Posts Tagged ‘Restaurants’

POSITIVE THINKING

March 17, 2011

WARNING, THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST PERSONAL LIVEWORKS NEWSLETTER I’VE EVER WRITTEN.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

Lately it seems that I’ve been identifying myself more by the last two-years of temporary defeats with my food festival, rather than the 20-plus years of building successful events.  After living life with the motto “failure is not an option” I’ve let the loss of money and reputation dictate who I am and how I’ve acted.  With the economy being what it is and the number of books and articles written on the subject, there are probably others out there in a similar circumstance that could learn from my experiences. 

Look at any successful person in life, no matter how you measure success, and you will most likely find confidence.  The fact is that there is almost nothing we can control in life.  Certainly what’s occurred in Haiti, New Zealand, and now Japan proves that.  The only things we really do have control of are our thoughts…and depending on the way we are wired, these thoughts can lead to success or failure.  The key is to not stop thinking…and thinking positively

Having a motive other than money is another important factor to success.  In my case, 2009’s trial run of the food festival concept was just that.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to make money and draw the crowds we did.  The idea was simply proof of concept and to make sure everyone (guest, talent, restaurants, promoter, staff, and press) had a good time.  With just a few technical glitches involving our cashless payment system and lack of staff as the doors opened, the first few hours of the show failed to fulfill either goal as lines grew to “amusement park size”.  Moving forward, we could fix the operational issues.  Success was within grasp.

The money was an all together different story.  We refunded everyone’s money in 2009.  In fact it was the first time I ever put significant personal money into a project and after seven-figure losses, had no idea how to support my family.  Not only was our savings wiped out, we had no real income to speak of.  Without loans from family and friends we would have never made it.  Lesson learned… having family and friends that care about you can change your life.  Cherish what’s important. 

Moving into 2010, there was only one goal on my mind; to make the food festival successful….which to me meant making money.  After a falling out with our previous partners, we went to what we considered a logical place to hold our events, football stadiums.  They had the perfect lists to market to (season ticket holders) and plenty of room for us to setup.  Unfortunately although we did factor weather in…it wasn’t not enough…and our marketing partners that had done such a wonderful job on our show in 2009 didn’t exist in 2010 (radio, print, online, clubs, etc).  Price also became a concern.  In 2009, we had ancillary charges built into our ticket price…and they totaled only $10.  This would not be the case with 2010.  As the shows came closer to playing, our pre-sales were not picking up as they had in 2009.  In hindsight, we should have cancelled the shows…but we were broke and thinking of money. Somehow we would be able to fix what’s broken and wrap strong.   

We didn’t wrap strong.  In fact without going into too much detail, we ended-up losing even more money.  The food fest owes more money than it ever grossed.  In my mind, I felt like a loser…and that has been the image I’ve been projecting ever since.  All the years of the Aspen Conference, HORDE Festival, MTV Campus Invasion, Woodstock, Jeep Tour, our cruises, etc…meant nothing.  If my 13-year old said I was a loser, I was a loser. 

Then something weird happened.  Investors started getting interested in the food fest idea.  Actually, the fact that we were two-time losers…wanted to pay all our debts…and wanted to try again…all worked to our favor (who knew???).  Although the number of people we drew in 2010 was soft, our food and beverage numbers were record-breaking.  If we could put the numbers from 2009 together with per caps from 2010, we have one strong show.  All of a sudden we were thinking creatively again. 

For one thing, I never wanted to look at bankruptcy as an option.  We owe money and I would rather raise the money, pay everyone back and move forward than walk away from those that trusted us…that trusted me.  Again to my surprise, this had also worked to the fest’s favor.  You see, one of the things investors like besides making money is doing business with people who have shown integrity through their careers.  They were happy we wanted to pay our debts versus declaring bankruptcy.  Gee, maybe I should have lost more money (just kidding of course).

The last two years have been the worst of my life.  Getting sick, death of family and friends, nothing has had the collateral and emotional damage that losing everything and letting people down has had.  Yet the moment I started thinking…positively… things began to change.  I went back to the computer to make sense of the numbers…combed through every note from every meeting…every email…and all our post-mortem meetings. This could be fixed.

As of today we are holding dates in multiple cities for an even better food fest concept and will have a few new partners (investors, promoters and brands) to help us along the way.  We aren’t there yet but we sure are getting close. 

