Posts Tagged ‘Bill Graham’

LIVE INDUSTRY’S RACE TO THE BOTTOM

February 12, 2013

Thank you to Pollstar and the North American Concert Promoter’s Association for bringing Seth Godin (BTW, there is a great article on connecting with customers in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine) in to deliver the keynote for this year’s Pollstar Live Conference.  Here are some of my takeaways. 

  •      We are on a race to the bottom. Seth tells the story of meeting Bill Graham while he was promoting a Rolling Stones tour.  At the time, tickets were $50 and Seth asked Bill why not charge $100 since he could get it.  Bill agreed he would probably get it but thought it was important to leave money in the market since he would be promoting other shows during the year.  In 2013, we are looking for the one event we can get music fans to attend rather than trying to get them to discover artists and buy tickets to more shows.  A race to the bottom.
  •      Opportunity. We all need to be looking for it.
  •      Build Assets.  Your assets don’t have to be real estate; they can be anything…especially a mailing list…where you received permission to speak with consumers. 
  •      Look for the Ridiculous.  You want to standout from the noise.  The more ridiculous, the better.  Give people something to talk about. 
  •     Connecting.  It seems today we are all looking for ways to measure our money and time investments in social media.  Seth pointed out that social is just another weapon in a marketer’s arsenal.  One the Grateful  Dead employed for years to help foster community.  You need to find the best place for your voice.  For instance, Seth made a conscious decision to stay off Facebook and Twitter (his Twitter feeds you his blog) and use his blog as his voice to the world.  Remember, connecting is ultimately about the exchange of ideas.  If you are having a one-way conversation, that can’t happen. 
  •     Believe in what you are making.  So many times we find ourselves competing rather than truly believing in what we are doing.   
  •     Build Slowly.  Probably the hardest for us to do in this environment and yet we must.  Things that start fast end just as quickly. 

Certainly the panels I attended (including the one I moderated) could not hold a candle to Seth’s presentation.  Perhaps something to work on for 2014…along with the Concert Industry Awards.  Please make it a seated affair like the Golden Globes.  Let guests eat and drink and start the awards as desert is served. 

 

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POSITIVE THINKING

March 17, 2011

WARNING, THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST PERSONAL LIVEWORKS NEWSLETTER I’VE EVER WRITTEN.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

Lately it seems that I’ve been identifying myself more by the last two-years of temporary defeats with my food festival, rather than the 20-plus years of building successful events.  After living life with the motto “failure is not an option” I’ve let the loss of money and reputation dictate who I am and how I’ve acted.  With the economy being what it is and the number of books and articles written on the subject, there are probably others out there in a similar circumstance that could learn from my experiences. 

Look at any successful person in life, no matter how you measure success, and you will most likely find confidence.  The fact is that there is almost nothing we can control in life.  Certainly what’s occurred in Haiti, New Zealand, and now Japan proves that.  The only things we really do have control of are our thoughts…and depending on the way we are wired, these thoughts can lead to success or failure.  The key is to not stop thinking…and thinking positively

Having a motive other than money is another important factor to success.  In my case, 2009’s trial run of the food festival concept was just that.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to make money and draw the crowds we did.  The idea was simply proof of concept and to make sure everyone (guest, talent, restaurants, promoter, staff, and press) had a good time.  With just a few technical glitches involving our cashless payment system and lack of staff as the doors opened, the first few hours of the show failed to fulfill either goal as lines grew to “amusement park size”.  Moving forward, we could fix the operational issues.  Success was within grasp.

The money was an all together different story.  We refunded everyone’s money in 2009.  In fact it was the first time I ever put significant personal money into a project and after seven-figure losses, had no idea how to support my family.  Not only was our savings wiped out, we had no real income to speak of.  Without loans from family and friends we would have never made it.  Lesson learned… having family and friends that care about you can change your life.  Cherish what’s important. 

Moving into 2010, there was only one goal on my mind; to make the food festival successful….which to me meant making money.  After a falling out with our previous partners, we went to what we considered a logical place to hold our events, football stadiums.  They had the perfect lists to market to (season ticket holders) and plenty of room for us to setup.  Unfortunately although we did factor weather in…it wasn’t not enough…and our marketing partners that had done such a wonderful job on our show in 2009 didn’t exist in 2010 (radio, print, online, clubs, etc).  Price also became a concern.  In 2009, we had ancillary charges built into our ticket price…and they totaled only $10.  This would not be the case with 2010.  As the shows came closer to playing, our pre-sales were not picking up as they had in 2009.  In hindsight, we should have cancelled the shows…but we were broke and thinking of money. Somehow we would be able to fix what’s broken and wrap strong.   

