If I Was There…

June 14, 2011

This week is the annual Event & Arena Marketing Conference in Indianapolis.  For the first time since this blog started I am not going to the conference.   Since last year’s conference I have become a chef and melding the world of live entertainment with the world of culinary (I have never worked so hard for so little money!  But I love it!).   Anyway, it’s just not going to work this year.  Plus, I blew the conference budget on the Ringling Bros. promoter reunion.

If I did go to this year’s conference, this is what I would ask:

  1. What is the industry doing to get butts back in seats?
  2. Are you using social networking to market and is it really selling tickets?
  3. What do you think of the Live Nation / Groupon deal? 
  4. Are you thinking of offering your non LN shows on sites such as Groupon, Goldstar, and LivingSocial?
  5. What is new in marketing our shows?  What really does work to move tickets?
  6. If you work in the venue marketing department are you getting what you need? If not, what do you need?
  7. What are the latest trends in group sales? What are your group leaders telling you?
  8. What still works and what doesn’t with traditional media?
  9. Media promotions: Are you still getting them?  Are they effective?
  10. What is the industry doing to get butts back in seats?

You may notice that number one and ten are the same question.  This is by far the most important question to be answered at the conference.  This should be the number 1 focus of this year’s conference.

Since I won’t be with you in Indianapolis, I am giving you the chance to be a guest blogger.  If you have info, comments, or gossip you want to share from the conference, send them to me and I will post them.


More: They Are Finally Getting It

May 20, 2011

Last week I wrote about Live Nation cutting a deal with Groupon to move tickets.  I mentioned that this kind of deal was closer to the type of marketing that family shows have been doing for years.  This week I saw another example of family show marketing for a Live Nation concert.

Here in the Boston area, we have a large furniture chain called Jordan’s.  They are no small outfit.  They are part of the Warren Buffet empire!  Everything they do is bigger than life.  They are all about mixing entertainment with selling furniture.  All of their stores are themed toward entertainment.  Some even have IMAX theaters.  Over the past several years they have teamed up with the Boston Red Sox on promotions that include the possibility of everyone who buys furniture getting it free.   Currently they are running a promotion that if you buy a mattress, you get free tickets to see Tim McGraw.  This promotion is right out of the old Feld Entertainment handbook!

I took a peek at Live Nation’s website to see how the show was selling for the summer stop here in Boston at the Comcast Center.  Thanks to LN’s new seating chart, I was able to see how many tickets were still available in each section.  The answer: thousands of tickets are still available!  This does not even include the lawn seats.

This is a good promotion for Live Nation.  They know that Jordan’s does quality promotions.  They know Jordan’s spends tons of money in advertising.  They are one of the top advertisers in the Boston market.  LN could never afford to buy the amount of TV exposure for one concert that the Jordan’s promotion is giving them. 

I’m sure that I will get feedback from old school concert promoters ripping the promotion.  They already responded to last week’s post on the Groupon deal.  They believe that customers will wait to buy tickets at a discount.  The family show biz has been offering discounts for years and customers didn’t always respond by waiting.  If the concert industry doesn’t want to discount, than lower ticket prices.

While not every deal and promotion will breed success for concert ticket sales.  My hat is off to Live Nation for at least trying!

Are They Finally Getting It?

May 12, 2011

This week Live Nation and Groupon announced a partnership to move tickets.  The deal is called GrouponLive.  This is a major breakthrough for the concert industry.  They are finally starting to get it.

How can I not like this partnership?  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I constantly preach about this stuff.  Instead of just papering the house, leaving the seat empty, or canceling a show, they are going to try and get some ticket revenue for the seat.  Don’t forget that Live Nation runs many of the venues.  Getting a customer in at a discount also means getting revenue for parking, concessions, and merch.

This matchup is closer to the marketing thinking that the live family show business has been doing for years.  The live concert industry always believed it was beneath them to offer discounts, group sales or promotions.  I still remember a certain manager of a very famous rock band giving me shit when I came up with a clever promotion to create exposure for his on-sale. His quote was “this ain’t a fuckin circus”.  He was referencing my Ringling Bros. marketing background.

As a music fan that grew up spending lots of summer nights at an outdoor amphitheater, this could help bring that summer ritual to a new audience.  When I was a teen, anyone could afford to see multiple shows at a summer shed and teens took advantage of this.  Today, kids have to save the whole summer just to see one.   Offering a GrouponLive coupon could fill those lawn seats once again.