There will be a new food fest in 2011…along with more cruises, festivals, and the biggest Aspen Conference in our history this December.  All this change with a simple attitude adjustment… and positive thoughts… of something other than money. 

I would like to thank all the family and friends that believed and continue to believe.  I would like to thank our staff, vendors and talent.  I would like to thank my heroes Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Bill Graham and PT Barnum for continuing to show me the right road.  I would like to thank all of those authors that have written books and articles that have influenced my thinking.  And I would like to thank you for reading the LiveWorks Newsletter.

Keep Thinking…Positive Thoughts!

Best,

 Jim

Advertisements

THE STAPLES CENTER / LA LIVE

May 24, 2009

With the exception of how we procured our tickets  (at the very last minute…thank you Lee) to the Taylor Swift show on Friday night, we did everything the way any other paying customer would…but felt like a VIP at the Staples Center / LA Live complex. 

Now I know in the past I’ve said that the Nokia Theatres are “a little too AMC Theater” looking for me, but my families experience was so good at The Staples Center, it took me out of my writing cocoon that I’ve been in for a while (sorry about that everyone).  Let’s start with driving to the venue.  It couldn’t be easier.  If you know me, than you know that after 4-years living in LA (in July… god how time flies), I still don’t know my way around at all.  Now I have a navigation system in my car…a car I’ve had since 2005…but I’m still not exactly sure how to use it.  None of this mattered.   We drove straight from our house in Woodland Hills to The Staples Center. 

The parking garage we pulled into is across the street from the arena on the “LA Live” side and has valet parking.  $25 to valet your car in downtown Los Angeles for an event, that’s pretty good when you consider it cost just as much to park in a shitty lot down the street.  My wife and kids were just blown away by the cleanliness of the garage and escalators (the girls thought the blue lights were really cool), and proficiency of the staff.  We were soon up on the sidewalk where there is a plethora of restaurants, bars and distractions.  Right across the street, the box office to the Staples Center. 

No lines at the box office, I show my I.D. and the polite woman at the window asks me to wait one moment…”sign here please”…and away we go.  There’s an entrance right next to the box office and there were lines at every door since they were using metal detectors.  But the lines moved fast and the staff, very friendly. 

The next thing that impressed me was the men’s room.  As I started to pee, I read a placard on the side of the urinal that talked about how it was an Eco-friendly urinal and each saves 40,000 gallons of water per year.  Boy, makes you feel good to go to the bathroom.  Maybe I should pee more?

I could go on and on about concessions, ushers, security, etc, but lets just say that Lee Zeidman and his crew run a great operation.  When leaving we thought about the big mistake we made…valet parking.  How long would it take us to get our car with a concert letting out at Staples and Nokia at the exact same time???  Well, they have that covered too.  You put your ticket into the machine to pay.  It takes cash or credit.  Once you pay, the machine automatically orders your car and it is sitting in front of you in minutes.  We were back in Woodland Hills in half-an-hour…where the real party began. 

I’ll pay for service like that any day.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Congratulations to everyone at The Staples Center for running one great venue.  We could all learn a few lessons from them.

Speak with you soon…and I promise to write about the WMA / Endeavor merger soon.

Jim

p.s. – yes I paid for my tickets.

TRAINING COMMON SENSE

March 13, 2009

Last night I went to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for “Food Fare”.  The event is an annual fundraiser for Planned Parenthood and draws a pretty affluent crowd.  Restaurants, wineries, ice cream parlors, and even Pink’s Chili Dogs (I went to see their setup for our food & music fest) serve all the food and drinks for one price…and do a good job dealing with the volume I might add.  As an example, Pink’s Tom West introduced me to Don from “Dandy Don’s”. 

Don is a great guy.  Actually worked in the record business back in the day.  But what blew me away most was his people.  I went to his booth without him.  Don’s staff knew what they were doing.  They were friendly, organized, and had pre-scooped their ice cream.  This may sound like a stupid thing to notice, but believe me, at a festival or event, it makes all the difference.  The super-nice woman who I spoke to explained that not only does it make serving customers faster… and  make sure servers’ arms don’t fall off, but also keeps their product’s consistency stable.  When a customer gets their ice cream, it is at just the right temperature.  Their ice cream is supposed to be hard and “you can’t really scoop hard ice cream.” 

