Posts Tagged ‘Experience’

EDM – I’M IN LOVE

October 28, 2013

Seems you can teach old dogs new tricks.  That’s what happened on Saturday night.  Embarrassingly I had never been to an EDM show of any kind (other than the tent at Coachella that I didn’t pay attention to) till Insomniac’s Escape From Wonderland.  It has changed my world.

First there was the marketing of the event. Unless you were in the know (mailing list, friends, etc.), you would have no idea Escape From Wonderland was taking place outside LA. In the months leading to the event, I didn’t see or hear anything…traditionally anyway. Yet somehow 40,000 20-somethings showed up in costume ready to dance, party, “JUMP”, and listen to their favorite DJ’s.

Pasquale and his team at Insomniac have learned through years of trial and error how to create an innovative, immersive, and most importantly, safe experience.  That’s what it is, an experience.  All of your senses are constantly stimulated…and if guests get too “stimulated”, their medical staff knows just how to handle it.

People were roaming with shirts reading “Ground Control”.  It is their job to find guests who might have had to too much… fill in the blank, lack of hydration and sleep, etc. Impaired or injured guests are then taken to a triage depending on their specific issue.  Most can get up and go back to the festivities once they’ve had water or possibly an IV.

The “General Store” was a trip.  Everything from glow sticks, to candy (a big deal and you can’t bring in your own), cigarettes, sunscreen, eye drops (another prohibited item), Chapstick, tampons, you name it.  At the merch stand, you could not only find t-shirts, hats, banners and hoodies, but bandannas (dust masks are another prohibited item), branded re-sealable water bottles (the only ones allowed in the venue), and plush toys and wearable’s.

Never have I seen so much money spent on ambiance for a music festival of any kind.  LED video everywhere, light shows, lasers, 5-stages, art installations, a graveyard, haunted houses, a maze, photo op areas (like a guillotine), fireworks, and one of the best sponsor activations I’ve ever seen.

Motorola was a key sponsor of the event and certainly added to the experience.  Guests went in to the “kandi shop” where they could choose from different color and shaped beads to make bracelets, necklaces, arm and headbands, etc.  Some were very creative. Motorola also had the “Motorola Tower”…a four-sided scaff tower coved in LED.  Guests could send pictures and messages with a special hash tag and they would end up on the screens.  Simple and brilliant.

Fact is, brilliant can describe the whole experience.  Are there things Insomniac could do better, sure.  If you go to an event looking, you can always find ways to improve.  With that said, it was hard to find things.

The last time I danced was at a wedding. At Escape From Wonderland, I danced from 4pm – 1am…by myself…well with 40,000 friends.  Great job Insomniac.  Can’t wait till your next event!

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SECRETS OF SUCCESS

February 9, 2010

My friend Jolene Pellant sent me an email today with a link to BusinessBrief.com.  She wanted me to see “Walt Disney’s 8 secrets to success” that they had written about.  Jolene knows that Walt is one of my business heroes and always believed that experience was most important.  Here are Walt’s secrets that you might want to work into your daily life.

1)      Provide a promise not, a product: The Walt Disney brand certainly delivers that.  From the moment Disney started the focus was always on the “experience”.

2)      Always exceed customer’s expectations: As stated in the last newsletter, over-delivering can be a cheap and effective marketing technique.  Going over budget to make the experience wow your guests one year might save you a lot of money in marketing dollars the next.

3)      Pursue your passion, and the money will follow: You may know that Walt went bankrupt several times building his dreams.  Work on labors of love and the profits won’t be far behind.

4)      Stay true to your company’s mission and values:  As it says on BusinessBrief.com, “Walt Disney was famous for saying; I hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse”.   

5)      Differentiate your offer: Six-Flags are amusement parks.  Disney Land and Disney World are theme parks…actually “Resorts” complete with themed hotels and restaurants. 

6)      Lead by example and delegate: Walt was the original artist for Mickey Mouse.  He was also the man would ran the studio, sold the pictures to movie houses, cut distribution deals etc.  As the company got bigger, Walt hired the right people to take over those jobs. 

7)      Defy convention: Don’t listen to critics and those that can’t follow your dreams.  Everyone thought Walt was crazy when he purchased thousands of acres of swampland in central Florida.  Now, not so much.

8)      Leave behind something to grow: Just think about how much the Walt Disney Company has diversified since Walt’s death. 

Sure there will only be one Walt Disney, but it doesn’t hurt to try to emulate the best.  If all you are looking at is cutting budgets, stop.

Speak with you soon…

Jim

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Festival Successful

November 27, 2008

Last week I had the honor of moderating the “Festival Panel” at the Billboard Touring Conference in New York.  I hadn’t really wanted to do these type of things since starting the Aspen Live Conference (Dec. 11-13 @ St. Regis, Aspen http://www.aspenlive.net), but when Ray from Billboard emailed me the list of panelist, it was an easy yes.  After all, we are talking about the best and most successful music festival producers in North America.