We didn’t wrap strong.  In fact without going into too much detail, we ended-up losing even more money.  The food fest owes more money than it ever grossed.  In my mind, I felt like a loser…and that has been the image I’ve been projecting ever since.  All the years of the Aspen Conference, HORDE Festival, MTV Campus Invasion, Woodstock, Jeep Tour, our cruises, etc…meant nothing.  If my 13-year old said I was a loser, I was a loser. 

Then something weird happened.  Investors started getting interested in the food fest idea.  Actually, the fact that we were two-time losers…wanted to pay all our debts…and wanted to try again…all worked to our favor (who knew???).  Although the number of people we drew in 2010 was soft, our food and beverage numbers were record-breaking.  If we could put the numbers from 2009 together with per caps from 2010, we have one strong show.  All of a sudden we were thinking creatively again. 

For one thing, I never wanted to look at bankruptcy as an option.  We owe money and I would rather raise the money, pay everyone back and move forward than walk away from those that trusted us…that trusted me.  Again to my surprise, this had also worked to the fest’s favor.  You see, one of the things investors like besides making money is doing business with people who have shown integrity through their careers.  They were happy we wanted to pay our debts versus declaring bankruptcy.  Gee, maybe I should have lost more money (just kidding of course).

The last two years have been the worst of my life.  Getting sick, death of family and friends, nothing has had the collateral and emotional damage that losing everything and letting people down has had.  Yet the moment I started thinking…positively… things began to change.  I went back to the computer to make sense of the numbers…combed through every note from every meeting…every email…and all our post-mortem meetings. This could be fixed.

As of today we are holding dates in multiple cities for an even better food fest concept and will have a few new partners (investors, promoters and brands) to help us along the way.  We aren’t there yet but we sure are getting close. 

There will be a new food fest in 2011…along with more cruises, festivals, and the biggest Aspen Conference in our history this December.  All this change with a simple attitude adjustment… and positive thoughts… of something other than money. 

I would like to thank all the family and friends that believed and continue to believe.  I would like to thank our staff, vendors and talent.  I would like to thank my heroes Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Bill Graham and PT Barnum for continuing to show me the right road.  I would like to thank all of those authors that have written books and articles that have influenced my thinking.  And I would like to thank you for reading the LiveWorks Newsletter.

Keep Thinking…Positive Thoughts!

Best,

 Jim

CRUSH IT!!!

September 22, 2009

A few weeks ago Bill Maher did a special edition of his HBO show Real Time by pulling away from the program’s usual format and only interviewing two guests.  One of those guests was Bill Moyers.  Moyers, one of the most respected journalists of our time spoke about what is needed from our leaders in Washington (but it applies to everyone), Passion.

As an example of the passion needed today, Bill Moyers brought up John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech from 1960.  Specifically the lines “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  Moyers points out that if President Obama asked Americans to do the same today…to sacrifice for their country…he probably wouldn’t see a second term (sad to hear but probably true).  Yet at the same time, it is exactly what is needed.  The President was elected because he gave Americans, and to some degree the world…Hope.  You can do the same in your office.

Many see mixing passion with business as unprofessional.  It is misunderstood.  I bet Jim Cramer was seen as crazy by “the establishment” on Wall Street before he got his own TV show.  And I have to believe that was the case with my friend Gary Vaynerchuk (and Kramer’s friend too)…who wrote a book about it called Crush It http://crushitbook.com

Crush It calls for readers to cash-in on their passions.  And who would know better than Gary.  He took a small family run business and turned his passion for wine and Business 2.o into what is now VaynerMedia;  a multi-million dollar enterprise that encompasses retail (The Wine Library) in New Jersey, online retail (winelibrary.com), publishing (He has two books @ age 33), and Gary’s widely popular web TV show, Winelibrarytv.com.  He has even added travel to the portfolio with his second cruise, The Crush It Cruise http://www.crushitcruise.com (full disclosure, The Agency Group Events produces this cruise with our partner Mike London).  Where are the Gary Vaynerchuks of our business?

We saw passion in our heroes…from what is now an almost forgotten business.  People like Bill Graham (anyone within 100′ knew he had passion), Mo & Lenny @ Warner Bros., Frank Barcelona, and of course Ahmet.  Their passions were the acts, fans, and the business of music.  My personal heroes are Abraham Lincoln (honor …and he fought for what he believed in), Bill Graham (devotion to fans and those that play for them), Walt Disney (details in creating the experience for fans) and P.T. Barnum (his ability to communicate with consumers).  All four men had passion and spoke passionately for what they loved.  Today we all seem to be weighed down by the quarterly numbers of every other mature, consolidated industry.  Yet for most of you, the numbers have nothing to do with why you got into this business. 