While speaking with Don and Tom by a back door I witnessed the opposite of the above.  Common sense went right out the window.  You see, this event has been happening for years and those that work the show always use a door closest to the booths and parking.  An elderly woman came to the door wearing her name tag and towing two handcarts full of stuff.  The security person working the door told her she had to go around to the front.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!  Don, Tom and I start giving the security guard shit…and she let the woman in.  Boy was the security guard pissed at us.  I asked her to call her supervisor over to discuss it, but she didn’t. 

My point here is simple.  When training your staff, make sure they know to use their common sense in certain situations and throw rule books out the window.  The security guard at the door worked for an outside vendor…didn’t represent the event.  The public doesn’t know this.  It is the event producer’s responsibility to make sure all the staff, even those not on their payroll, that sometimes breaking the rules is the right thing to do. 

Speak with you soon…

Jim

“IF I WERE… LAS VEGAS”

January 2, 2009

In the 70’s and 80’s (the years I was growing up) Las Vegas, the self proclaimed “Entertainment Capital of the World”, was known for inexpensive rooms, food and shows.  The resorts wanted guests at the tables gambling.  In the 90’s, Las Vegas started to shed its sin city reputation to attract families.  Now in 2009, the resorts themselves, shopping, shows, and restaurants have become as much of an attraction as gambling, free drinks, and legalized prostitution (my girls made a game out of collecting call-girl cards that were being handed out on the strip).  The above (minus the gambling, free drinks, and prostitution…except for the “trading cards” of course) are the reasons my family goes to Vegas.

Las Vegas can be great for families.  In one place you can find some of the best restaurants, shopping and entertainment in the world.  The problem is we can’t afford to do it anymore.  I bet we aren’t alone.

Now granted, my family is far from thrifty travelers.  But on the other hand, we drove to Las Vegas versus flying and stayed free on “points”.  We used sites like http://www.goldstar.com/home (my cousin Ann Leslie turned me on to this site) to purchase show tickets, used vouchers and coupons from the hotel, and even a gift certificate to eat one night…and we still couldn’t afford to do it again.  Las Vegas needs to drop its prices, stop building hotels and focus on customer service.

Here are the top 10 Things I would do…”If I were Las Vegas”.

  • 1) Drop your room prices in the nicer hotels. You want to make more money at the tables, save money for guests to gamble with.
  • 2) Have all your managers wait in the lines your guests have to.  That will put an end to that.  Two of my families favorite attractions (also way over priced) were the “Bodies” and “Titanic” exhibits at the Luxor.  We waited in a ticketing line for close to an hour. When we finally got to the ticket window, the person at the counter’s first question was “how will you be paying”.  I wanted to say “I’m not” but instead asked who told her to ask that as her first question…especially when someone has been waiting in line for an hour.  How about may I help you?  The woman at the counter told me “that was what she had been trained to say”. REALLY!!!!
  • 3) Wal-Mart is a discount store and even they have “greeters”.  All the big hotels need customer service people everywhere to point guests in the right direction.  If a guest has to spend all of their time finding their way around, then waiting in line, the guest will not be spending as much money with you as they should.
  • 4) Show ticket prices need to come down.  It costs as much to see “Mama Mia” in Las Vegas as it does on Broadway.  They are not of the same quality and thus should not charge the same ticket price.  The Cirque shows are of the same caliber (although some a little boring to me) so the hotels should pay to have them there and tickets should be $50, not $100 or more.
  • 5) Stop marketing to everyone who wears an “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt.  Middle America needs a place in Las Vegas just like everyone else, but it seems that that demo is a majority of the guests in the city.
  • 6) Use solar and wind power. You are in the desert and one thing that really turns-off many potential guests is the vast amount of resources used in your city.  Use the desert to your advantage and watch a whole new breed of guest come in.
  • 7) Per the above, start a new strip that is totally “green”. An entire new city where there are no cars, all power is from clean energy sources, and water and all other resources are recycled, etc.
  • 8) Bring in more mid-level priced restaurants.  It seems that your choices are either pizza and hot dogs or something that starts with “Le” which is code for very expensive.  How about restaurants that aren’t chains where entrée prices are in the high teens to mid-twenties?
  • 9) Widen the sidewalks. Guests love to walk the strip but don’t like being pushed around.  All the sidewalks should be as wide as they are by Luxor.
  • 10) Would someone please build an amusement park in Las Vegas!!!  The Adventure Dome at Circus-Circus just doesn’t cut it. In fact, someone should take a wrecking ball to that hotel.  They can leave the dome.