The panel; Chris Shields from Festival Productions (New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, etc),  Charlie Jones from C3 Presents (Austin City Limits Festival, Lollapalooza, etc), Tony Conway from Buddy Lee Attractions (CMA Festival, Nashville…formerly Fan Fair), Chuck Morris from AEG-Live, Rocky Mountains (Mile High Festival, Rothbury), and Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment (Bonnaroo, Vagoose) really are the best at what they do.  Our Canadian representative got sick and was unable to…well represent.  The basic question that we were dealing with was the health of the festival business in North America.  Is there room to grow?  Are there enough headliners to go around and still have each festival keep its identity?  The easy answer to all is yes.

Tony Conway pointed out that the CMA Festival actually raised their ticket prices this year and are at this point well ahead of last year’s sales to date, without announcing a line-up (the event takes place in the spring).  On a call prior to our panel, Charlie Jones talked about how the Austin City Limits audience “must be trained or something”.  The fact is they are…trained to expect that the event will be well run, with great music and food, clean port-a-johns, plenty of places to get a bottle of water that doesn’t cost $4, amazing transportation system, and a friendly staff.  The ACL and CMA audiences are trained to expect quality and value.

Based on my notes from our panel, here is what the experts had to say…at least on that day is the TOP 10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR FESTIVAL SUCCESSFUL!!!

1)      Know Your Market There is so much that goes into a festival’s workings, that without knowing about traffic patterns, neighbors, law enforcement, political issues, competition, and a whole host of other issues, you are setting your festival up to fail.  Chuck Morris pointed out that artists that aren’t big around the country can draw in Colorado.  One reason being radio station KBCO in Boulder.

2)     Community Relations – Each of our panelists at the Billboard Touring Conference had at least one story of how building relationships with community and business leaders, neighborhood associations, law enforcement, fire and rescue, parks & recreation officials, health department, and others gave them some kind of advantage.  Whether it was bidding on a new project, going into a new city, or getting into trouble and needing help, there is no substitute for being a good citizen.

3)     Over Deliver – Especially in year one, it is important to over deliver for your consumers and talent.  Even if it means the difference between breaking even and losing money, spend the extra to WOW the audience.  It keeps them coming back…”trains them”.

4)     Price – Price is very much tied to knowing your market, but for some reason, festival pricing is much more sensitive than regular live entertainment pricing.  Your customers really want to feel they are getting their money’s worth since there is an assumption that what ever they are going to see will be watered down (music act will play a shorter set without their production, food festivals will give you smaller portions than the restaurant would, etc).

5)     Transportation & Housing – This really should be 2 if not 4 separate departments of your festival team.  Certainly if you going to have 2 departments you need to separate responsibilities between those that handle transportation or housing for artists and crew and those that will get the audience from place to place.  Housing is a place not to be overlooked.  Every try to get a hotel in a city where there is a large festival?  Good luck!

6)     Booking Talent – The strong message here is that anyone can book a really big headliner; it is the whole package that makes a festival. Remember, a festival is more than a line-up it is about passion.

7)     Camping vs. “City” Festivals – Our panel all believed that the growth in North America would be more in the non-camping festival model (ACL, Jazz Fest, CMA Fest, etc).  With that said, Rothbury only started-up last year in Michigan and it is a camping festival.

8)     Food & Beverage – Every producer will tell you about the part that food and beverage play in the overall feel of your festival.  With festivals like New Orleans Jazz & Heritage and Austin City Limits, the food has become almost as much of a draw as the music.  Also price was a big topic.  Some people just have a problem with $4.50 for water.

9)     Technology Is Your Friend – Use technology whenever and wherever possible to make your fan’s experience more enjoyable.  Things like an event schedule that consumers can customize to plan their day at your festival have become necessity.

10)  Build a Model – All of our panel’s festival producers pointed out that once you had a model that worked, you could reproduce that model in other cities and with other festivals.  The key here is experience.

If there was an 11, it would have to be staying out of trying to do a festival if you have no experience.  Better to partner with someone like those listed above who already have their “models”, and can make things run smoothly for you.  Going in head first without learning to swim can make all of us drown.

Talk to you soon,

Jim

Market The Experience

November 17, 2008

Driving down one of our wonderfully congested streets in LA, I was struck by the billboard pasted below.  It reminded me that in the live business we never market the experience, just the show itself.  If we changed this, we would sell more tickets.

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The above ad from Pom Wonderful does not tout the great taste of the beverage, its calorie count, unique color, or any of its other characteristics that could set it apart from its competitors.  Instead, Pom grabs you with a headline, Cheat death… and a noose.  Pretty easy message to understand.

On your next tour, show, event, whatever, try marketing the experience rather than the show.  If you are a concert promoter and have the band moe. coming through, try monitoring fan sites and chat rooms to see how they describe the act’s shows…and then market that.  If you produce family entertainment or sports, push the bond parents can make with their children rather than the opportunity to see “so and so Live”.