This deal is probably a better deal for Live Nation then Groupon.  Yes, Groupon will move tickets with their 60 million subscribers, which will bring them new revenue.  For Live Nation, they get to market to 60 million subscribers and fill those empty seats. As Michael Rapino CEO of Live Nation said “finding ways to deliver the message to local email in-boxes is the way of the future.” 

I believe this is a shot in the arm that Live Nation needs save the 2011 summer season and maybe even the company.

What Does Traditional Media Have To Do?

May 3, 2011

Yesterday I received a comment for my post on Online Coupons.  She asked “how do we still make the argument for traditional advertising”? My answer; it’s all up to traditional advertising.

Working with traditional advertising today is not what it once was.  Today they are more like car salesmen.  When I first got into the live entertainment business the traditional media were our partners.  The deals we cut with TV and radio was a partnership.  It was not just a cash buy.  The deals we put together included promotional spots, trade spots, and a cash schedule. We could put together a couple of good deals with a few TV and radio stations and own the market. 

The media promotional deal needed to have teeth.  Promotions were vital to the success of the marketing campaign.  It was not unusual to get six TV promotional spots a day over four weeks. Add the trade and the cash buy and you really made a statement in the market.  Ticket buyers actually thought the media outlet brought our shows into town.

Why did this all change?  My theory is that the media decided to change from partner to just sales person. They went with the attitude that “we had to buy them”.  The big family show marketers (who had the best deals) didn’t fight back. They gave in! Concert promoters never took the time to put really good promotional deals together.  They were satisfied with a week-long 5-4-3-2-1 promotion during morning drive and spending way too much money to get it.  Bottom line is we let the traditional advertising control our marketing!

As traditional media sat back and collected our cash, our ticket sales fell, our marketing budgets stalled, and the cost of media went up.  Marketers needed to look at new ways to market.  We found that we had this new source for getting our message out called the internet and its social media outlets.  It does work.  As marketers, all we need to do is create the energy to power it. 

Can traditional advertising get us back?  They can if they want to step up into 21st century thinking.  If they just hold out their hand and ask for money in exchange for advertising, then the answer is No.  If they want to become true partners to achieve success for our events, then Yes!

Why The Theory Didn’t Work

April 20, 2011

Two years ago when we were deep into the recession, I posted a blog about how the live entertainment industry would come out of the recession first.  I was wrong!  The reason I was wrong is because of price. 

It had long been the theory that while the entertainment industry is the first to feel a recession, we are usually the first to come out of it.  The theory went on to say that when consumers are depressed, out of work, and sitting in the house doing nothing, they need an escape.  During the Great Depression the movie industry did record business. It made Hollywood into a powerhouse!  Customers only needed a nickel to escape for a few hours.

I was working in the live entertainment industry during the 80’s recession.  The theory held up in that recession as well. The reason was again price.  It didn’t cost a car payment to see a show.   Here are two examples of prices then and now:

  • Concert ticket price:  1989 – $20.00 / 2011 – $100+      
  • Family show ticket price: 1989 – $10.00 / 2011 – $50+ (remember, a family needs to buy more than one)

We can no longer be the escape from recession because our prices put live entertainment into the luxury category. Consumers now look to other less expensive escapes. We used to “market to the masses not the classes” as stated by the late Allen Bloom. The words are reversed today.

Hollywood made its mark by making sure everyone got the opportunity to see a movie.  All of us in live entertainment need to give everyone an opportunity to see a show.

Deliver What You Promise

April 15, 2011

Seth Godin has written about this topic more than once before.  One of the worse things you can do when you market is not delivering on what you promised. The customer will never forget!  What happened to my son’s high school symphonic band this week is a good example.

The high school symphonic band that my son plays for is really good.  I’m not just saying this because I am a father of one of the members.  They are always invited to the Massachusetts Instrumental & Choral Conductors Assoc. (MICCA) competition and have won Gold three years in a row. The gold medal winners get the reward of playing a special concert at Boston’s famed Symphony Hall.  This is the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops.  What a great treat for the winners.  MICCA calls the event Stars at Symphony Showcase.  Even though my son’s school won, they will not be playing this year because the concert schedule filled up before they won.  MICCA knew how many gold medals they were going to hand out but didn’t provide enough slots at Symphony Hall.  MICCA does offer to have bands play at another concert hall but the size of our high school band is too big to play in the smaller venue.  Plus, you can’t compare the experience.