It is time for all of you to stand-up and become the JFK’s of your offices!  What we all need right now are leaders we can believe in.  Ones that inspire us to do great things (JFK wanted to put a man on the moon)…so we will want to sacrifice…be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Bill Moyers is a great man and he has inspired me.  Bill reminded me of the things we can do when given hope…when we are part of a “Great Group”…when we are pushed to succeed vs. torn down.  Bill, Bill, and Gary reminded me to Crush It. 

Speak with you soon…

Jim

“My Heros Have Always Been”…Promoters?

November 12, 2008

I always loved that song – with the word promoters replaced with the actual lyric cowboys of course.  But the title of this newsletter is true.  There are three giants of the live and branded live entertainment businesses that make up a majority of TAG Events & Entertainment DNA.  They are Walt Disney, Bill Graham, and PT Barnum.

Here is how our three DNA strands come together.  Walt Disney created the ultimate Experiences in everything he did, whether it was the first full-length animated motion picture or the first themed amusement park (although I do believe that there was a park that opened a month before that did nursery rhymes and that kind of stuff).  Concert promoter Bill Graham always remembered that what was most important were the Audience and the Talent, while P.T. Barnum was the best at Communicating the Experiences his Audiences would have at his shows.

Over the past 10-years or more, we in the live business have moved away from these three simple principles of creating amazing, once in a lifetime experiences for audiences, and then properly communicating those experiences to that audience.  Tonight let’s look at Communicating and a few ideas to remind you how easy and fun our jobs can be.

Promotions, and the planning and execution of them are a lost art form.  To start with, we in the live business seem to think that ticket giveaways are the only form of promotion.  Giving away tickets is only a promotion if you can keep a story going on-air.  “The 25th caller wins…” isn’t a promotion because the jock isn’t on-air long enough to make it exciting.  Now, having a station broadcast live while Playboy Playmates give away tickets to an upcoming UFC fight at a Chevy dealership, that is a promotion.  It is amazing that we have the ultimate Experiences and are just not that good at communicating it.

Have you seen the print ads and outdoor that Virgin America has been running lately?  Those ads do a great job of communicating an experience; and they are an airline.  Would you rather fly or go see your favorite team, singer, or family show perform?  Here are a few links for you to decide for yourself. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://images.patronmail.com/pmailemailimages/132/116004/photo_1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://jessicamah.com/blog/%3Fp%3D330&h=600&w=500&sz=318&hl=en&start=1&usg=__wJF5Iqc2f1SBk5S2Fr0qur6R9FA=&tbnid=zvI8pH8ILZKhzM:&tbnh=135&tbnw=113&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dvirgin%2BAmerica%2Bads%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den

And now this… http://www.oldhandbills.com/images/060807/Bon_Jovi-Goo_Goo_Dolls-Staples_Center.jpg

Certainly not knocking Bon Jovi’s creativity here.  These are the current tools of our trade… :30 second radio & cable TV spots, 1/4 page print ads, email blasts that mostly get ignored, links on websites, flyering cars at the last minute, and all with very little description of what the fan will actually experience because we are too busy making sure we have all the sponsor tags, the right music beds of songs no one has ever heard of, and of course all the promoters names in there because that’s what is really selling the tickets.  There has to be another way.  Start experimenting.  Here are some ideas.

1) Double incentivize the talent or show with commissions on top of what they are already making in guarantees.  You will see the most action from direct to consumer marketing.  If bands can sell more tickets directly to their fans, let them make the ticket markups and commissions instead of you.  Get Talent working for you.

2) Family shows and sports are the only ones that seem to be able to handle group sales with any success.  The rest of us should take some lessons.  Start by assigning one person in your office as lead and come-up with a group sales strategy.  Look at pricing and models of the groups sales at buildings, sports and family shows and off you go.

3) Try media partners.  The idea of spreading shows across different stations, papers, magazines, etc, is just diluting your message in many cases.  2009 should be the end of the “Neutral Show” unless your show can sell no matter what.  By focusing on fewer media outlets, you should get a lot more bang out of it.

4) Use the economy for your promotions.  For instance, the average price for a gallon of gas in America is now down to $2.30 (not in LA).  If we can see a direct relationship between ticket sales and the price of gas, let’s promote that in a big way…while we still can.

5) Ringling shouldn’t be the only ones to do a “Circus Walk”.  It drives me crazy.  The animals have to get from the train to the gig somehow but PT Barnum turned it into an event in every city.   It still makes news everywhere.  Invent your own circus walk.

6) Guinness Book of World Records stunts get the media out every time.

