Posts Tagged ‘brands’

DEALS ARE GETTING DONE

April 8, 2009

We had another great turnout for this month’s meeting of ” The Aspen Dinner Club” last Thursday in Los Angeles.  I got glowing reports back from NY, Austin, and Indy…and we are talking about adding San Francisco and Boston next month.  You don’t have to be in Live Entertainment or Music to be a part.  All are welcome.  So last Thursday, Gang, Tyre, Ramer, and Brown’s Gene Salomon brought someone from the TV business.

Gene’s friend was from Mark Burnett Productions and his energy was infectious.  We spent the most time talking about how “everyone wants to make deals right now in Hollywood”.  It was an interesting observation.  Although there was “no money”, there was content that needed to be distributed and actors, directors, and so on that needed to be paid.  So some money was better than none.  Deals were being made.  Can’t we do that in our business too?

Live Entertainment suffers from small marketing budgets relative to the entertainment dollars we compete for with the likes of video games and the movie business (# 2 advertiser).  Brands have trouble getting their message heard but have real marketing budgets.  We should be getting deals done just like the TV and movie businesses. 

Although “it’s not about the money, it’s about the money”…it doesn’t always have to be about the money.  It can be about bringing in the money.  Let’s try partnering with corporate America rather than waiting for them to write a check…although I’ll never turn-down money.

Speak with you soon…

Jim

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OUR MARKETING STILL SUCKS!

January 21, 2009

What is it going to take to make us change our ways in Live Entertainment?  Why do we still do such a bad job at marketing our shows and events?  There are probably hundreds of reasons, but through a little un-scientific research (calls out to some of you) we have identified the 10 most obvious things you can do to improve your Live Entertainment marketing.

  1. WORK ON FEWER PROJECTS – This was the number one answer by far.  You can’t tell a member of the media, fan or anyone else that “this is the greatest show ever” three times a week. 
  2. HIRE MORE QUALIFIED PEOPLE – Lots of talk about “a few good marketers out there… but most are basically paper pushers.”  Fact is, there are very few senior level marketers hired period…forget someone from outside the entertainment world. 
  3. LEARN TO USE NEW TECHNOLOGY PROPERLY – Lots of one way conversations going on in Live Entertainment right now…that would be us spamming our fans.  As marketing guru Seth Godin said recently in one of his blogs, “just because you have someone’s email address doesn’t mean you have the right to email them.”
  4. LOVE WHAT YOU SELL – Marketing starts and ends with the product.  If you don’t believe in the product, how can you sell it to others?
  5. KNOW YOUR MARKET – Many of you brought up the fact that sometimes you just weren’t sure who the audience was for the show…or how to reach the audience even if you knew. 
  6. HAVE A WRITTEN PLAN – Concert promoters, this is not a grid with your ad buys pasted up, but a road map on how you plan to market the show from onsale through doors.  Just having a plan for the onsale and then waiting to see what happens is not a good idea. 
  7. STOP GIVING TICKETS AWAY – It has spread from the concert industry to Ringling Bros.  Set a ticket price and stick with it.  Not sure the show is going to sell, create an “entry level price” in your scaling.  You can always reduce more tickets to the entry level price without hurting your market.  Free, two-for-ones, and the like just train your fans to wait.
  8. GROUP TICKETS ANYONE – Family, sports, and amusement parks do a much better job at this than concerts, comedy and festivals.  Get with it people.
  9. PARTNER WITH YOUR SHOW – The actual show, event, or artist will make the biggest impact communicating with fans directly.  Creating that relationship early on will help you start a dialogue with the fan versus through the filter of media.
  10. PARTNER WITH BRANDS – Just like you, brands are looking for ways to cut through clutter and get their message directly to consumers.  You have a perfect vehicle for them to do that. 

Would love to hear your ideas.

Talk with you soon…

Jim

“IF I WERE…TIM LEIWEKE”

December 6, 2008

Apologies are becoming way too common in the LiveWorks Newsletter, but I must again say I’m sorry to subscribers for sending an old newsletter to you.  To say I’m frustrated with the situation is the understatement of the century…and if any of you know anything about FeedBurner (the service that sends newsletter subscribers their emails), please let me know.  If there is an upside, as promised, at least you didn’t get the “Recession” email again.  Now on to “If I were…”

It is hard for me to wrap my brain around AEG’s business.  They separate it into AEG and AEG-Live.  AEG invests what amounts to hundreds- of- millions in new venues around the world, while AEG-Live is the concert promotion and live entertainment company built around the acquisition of Concerts West.  With all the money flying around it is hard to say how or if AEG makes any.  Since they are privately owned, AEG doesn’t report their financials, so it is even harder for me to poke my big nose into their shit.  So more than ever, please read the following disclaimer:  The “If I Were…” series is based on not knowing what the day-to-day business realities are for those written about.  Also in many situations, I’m looking at decisions from the past after they have already been played-out (or are in the middle of doing so) so it isn’t necessarily fair to play Monday morning quarterback. Oh well!  Fair or not, I like playing the position, so here are some of the things I would do “If I were…Tim Leiweke”.