If there were a number 11, it would be to help pay to widen I-15 as there is way too much traffic on that freeway.

With all that said, I hope Las Vegas and everyone else in the live entertainment business has a great 2009.  As always, I look forward to your comments and encourage you to write a piece for the LiveWorks Newsletter.

Happy New Year!

Jim

LIVE NATION’S BLOCKBUSTER DEAL

December 3, 2008

Well I’ll start with a line from Cheech & Chong, “holy sheep shit”!  I can’t believe our LiveWorks Newsletter subscribers got that October recession letter again.  Please know that I have emailed FeedBurner (the Google Company that makes the product that does the sending) about the problem for the third time.  There is no number to call.  I am so sorry.  Please know that I have deleted that “Hooray for the Recession” newsletter out of existence so if the problem persists, at least you won’t be getting that one again.

Since playing Live Nation CEO in the last LiveWorks News, like you on Monday and Tuesday I read a lot about LN’s deal to have Blockbuster act as their exclusive “bricks and mortar” ticketing outlets.  With the vast percentage of ticketing being done online these days, why would Live Nation do this deal?  Well, I’m hoping they are thinking what I’m thinking and it turns out to be a brilliant move.

Don’t you remember the excitement of waiting in line for the Ticketron outlet to open so you could get seats to see your favorite band?  Did you ever camp out so you could be first in line?  Are you old enough to even remember those days?  I think that’s partly what’s going on with this deal.

According to everything I’m reading (I think USA Today was the last so I should probably give them credit), Live Nation’s new ticketing system, along with its vast inventory of shows (they are the largest producer of live entertainment in the world) just got 500 new store fronts they didn’t have to pay for.  Not only does this give great in-store advertising for Live Nation shows; it provides an opportunity to re-create that excitement of waiting for the “box office” to open, creates circumstances for impulse buys from video customers, a chance to up sell a customer on merchandise, CD’s, DVD’s, and more.  All face-to-face.  All live.  It gives Live Nation a human face.

I give Live Nation and Blockbuster a standing ovation for their efforts.  They are trying something new.  Live Nation is selling where their competition is no where to be found (marketing 101). I wish both parties much success in this endeavor.

REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GO TO THE ASPEN LIVE CONFERENCE THIS YEAR (dec. 11-13 @ st. regis, aspen)

1. We are bringing people together this year to try and help.  That’s why we are waiving our registration fee. And although a week away, it’s not too late to register.

2. You will either make at least one new relationship or reconnect with someone that will be able to help your business immediately.

3. Rooms at the world famous St. Regis, Aspen are only $250 per night through our special rate.  All you need to do is call the hotel and ask for reservations.  Tell them you are with “Aspen Live” and they will give you our rate. (970) 920-3300

4. Flights into Aspen are very reasonable.  Last week someone booked a round trip on United from New York for just over $400.  When we checked Tuesday, you could still get flights from LA for around $400…a week out!!!

5. Meeting topics include: “How will we develop acts tomorrow, and where will the risk capital come from”, “The one thing you could do for me would be to….” (Where promoters tell agents the one thing they wish they would change or do for them…same with every other sector of our business), “What was the last great example of artist development during down economic times”, “Ways to save on the road”, and more.

6. Moderators for the above meetings include: Diarmuid Quinn (COO, Warner Bros. / President, Reprise Records), Marc Reiter (Q Prime Management…Metallica, Chili Peppers, Shania, etc), Bob Lefsetz (The Lefsetz Letter), Nick Light (Sr. VP, Sony Music), Jason Flom (Universal Music Group), Peter Tempkins (Entertainment Insurance God), Amy Morrison (Sr. VP, Marketing, AEG-Live), and more.

7. Aspen is the best conference for getting deals done…period.

8. During non-meeting time, Aspen has the best; skiing and boarding, restaurants, spas, shopping, outdoor activities, and of course people who come to the conference to network with.

9. If I’m hitting you this hard and not even charging, imagine how good the conference must be.

10. Did I mention that we were waiving our normal $1000+ registration fee due to the economy?

Go to http://www.aspenlive.net for more information or call or email me.

Talk to you soon…

Jim