Posts Tagged ‘Food & Beverage’

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

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Two Good Examples

November 26, 2008

Today’s LiveWorks News starts with a few sidebars.  First, I would like to apologize for the old newsletters that seem to get sent to you for no reason.  I have no idea why this is happening (usually when I don’t write for a few days) and am trying to get to the bottom of it.

Second, I’ve been getting emails from LiveWorks News Subscribers asking why I don’t write more, and others asking why I write “every day”.  For the record, since October 20th when the newsletter started back up, there have been 16 posts.  For those of you that would like more info and more interaction than the newsletter is currently providing, please follow my updates on Twitter… http://twitter.com/jimlewi.

Final bit of housekeeping relates to interaction.  Meaning it would be great if you could give feedback on the LiveWorks Newsletter. Tell me what you would like to see covered.  Submit an article of your own.  And if you like what you’re reading, please pass the LiveWorks News on and encourage others to subscribe.

Now as a friend of mine once said, “on with the countdown”.

If you look back at the 16 LiveWorks Newsletters, there are a few themes that seem to pop-out at you.  Two of them are; making the most out of the current economic crisis by thinking of ways to service your customer, and partnering with brands vs. sponsorship (Branded Live Entertainment).  Below are great examples of people like you, working in our business that are taking action today rather than trying to “play it safe”.

About 5-years ago I experienced my first country music festival.  It woke me up and I instantly became a big fan of country music.  So when Southern California based concert promoter Goldenvoice (know around the world for producing the Coachella Festival) decided to partner-up with their sister company from the south to produce a country music festival on the same grounds as Coachella, every country music fan in the area got excited including me.  Now going into their third year, Paul and Skip’s (with help from Louis and his team from Houston, TX) Stagecoach Festival has a line-up for 2009 that includes Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, and a reunited Poco (last year it was the Judd’s reuniting at the fest).  Can’t wait to be to finally go and see what the “alternative concert promoters” are doing playing with hillbillies in the desert.  But what truly blew my mind came last night when my colleague Omar Al-Joulani asked me if I knew anything about “what Goldenvoice was doing with their layaway plan for tickets to Stagecoach.”  I hadn’t so Omar forwarded me this link. http://stagecoachfestival.com/layaway

Congratulations to Goldenvoice.  Please make sure the whole world sees what these guys are doing!  They actually care about fans.  There is of course a No Refund policy on deposits on tickets, which is a win-win for Goldenvoice.  Of course they want the fan to show-up so they can make money on parking, food & beverage, merch, etc.  But if for some reason they can’t, Goldenvoice still has their deposit.  Nice Job!

While flipping through BrandWeek over the weekend, I came across the ad pasted below.  Although the text is too small to read, my point in posting it was show you that Josh Turner, his label, management, publishing company, etc (not sure who really paid) took out a full-page ad in an advertising and marketing trade publication.  Josh is reaching out to partner with brands and at the same time calls himself a brand in the ad.  Both are important and something covered a lot in the newsletter.  Amazing effort by Josh and team!

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Robert Kiyosaki, author of the “Rich Dad” series of books writes a column for Entrepreneur Magazine.  In a recent issue, Robert was yet another journalist that pointed out how important it is to rev-up your marketing during tuff economic times rather than “listening to your accountant” and cutting back (sorry for butchering your point Robert).  How many experts and statistics do you need to hear before you believe it?  Increase your marketing spend and efforts and watch your sales increase…

Talk to you soon…

Jim

Lessons From Disney

November 15, 2008

We all know that The Walt Disney Company has a lot of money to do things right. Yet many of their competitors are well capitalized and can’t even deal with trash properly (are you listening Mr. Shapiro).

My 11-year old daughter and I walked out of Disneyland / California Adventure after spending $290.89 ($12 for Parking + $188 for 2 “Park Hopper Tickets” + $63.89 for dinner @ Restaurant in Pirates Ride + $27 for water, pretzels, soda, etc) with big smiles on our faces. Why can Disney charge so much and still leave consumers feeling they got value for their money (ok, we went a little crazy eating at that restaurant, but you only live once and we actually were able to get in)? Here are some major points from the notes Gwen and I took this weekend. We will stick to stuff that everyone can afford to do in some way.

· WEBSITE – From Disney’s website we were able to buy tickets, plan our day, find out what rides were closed, what shows were new and when they were playing, and of course directions to the park.

· WELL MARKETED ROUTE – We all don’t have the political clout to get the kind of exits and signage that Disneyland has, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a well market route. Bonnaroo and ACL Festivals both do a good job with this.

· TRAINED PARKING STAFF – These people know how to park cars, campers, buses, limos, and even pumpkin coaches. If you can’t afford to hire pros to run your parking, study what Disney does and then create a manual.

· TRANSPORTATION FROM YOUR CAR OR HOTEL – At many arenas, stadiums, amphitheaters, etc, there is one hell of a hike from your car to the entrance to the facility. Disney not only provides transportation, they give you valuable information while you are traveling on their trams and monorails.

· EXTREMELY WELL TRAINED STAFF – If you need a map, “go to a custodial worker in an all white uniform”. Want to find a ride or attraction and don’t want to look at the map?  ANY employee can tell you the fastest way to get there. And with a smile on their face. Training and manuals are the keys to success…along with hiring the right people (but not as important as training and manuals no mater what anyone tells you).

· BRANDED LIVE ENTERTAINMENT – Disneyland and California Adventure sponsor/partners are built right into the show rather than looking like an afterthought. Everyone who drives a car on the “Autopia” ride gets an official drivers license from Chevron. Kodak has “Photo Shot” areas that are even marked out on the theme park’s maps.

· SIGNAGE & MAPS – Maybe repeating myself a little with well marked route, but this relates to ounce the consumer is at your event. If you have trouble finding something at a Disney park, you either can’t read or speak English or Spanish, or you don’t know to take advantage of their translation programs… or you don’t like asking for directions period.

· PLACES FOR PEOPLE TO SIT & EAT – You will sell more food and beverage if you give your guests a place to enjoy it…out of the sun, rain, wind… on a clean table. Disney knows this.

· FOOD & BEVERAGE VARIETY –Disney even goes the extra step of using the theme of the area (Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, etc) to design both the menus and architecture of their restaurants, stands, carts, etc.

· LINES ARE BAD – When lines start to form at the ticketing windows out front, they open more windows right away. If one line seems to be moving faster than another, there is a supervisor out in the slower line trying to find out why (clipboard in hand). When there are lines at popular rides, Disney warns you of the wait time, gives you an option to come back later with a “Fast Pass”, and tries to keep your mind occupied by designing an experience around the line should you decide to wait.

· PEOPLE TRAFFIC CONTROL – Boy do these guys know how to keep guests moving, change directions for parades and shows, etc. Training, training, training.

· CLEAN RESTROOMS / CLEAN EVERYTHING – Nothing else to say.

· KEEPING STUFF UP – It is amazing, but it is said that some things at Disney parks get a fresh coat of paint every night. Ever see how much “ABC gum” you find at a Six Flags Park? Yuk!!!

· LIGHTING MAKES THE SHOW – Whether day or night, Disney parks use lighting to help create an atmosphere. You should do the same.

· CROSS PROMOTION – Disney builds their movies, books, and TV shows into their theme park rides, shows, and attractions. Branding at its best.

I could go on forever, but the list above was most of our note highlights. Disney is certainly not perfect, but we can learn a lot from them.

As always, would love your opinions and comments.

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