· MARKETING – AEG should market itself as if it were a public company.  Meaning, they should start reaching out to consumers as a brand.  This is a real opportunity to differentiate AEG events and venues from everyone else’s.  Market in and to your communities.

· FAN RELATIONS DEPARTMENT – Goldenvoice guys should certainly be a part of this unit (just look at what they’ve done with Stagecoach’s layaway plan).  Although as per above, the whole company should be behind this mission, AEG should have a department whose only job is looking after fans (sports, music, family shows, etc).  With the intelligence they can share with the rest of the company, AEG’s whole culture will move into the role.  Think about what you could implement.

· STOP THE BIDDING WARS – In the live music business, bidding wars do a huge disservice to fans by driving ticket prices up, and thus everything else.  Create a committee to look at each opportunity and make a quick assessment of it.  Adding layers of bureaucracy can sometimes actually speed-up the decision making process since every deal wouldn’t have to pass by Randy Phillips and/or Tim.

· ENERGY/GOOD CITIZEN – The new solar panels at LA’s Staples Center and the PR that went along with it is a great example of what I’m talking about.  Getting ahead of the competition by switching over to clean energy, recycling, conservation programs, etc, will not only save you money both now (through tax breaks and energy savings) and in the future (it is said that “U.S. companies can spend billions now or trillions later”), it will make consumers feel better about doing business with you (this has been proven).  Hire a “Green Czar” that’s responsible for these initiatives.  Build it into AEG’s DNA.  The changes that Wal-Mart found their “associates” have made and continue to make since the company started its greening is amazing (looking for ways to cut down on post-consumer packaging, energy saving ideas, and even eating healthier).

· VENUES – I’m sure this isn’t the first time you have heard that several of your new concert venues and theaters are feeling a little sterile.  I think a better analogy might be a modern AMC multi-plex.  Don’t get me wrong (or anyone else saying this), I appreciate not only the investment you are making into our business, but the thought you put behind building them (production manager’s dream, great sound, etc).   Maybe your architects know something the rest of us don’t on how things will look in the future or how the venues will wear over time, but right now they could use a little more character.

· FREQUENT BUYER PROGRAM – Reward loyalty with a program that gives fans discounts on tickets, early access to the best seats, special merchandise, VIP parking without paying for it, etc.  Give them a membership card with special stamps or stickers for each show, game, or special event they attend.  Consumers can show their friends.  Think of it like the concert T-shirt you wear to school the day after the show to let everyone know you were there.  It will work with sports fans young and old the same way it works for music fans.

· THE DENVER OFFICE – AEG needs more strong local promoter acquisitions like Chuck Morris and the Denver office.  In two-years, Chuck, Brent, Don, and company have not only built two new successful music festivals, they have also managed to give Live Nation a run for their money in a market where LN owns and/or controls several major venues in the market (thus the ability to offer more money in theory).  Coincidentally it was Chuck and team (and Barry Fey as it relates to Coors Amphitheater) that built-up most of those venues.

· THE BENCH – Almost repeating myself from the item above but not really.  For some reason there is a perception that AEG doesn’t have a deep bench.  Not sure that reality matches perception (Tim, Randy, Larry, Paul, John, Chuck, Debra, etc) but it is out there.  Might be time to speak with John Scher in New York, Arny and Jerry in Chicago, and more.

· BUY LIVE NATION – They should be willing to sell it right now at a real discount.  Go directly to those that hold the IOU’s and make an offer to buy the company @ $7 per share.  The stock could fall below $4 this week.  Make your move.  Stockholders like me will be really happy to get out alive and you would end at least one war.

· RESTART DIALOGUE WITH MSG & TICKETMASTER – If buying Live Nation doesn’t work out, how about trying to re-engage conversations with MSG and/or Ticketmaster?  Again, now might be the right time to talk as both Ticketmaster and MSG are on the move and cash is king.

· BRANDS – We in live entertainment are just not getting it right when it comes to working with brands.  AEG has a great sales team (I’m sure, never met them as I have the Live Nation team, who are also very good) for their building’s naming rights etc, but need to do even more to work across their multiple platforms (venues, local concerts, tours, sports).  It is time to breath new life into our business.  I bet there are some very smart marketing and branding types who are feeling rather concerned about their Detroit jobs these days.  Sunny California probably looks pretty good right about…now.  Bet they would work for less with a big upside too.

That should be enough to keep Tim and company going for a while.  Again, please know that just as with Michael Rapino, I don’t know the realities of Tim Leiweke’s job.  These are just ideas I would work towards knowing what I know, “If I were… Tim Leiweke”.

Talk with you soon,

Jim

“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

Selling-Out Isn’t Good, It’s Great!!!

November 2, 2008

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

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