Posts Tagged ‘Grateful Dead’


March 26, 2014

The concert industry is small. Kick around long enough and you run into everyone.  You may have never met face-to-face but you know their name, their work, their rep.  And when it comes to top touring people (tour managers, production managers, accountants, designers, etc.) the list gets even smaller.

One of the biggest names on the road for the past 30-years has been Robert “Mo” Morrison…and a mentor, friend and brother to me for the last 20.  I, like many of you, have been lucky enough to work with Mo on some of the biggest shows around and he has always managed to do the job with a big smile (no matter how tough things got). Some of my favorite “road warrior” stories have Mo in them and usually involve breaking some rule to make things “right” (e.g. the “god pass” at Woodstock ’99).

Mo’s career spans iconic artists and events from Grateful Dead, to Britney and Gaga, the Olympic games…and all the early HBO concert specials.  Even if you don’t know him personally, you know his work and have probably been moved by it somehow.

So, if it is okay, I would like to ask a favor of you.  Would you please send positive energy Mo’s way? He is sick…battling for his life…and sick is winning.

If you know Mo, please reach out. Tracy Williams (travel agent to the stars) has setup a way for all of us to send a message. Please see below from Tracy and thanks!

“I’m putting together a gift called SpeakSake ( for Mo to say we’re “Thinking of you.” You’re invited to be a part of the surprise! It will only take a couple minutes of your time. All you need to do is call the phone number below and leave a message for Mo

Your message will be recorded onto an audio CD as part of a collection of voice messages.

Please forward this message to anyone you think would like to say we’re “Thinking of You” to Mo — friends, family, coworkers, etc.

The last day the phone line will be available for you to leave a message is:

Thursday, April 10th

3 Easy Steps:

1. Dial: (641) 715-3365

2. At the prompt, enter: 57862 followed by the pound (#) key

3. Follow the recorded instructions: Leave your message (make sure to let Mo know who’s calling), and then hang up

What to say in your message

You can say whatever you want — just have fun! Your message can be long or short — whatever you feel like!

Some ideas:

— What are your favorite memories of Mo? How about a joke or stories that would make him laugh?

— What do you appreciate or love about Mo?

No matter what you do, he will appreciate that you took a moment to say hi. Be yourself, and have fun!



February 12, 2013

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

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

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



August 8, 2012

Lately, Lefsetz has been writing about EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and how the major concert promoters, specifically Live Nation and AEG have been late to the party.  Recently I stumbled on Sensation, a dance music event making its first appearance in North America October 26 – 27 at the new arena in Brooklyn.  Check out these links. ,

 Sensation is making its way over from Europe and is being promoted by the Jason Miller and the Live Nation New York office.  It has production elements that rival U2 and the Stones (set pieces, Pyro, lasers, water, etc), has sold-out the Saturday night play and has less than 3000 tickets left for Friday night. Tickets are $150 and $250 (the 2000 $250 VIP tickets for each night are sold-out) and partygoers even have to follow a dress code…all white. The tickets have sold without even announcing a line-up.

 Jason and Live Nation have been actively working in the dance music scene since 2008, set house records at Roseland for 6-consecutive sold-out deadmau5 parties (Jason makes a distinction that these are parties not shows or concerts) and have produced 40-50 EDM parties over the last three years. 

 Jason credits Andrew Dreskin (founder of Ticketfly) for turning him on to the scene (although he had been promoting dance music with the likes of the Chemical Brothers while still a young promoter in Vancouver) and Leon Ramakers of the Netherlands for introducing him to Sensation’s owners ID&T.  Over a long gestation period, Jason and Live Nation’s Perry Lavoisne developed a relationship with ID&T, even traveling to Belgrade to see one of their Sensation parties…eventually landing their two dates in New York. 

 The company sold-out their first EDM arena show with Swedish House Mafia at the Madison Square Garden last December which proved that fans would go to large capacity venues for the experience.   

Sensation isn’t just another dance party though.  Miller says “it is a complete spectacle…that tells a story” as part of the experience.  He believes that this music has “changed his life” and has developed a unique relationship with the audience, going so far as to setup a separate phone line in the office just for EDM parties.  Jason personally calls each fan back that leaves a message and has taken his cues of developing these personal relationships from what the Grateful Dead had been doing for years in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. 

 EDM fans (like Dead Heads before them) are in the know.  Not just in terms of the music and DJ’s but even the best sound systems to use.  Funktion One Sound is something that has impact with partygoers and talent alike and is used to help market the events.   


So one thing is for sure, EDM is here to stay, can play large venues at high ticket prices and if you aren’t in the game, it may be time to start brushing up.






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…