Posts Tagged ‘Don Strasburg’

LESSONS FROM THE ASPEN CONFERENCE

January 7, 2011

This year’s Aspen Live Conference was one of our best yet.  Although I can’t speak for every member of the Aspen Family, below are some bullet points of important items discussed, learned, and debated.  Please comeback with comments and ideas.

  • Overplaying – Because most artists aren’t making their money from record sales and publishing anymore, touring has become a vital part of keeping cash flowing.  The problem discussed; some of us continue to book the same acts in the same markets over and over as we watch their business fall off.  This hurts everyone…fan, promoter, and especially artists.
  • Pricing – It really was the same old debate…ticket prices and ancillary charges are too high for fans…certainly for them to take a chance on discovering something new.  The only answer is for each one of us to take responsibility for and do our best to bring prices down.
  • Posse – This is blowing up in Australia and seems like a good idea.  Instead of just letting your friends know about a show you want to see like you would on Facebook, fans actually get commissions for each ticket that they sell.  Check it out… http://www.posse.com/home/index.  We did debate how that works in terms of credibility (your friend may just be sending you this to make money), but that’s not really how the internet works.  You don’t spam your friends (although many of you do and need to stop)…and fans are passionate about “their acts”.  We should get this going in the U.S. big time!
  • Don Strasburg’s Facebook Campaigns – Most of us can agree that Don Strasburg from AEG Denver is a great, passionate promoter.  He has followers on Facebook…creates cool contests…and the fan feels like they are on the inside because of it.  He is selling tickets, but more importantly building a community to help sell tickets for him.
  • Goldstar vs. Groupon – We were lucky enough to have 2 people from Goldstar attend Aspen this year, including the Co-CEO and founder of the company.  Some concert promoters use Goldstar and some don’t.  Both services are about discounts no doubt. I’ve received some pretty strong responses to Goldstar and whether they are good for the business.  Theatre, Sports, and Family has gotten squarely behind these services because they are selling “remnant inventory”.  Our group pointed out that it is different with most theatre, sports, and family shows since they usually play multiple dates in the same city.

 Currently, Groupon sells tickets at half the retail price and takes 50% of the sale on top, leaving the promoter with a “trickle” of revenue that doesn’t make up much.  As for those guests spending more money on ancillaries, most of my experience has been that “paper” or discounted ticketed guests actually spend less at the shows than the fan that paid full-price.  From everything we heard (and continue to see), you can really work with Goldstar.  They don’t take a 50% commission on the ticket…you can limit the number of tickets you give to them to sell (which works best prior to the on-sale)…and based on what I’ve seen recently, they even sell full-priced tickets (New Cirque show in LA)…so they can make for good marketing partners regardless. http://www.goldstar.com

 The argument to use these services…their members wouldn’t normally buy a ticket for your show.  As stated above, everyone who uses these sites is looking for a deal.  At the same time, some believe that fans will find the cheapest tickets no matter what and that we are selling a ticket at half of what the guest is willing to pay.  What do you think?