7) Out hustle/work/promote your competitors.  I was watching a special on TV about Will Smith (the making of something) and they showed him goofing with the cameras.  He said the most interesting thing.  Something like, “you know why I win? Because while you are out partying, I’m working, while you are sleeping, I’m working, while you are watching TV, I’m working…”  Maybe take a lesson from Will.

Before we close, I also wanted to point out something from one of my previous posts, “Drop Your Prices Already”.  It was brought to my attention that artists like Metallica are back with a new album and tour.  Tickets are priced at $59.50, very reasonable.  AC/DC’s current tour is also scaled very sensibly.  As sports ticket sales fall-off in all but the largest cities, you in the sports community should be thinking about price as well.

Talk to you soon,

Jim

Customer Service Please…

November 4, 2008

Have you been to one of your events as a consumer, guest, fan, or whatever you call your customers lately?  Or someone else’s event?  No parking pass, no connections, no backstage catering.  If you haven’t, please do it today.  You will see that we can all do a lot better on “Customer Service”. 

With the plethora of entertainment options the “live” business competes with in consumer’s homes alone, we better be doing everything possible to retain the customers we have and build on that.  It starts and ends with the customer experience and now more than ever, every touch point counts.  Here are some suggestions (in no particular order) to help with your customer service. 

1) Look at the whole of your business.  Is customer service built into your culture?  Good place to start.

2) Have a great website to direct your customers and employees.  Update information on your site often.

3) Work with customers you already have and speak directly to them.  Ask for feedback and then act on it.

4) Be “authentic” in everything you do.  Go the extra step…and then another one.

5) Mimic what others do.  Look at those who you believe have stellar customer service and try and follow their best practices (e.g. Disney, Nordstrom, etc).  See if you can get a hold of their Customer Service or Employee manuals.  You can also try outside training.  Here’s one I can recommend.  http://www.disneyinstitute.com/custom.cfm

6) Speaking of manuals, have a manual for doing everything…even answering the phone.  OK maybe not a whole manual on answering the phone, but it should be in a manual somewhere.

7) And speaking of answering the phones, be “Welcoming”.  Look at every place your customer touches your brand and vice-versa and make sure there is a smile attached.  This welcome could be your entrance, website, phone operators, parking lot attendants (talk about front-lines…you really need to go talk to your parking people as they need training), box office, even the ticket to the event itself, which can now be paperless. 

8) Be hands-on.  You can’t learn anything sitting in an office reading reports.  Get out there and talk with your customers.  Any of you in the concert business that were around when Bill Graham was a promoter always saw him wandering around, talking with the audience.  Getting feedback.  Sometimes throwing people out of shows and sometimes sneaking them in without a ticket.  Bill actually built a community and made “Bill Graham Presents” mean something to fans. 

9) Let guests know about any problems or changes right away.  The customer likes to be in control as we all do.  Think about that time you were sitting in that 767 on the tar mac for hours and the pilots weren’t telling you what was going on.  The real stress was not knowing.  Let them know. 

10) CAN WE PLEASE CHANGE OUR MERCHANDISE SELLING EXPERIENCE AT OUR SHOWS AND EVENTS???  Please go to an Apple or Lego store.  Take in the whole experience.  Note the word experience, not t-shirts and colored lights on a board with handwritten prices attached.  All part of customer service. 

11) Security and customer service should go hand-in-hand.  Visit a new airport terminal and see how they are being built.  Take that into consideration when planing your next venue or show environment.  Don’t use the TSA training manual, of course. 

12) Keep it really simple if possible.  Fans of In-N-Out Burger out here in the west go there because it is such a simple menu and promise (burgers, fries, and shakes, all fresh).  You should be able to make your customer service that simple.

13) Pick the right people and train them properly.  You might want to think about picking the right customers too.  For instance, when you tour the amphitheaters and ask the staff what shows they hate working the most, they usually say “Jimmy Buffett, because everybody thinks they are a somebody…and they are really drunk.”  Sometimes you may want that customer, sometimes not.

14) Empower your front-line employees.  Ritz-Carlton gives desk clerks, attendants, bell staff, etc, up to $2000 to fix a customer complaint (not sure where I heard that but need to give credit to someone).  What happens at your venue when a customer isn’t happy with their hot dog?  Have you spoken with the staff at your concession stands lately?

15) Re-think everything.  There is no reason “entrance ques” need to look the same in every venue.  Why not put more shows on-sale on Tuesdays (plane fares are cheaper on Tuesdays and Thursdays which means fewer people are traveling…there has to be something to that)?  Do you have a customer service director at your talent agency (might be a good idea to take care of the “bottom 1/3 of your roster)? 

As always, would love your feedback.

Talk to you soon…

Jim