feel they are being ripped-off.  This is a huge perception problem.  The answer is probably going to have to be a combination of dropping your prices to increase volume and positive PR in the short term.  Long range, we need to work on the “value proposition” because for whatever reason, our fans seem to have a problem with the $8 parking at your venue while football fans pay at least twice that and don’t seem to complain.

We have probably covered enough.  Again, my disclaimer is that I’m a Monday morning quarterback.  I don’t have to sit in Michael’s shoes everyday.  But I do feel that Jack Welch’s example is a good one here.  If you are really in this for the long term Michael, some of what is written above just might make sense to you.  To bring the live business back to health we need to think less about gross and more about number of tickets sold.  In the long run, getting more fans through the doors to experience live entertainment is the only way to win.  The concept of fewer bodies at a higher ticket price can only work for some acts and for so long.

Talk with you soon…

Jim

Political Marketing

October 22, 2008

The October 20 issue of Advertising Age announced that Barack Obama was the “Marketer Of The Year”.  His “electorate” were hundreds of marketers (at CMO level), agencies and the like who had gathered for the annual Association of National Advertisers.  Obama not only creamed his political competitor John McCain(who still made the list), he beat out mega-brands like Nike and Apple who are know for their marketing.  It all started (and ends) with passion and world-of-mouth.

In 2003, my friend and artist manager Ann Marie Wilkins called and asked me to contribute money to a politician I had never heard of named Barack Obama.  Because it was Ann Marie, I did it first and then did the research (she manages my friend Branford Marsalis who I’ve been friends with for over 20-years).  Turns out she could not have been more right about Barack and I became what Malcolm Gladwell would call a “Sneezer” or early adopter….and game on.

As Ad Age pointed out, the Obama campaign has won over voters with a mix of “grass-roots appeal and big-media-budget know-how”.  THAT MY FRIENDS IS A MOUTH FULL!!!  To put it in artist and record label terms for those in the music industry, Obama has marketed like an artist on an indie label with major label money and staff.  Of course, it starts with grass-roots and that’s where a lot of us go wrong…by starting big (like Hilary Clinton’s campaign).

Barack Obama started out as a community organizer and boy can you tell.  There are “Ann Marie’s” all over this country spreading the word one person at a time.  In Pennsylvania alone, there are now 80 Obama campaign offices…thousands of kids on the street.  Everyone involved feels empowered and part of the process.  Obama has used a combination of social networking and other 2.0 tactics along with traditional political organizing on the ground, to go for virtual unknown to one of America’s best known brands.

By breaking traditional with typical campain fund-raising and marketing, the Obama Camp has been able to not only out market and probably out spend his competitors (Democrat and Republican), but create a real passionate army of disciples to spread the message.  And that message has been clear from the start and has never changed!  This is another important lesson and what makes a great brand (staying on message).

Of course to reach those voters needed to win the election, mass-media (TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor, etc) was incorporated into the marketing mix.  Again, the campaign’s message stayed the same and the mass-marketing re-enforced everything coming from the street.  The Ad Age article points out that as the economy became most important to potential voters, the McCain campaign changed their ads and messaging.  “While Team McCain threw up ad after ad and tried to carve out a position during the financial crisis, Team Obama seemed to move at a slower pace, content to let Mr. McCain flail and then use his own words against him”  Consistency pays off.

As many have said before me, you can’t really market something you don’t believe in.  Since Ann Marie’s call in 2003, I have been a supporter, “sneezer”, contributor, and sometimes stalker for the Obama brand.  After his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, many more bought into the brand (mass marketing).  This was followed by great grass-roots marketing, organizing and ultimately fund-raising that fueled the Obama becoming a household name…and the marketer of the year.

See what you can learn from the Obama campaign to help put butts in seats for your next event.

Talk to you soon…

Jim