  • Customer Service – As the world gets better at customer service, we seem to stay stagnate.  Employees at our shows are not usually well-informed or trained properly.  In many cases this lack of information gives guests the opposite effect as the desired intent by management.  We need to spend more money and time in training everyone who touches the consumer.  When you go to a Disney Theme Park, every cast member can give you directions to anything.  Try asking one of your parking attendants or security people how to get somewhere and see what happens. 
  • Four Square – The jury seems to be out on whether this is a good tool for live entertainment and music or not.  If there was a consensus it was that like everything else in life, using Four Square is a case-by-case.  It may work for some and not others.
  • Filters / One Place To Go – There is still room and a need for filters to spread the word about live shows and music in general.  Fans and potential fans need one place to go (like a Google) where they can find all information.  Marc Geiger and company had this concept long ago with ArtistDirect.  It can suck sometimes to be too far ahead (as Marc and Don seemed to be) of the curve before everyone has caught-up.  Personally, my finger points to the labels here and their need to own the artist’s sites.  Eventually there will be one place to go…currently it seems to be iTunes although you can’t buy tickets…yet.
  • Marketing Materials – Well, if we are going to overplay our talent, let’s at least show them a new look.  Steve Kelly from Bill Young Productions talked about showing (in TV and Web) or talking about (radio and print) the new stage, something amazing the fan will experience, etc, versus the same old – same old.  U2 is doing this with the 360 Tour on their website…and as a fan; I couldn’t wait to see what the stage was going to look like.  We need to look into this much harder.
  • Quality Is A Problem – Again talked about forever, but with the live business now meaning so much to an artist’s livelihood, actually being good is more important than ever.  Everyone agrees there should be fewer releases…but we are talking about actually having fewer artists put out more material.  Remember when your favorite group would release two-albums a year?
  • Facebook Ads Sell Tickets – Almost everyone in Aspen could agree that their most cost-effective, measurable, and fun way to market shows is through Facebook.  Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or whatever, the important thing is to have a conversation versus a monologue with fans.
  • Reward Programs – Reward programs work for airlines, movie theatres, supermarkets, drugstores, theme parks, banks and credit cards, hotels, rental cars, gasoline, retailers of every kind, even pot dispensaries…why are we still not onboard with this?  Start a program today.  You could bring in some of the good people who have just been laid-off that know this stuff…Like Piper Taylor formerly of Live Nation as an example. 
  • Back To Singles Business – Lefsetz pointed out that we are back to a singles business.  Young music consumers are not out getting the full album; they want the song they like or their friends like.  Knowing this is the case, how do we take advantage of this fact? 
  • Jennie from Guerilla Marketing – Many from our group are fans of Jennie from Guerilla Marketing.  One quote was “she really understands the artist”. 
  • Mix Match Music – http://www.mixmatchmusic.com.  This is a fun website that actually serves several purposes…but really it’s about fan engagement and interaction.
  • Mobile Roadie – You want to create a mobile app for your artist, show, whatever… http://mobileroadie.com/  
  • Bandzoogle – Want to build a website for your artist, show, convention, etc, and don’t have a lot of money…not too internet savvy?  My good friend Jon Topper (manager of moe.) turned me onto this site.  If I can build a website with them, anyone can.
  • Search Engine Optimization – Not sure where we ended-up on this subject as there doesn’t seem to be an easy fix.  If a fan types an artist’s name into a search engine, they will most likely find Stub-Hub and sites like it on the top of the list…and I’m not talking about the ads at the top that are put in a different color to show they are ads, I’m talking about the regular searches.  A fan, promoter or ticketing company site is usually a few spots down.  What happens is that some fans that don’t know better will Google phrases like “Rolling Stones Tickets”…see that they are $1000 a piece and turn away.  They never realize that just a few spots down there are tickets for sale at face value.  No answer came out of our meetings, but that doesn’t mean we should drop the issue. 
  • Taylor Swift On-Sales – A question was asked on why Taylor Swift put her shows on-sale for next summer in 2010 (they all sold-out btw).  The answer everyone came up with is that they wanted to strike while the iron is hot.  If they waited, many of Taylor’s fans may fall-off…this way they stay engaged. 
  • Business with Friends – This is really what the Aspen Conference is all about.  It is much easier, smarter and quicker to do business with people who you know, trust and care about than to just serve up your goods to the highest bidder.  In sales they always say that you don’t make money on your first sale…it is about repeat business.  Why would it be different in your business?

 Our dates are set for Aspen Live 2011 so mark your calendars now.  Our dates are December 8-11.  Stay tuned for more information.

Happy New Year!

Jim

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LIVENATION’S PASSPORT…& ASPEN

September 17, 2009

For those of you who read Lefsetz, you may remember a few years ago when he wrote about our discussions at the Aspen Live Conference regarding a Season’s Pass to rock clubs.  In fact, Don Strasburg from AEG in Denver actually tried the idea out with a limited number of passes at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO (Bob wrote about that too).  The passes sold-out as soon as Don’s team put them up on the club’s website.  In Aspen, the big questions were “what will the agents and managers say…and how do those tickets count towards the show gross.”  Those were the exact reasons why Don only sold a limited number of passes at the Fox.  He didn’t want to make things messy but wanted to try the experiment for us. 

So, now Live Nation is doing it in their smaller rooms.  $49.99 gets you into all shows to Live Nation clubs (it will be limited to one club in each market) from now through the end of the year (roughly 3-months).  This fee does not include parking according to what I’ve read on Pollstar Online.  Obviously, someone spoke with someone before pulling the trigger on this…but there is a lot of screaming going on right now.  Me, I think even if Live Nation did it for the most selfish reasons imaginable, it is good for our business…and great for Live Nation!

Here is my case.