Over the years, I’ve written many times about my concert experiences growing up at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY.  It would start with meeting up at a friend’s house.  This way we could caravan up and park next to each other for tailgating.  Driving I-87 North or South (depending on where you live in that part of upstate NY) you would see all the other cars, vans and pickups headed to the same place you were.  Sometimes it would be as obvious as a carload of people and a sign in their window that said “ ____ or bust”.  Other times it would be something simple like a beat-up Trans-Am (hey I did say upstate NY) driving next to you  blaring the latest album from the artist you are going to see, on a  stereo worth more than their whole car.

Once at the show, walking around and people watching was the thing to do.  That and marshmallow fights.  At dusk, the opening act would usually hit the stage.  Most of the audience were trickling into the venue by now, but not always paying attention to the band.  Finally at 9:30 pm; house lights would dim, stage work lights would go out, and with much anticipation in the air the artist that everyone had come to see would light-up the crowd.  You sang every word to every song and didn’t leave until the house music came up and the blinding light of reality signaled the march back to your car.

Describe that when marketing your next live event.  How is the show going to make your audience feel?  What will the experience be like?  Why should they pay money to go?  It has been said a million times… “Sell the sizzle not the steak.”  Most purchases are based on an emotional response.  What could be better than hanging with your best friends, watching your favorite live attraction with people who are sharing in your excitement!  Market that to fans and watch the tickets start selling.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

Hospitality is a Profession, so Leave it to Pros

November 9, 2008

I was talking with a friend on Friday who told me they wanted to start a conference.  I’m not going to say much more than that since I don’t want to give away my friend’s idea.  Anyway, it became apparent that my friend didn’t know much about the hospitality, event, or conference businesses. This friend could be in touble if they move forward without getting help.

 

On Saturday I got an email from my assitant while I worked at CAA, Nicole Provencio.  She’s now at Sketchers Corporate (the shoe company) where her “main job is to book hotels for all trade shows, conferences, and events.  Finding the newest & hottest hotels, getting the best rates, avoiding attrition, etc.”  Sketchers have over 20 annual trade shows alone each year, so they need someone like Nicole…someone with experience.  Sketchers, just like you, must have an experienced person on the other end of the phone or across the table from the hotel, resort, conference center, cruise ship, tour operator, or whoever you are doing business withs’ sales person.  They are certainly experienced and know just what they can and can’t offer.

 

 

 

When Andy Levine from Sixthman told me that there was a difference between doing a big concert or festival and producing a music themed cruise, my ego got the best of me to be honest.  I thought, if I could handle concerts with 200,000 people or manage tours checking 175 people in and out of hotels, tour buses, limos, vans, town cars and airports around the world, I could handle a few thousand drunken music fans and bands on a cruise ship.  I got spanked.  I’m sure Andy laughed.  Nothing takes the place of experience. 

 

 

So you don’t have the money to hire a pro to take care of your hospitality.  Here are some helpful hints from a guy with a few years on the road.  Some are obvious, but always worth being reminded.

 

 

 

·     In this economy disposable income is declining which means fewer will travel.  It is a buyers market.

·     When dealing with group sales at hotels, try to speak with someone as far up the food-chain as possible since anything out of the ordinary you may request will have to be run up the ladder anyway.

·     Try to avoid contracts whenever possible.

·     When booking groups, most hotels will insist on a contract.  The first things you need to look at are dates and numbers.  The word ATTRITION will become very important if you are managing your room blocks.  Try and get dates in your contracts where you are able to drop inventory you were not able to fill.  Obviously the closer to your event dates, the better for you. 

·     Before you start negotiating room rates, get an understanding of the hotels “rack rates” and the region’s high, low, and shoulder seasons.  Good deals can always be had…even in “high season” for a property. 

·     Deposits are another place you can push properties now.  They should be looking at this as more of a partnership these days as you are taking real risk to produce and market the event or whatever you are doing.  You should make your deposits as close to your event date as possible. 

·     Other mines to look for in hotel and hospitality contracts include: Buy-out rates and fees (rates go up on rooms for taking an entire property, resort, cruise ship, etc…this is a common practice at some resorts and cruise lines), baggage handling fees, gratuities, taxes on gratuities, ballroom and conference room charges, phone and data lines, hospitality desks, room drops (having materials or gifts delivered to guest’s rooms), copying and business center charges, and lets not forget parking (I went to a conference once where guests paid $50 per day to park their cars and it wasn’t in New York).

·     Food & Beverage becomes a whole new world and language in hospitality and you won’t believe the prices.  In this case, those airplane crash drills where you put your head between your legs and pray may work best. 

·     Not booking groups but want to save money on travel?  Look at the “Limited Service Hotels” popping up everywhere. 

 

Reality is hospitality is a profession and it pays to hire someone experienced to handle your needs.  Musical artists, their managers and agents go to producers like Andy Levine to do their cruises because he has seen it all.  Sketchers knows to go to Nicole because she booked Aspen Live Conference (Dec. 11-13 @ St. Regis, Aspen…Shameless plug) hotel rooms, transportation, meals, etc, for two years before coming to their company.  My advice, leave hospitality to Andy, Nicole or The Agency Group Events & Entertainment, Ltd. (another shameless plug).

 

As always, would love your comments and input.

 

 

 

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