  1. The program will hopefully fill the clubs which is good for the acts and LN
  2. LN said that when they went into the ticketing business they would share data with the artists…This could be a great way for artists to reach out to fans too
  3. Hopefully the price point turns someone onto live music that might not otherwise (for the price of going to the movies a few times, I can see 4 of my favorite bands)
  4. It is the fourth quarter…everyone could use a bump (no not that kind)
  5. The program is only 3-months…so a good test period without giving the store away
  6. LN says that the Passports are competing with hard ticket sales but I bet there is a way around that for artists that will sell-out quickly…I believe we call that the pre-sale
  7. The clubs, artists and thus the business are getting a free ride on the press that LN is generating…how are you going to take advantage of that

It will be interesting to see how the business feels when the dust settles, but I’m going to go out on a limb now and say you will all be happy about it…and will start to emulate what Live Nation did.  The “Season’s Pass” is here to stay!  Everyone in Live Entertainment should follow the lead of the amusement parks.  If Disney can figure out a way to make money with it, so can you. 

Aspen Live Room Registration Open

This year’s Aspen Live Conference, December 10-12,  is really about the Live Entertainment Industry getting together.  There will be no official meetings or speakers planned…at least for now.  We will send out more information about the program as we get closer in.  For now what you need to know is that room registration at the St. Regis, Aspen is now open…and we have held very few of them.  If you would like to reserve a room at our conference rate of $260 per night, please follow the information below. 

A personalized Web site for ASPEN LIVE occurring
(December 09, 2009 – December 13, 2009) has been created for you.

Guests can access the site to learn more about the event and to book,
modify, or cancel a reservation from September 17, 2009 to December 16, 2009.

Below you will find the appropriate link for participants to access the site:
Attendee

ASPEN LIVE
http://www.starwoodmeeting.com/StarGroupsWeb/res?id=0909177850&key=263E1

 Guests can also make reservations by calling the Hotel directly at 970-920-3300 or 888-454-9005 and reference that you would like to make a reservation under the Aspen Live Ski Weekend group.

Speak with you soon…

Jim

THE PRICE OF ADMISSION

December 15, 2008

Sorry it has been a while since the last LiveWorks Newsletter.  To make sure subscribers didn’t receive another old newsletter from our FeedBurner account (for those of you not familiar, our feed system for newsletter subscribers sends out old posts whenever I don’t write for more than a day), I deactivated our system while away and will continue to do so whenever I don’t post for more than one day until we figure out how to fix the problem or import our subscriber list to another subscription feed service.  If you have tried to subscribe to the LiveWorks Newsletter in the past and it wouldn’t work, please try again by clicking on the following link  Subscribe to LiveWorks Newsletter by Email.  Once you subscribe you will receive a verification email.  You must respond to this email in order to start receiving the newsletter.

As many readers may know, since last Tuesday I’ve been in Aspen, Colorado, hosting the 14th Annual Aspen Live Conference.  Although we covered many topics in our eight-plus hours of meetings and debate, the most important message to come out for me was… BRING THE PRICE FOR ADMISSION DOWN AND THE EXPERIENCE UP!

In past newsletters I’ve talked about early concert experiences at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center or SPAC.  My friends and I went to almost every concert each summer because the venue was so special to us, and we could afford to go.  In Aspen last week, Don Strasburg broke-it-down to an even simpler formula of “opposite sex + friends + cool place to hang out + affordable experience = crowded venue” (I’m paraphrasing here so please excuse me Don if I didn’t get it right).  When Don said that, I realized that some things will never change (as much as they change), and Don’s theory had merit.  After all, when we were young, we didn’t go to see Loverboy, REO and others at SPAC because they were our favorite bands, we went because it was $7 for a lawn seat and we knew that the experience at the venue would be great.  So Jay Scavo brought up the concept of a venue season pass to help develop artists.

Season passes are nothing new to the live entertainment business.  Amusement parks, sports teams, recreational areas (such as ski mountains and beaches), and performing arts centers have had season passes for decades, so why can’t you?  Yes there are hurdles to overcome such as artist compensation for season pass holder’s tickets and the potential for no-shows from those tickets… but there is simply nothing that can’t be negotiated when the deal is put together.

Don Strasburg tried an experiment for our group.  He made-up four season passes to the Fox Theater in Boulder, CO and put them on-sale on the club’s website for $400 per pass.  With no advertising, no email blasts, and only a post on The Fox’s website, Don’s four season passes sold-out in less than an hour.  Sell enough of these and you have a very healthy business going.  If season pass holders want to go to a show that is sure to sell-out or at least do well, they will need to put in their orders by a certain deadline or their tickets will be released for general sale.  Difficult, yes…impossible, no way.

Do you have a season pass for your shows?  How about a low-priced “starter rate”?  If not, it might be time to start thinking about ways to compensate everyone and show fans real value.  Two-for -ones, discounted tickets, and the like only devalue your show’s brand, but the venues, promoters, and more.  Create a season pass, discounts and loyalty programs, or simply lower the price of admission and watch your numbers go up.

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