When you market your show or event you need to review all marketing and advertising claims, offers, and prizes before you actually start the campaign.  Sit down with all parties that will be involved in the fulfillment. Can you deliver? Think about worse case issues and have the solution before the campaign starts.  It is always better to make smaller promises and over deliver on them. 

Creditability is your biggest asset.

What Is A Promoter To Do?

April 6, 2011

As soon as I saw the lowlights from Charlie Sheen’s opening night in Detroit, my thoughts went to the promoter and the venue.  I’m sure their thoughts were not “Winning”!

Now at the same time, you have to think that anyone and everyone involved with promoting Charlie’s show had to have disastrous thoughts in their head. They must know they are taking a real chance on this show.  Be that said, what does the promoter and the venue do when tickets sell well but the show bombs?  Who takes the hit when customers demand their money back?  If the artist does poorly on stage, leaves early, or doesn’t even show up, who should get stuck with the bill? In many cases, the promoter and the venue take the biggest hit.

Advance Man Update

Ringling alum Jamie MacVicar’s book The Advance Man has been nominated for the National Award for Arts Writing.  If you have not read Jamie’s book, you should. It’s a story about a promoter’s journey behind the scenes of The Greatest Show On Earth. When I read it, it brought back many of my own memories of being a promoter with Ringling. If you want to know how modern live entertainment marketing was born, read the book.  The winner will be announced on April 16th.  I’ll let you know if he wins.

Mad Good Food!

I started a new blog!  This one is called Mad Good Food!  Now that I am in the culinary world I thought I should start a food blog.  It will be very different from the E&E Marketing Blog.  Besides adding photos, I plan to add video.  The goal is to turn it into an internet TV show.  Please check it out and add it to your favorites at http://madgoodfood.wordpress.com.

20th Century Marketing In The 21st Century

March 31, 2011

Everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I love the new media.  Even though I was trained in live entertainment marketing in the 20th century, I have embraced the internet; social media and any new form of marketing that will help me reach my audience.  But just relying on 21st century technology is not enough.

If you are applying your 20th century bad habits to the 21st century then nothing is going to change.  In fact, you could make your results worse.  Remember, today’s marketing offers instant feedback and social interaction.  If you use today’s marketing to announce and put on sale (break) a show, how are you doing this?  If you just announce, run an ad, and put the show on sale then you are wasting your time and money.  It’s just like they did it in the 20th century.  This was especially true with rock promoters.  God forbid they would kick off with a real promotion that created real buzz.  Today’s marketing is all about involving your customer.  They want input.  They want interaction.  They want a relationship!

You can put good 20th century marketing practices to work in the 21st century.  First you need to slow down and do your homework.  Do today’s entertainment marketers even do marketing plans anymore?  Who is your customer?  I like to use the old apple tree analogy.  When I write my plan I first go after the low hanging fruit.  What marketing tools will help me get it?  Social media is good for this.  Then I get out my ladder (even though I am afraid of heights) and start climbing and working for those harder to reach apples.  I don’t know about you, but I think the hard to reach apples taste sweeter.

Today’s marketing takes effort even though you can do it from your computer.  If you just sit on your ass in front of the computer and try to market, you will develop 20th century bad habits that will aid bad marketing health.  Apply the good, old fashion exercise of hitting the pavement with your creative marketing mind and your feet.

How Do You Rank?

March 23, 2011

Everyone is always so concerned how many hits their website gets. But more important than hits is where do you fall in the food chain of web exposure?  There is a TV spot running that tells the small business owner that without a website, you are invisible on the web.  This is partially true but it’s not just about the website. As a marketer you know that one marketing tool is not enough.

Everyone that uses the internet uses Google, Bing, or some other search site. Most people will stop the search as soon as they think they found what they are looking for.  But are they finding you?  What if you are half way down the search page or even worse on page 2?

There are tons of companies that claim they can get you to the top of the search page.  Most of them are full of shit! I get email from them every day making this claim.  They must not Google my site. There are two ways to get you to the top.  One costs money and the other does not.  You can buy ad space from the search sites or you can work to get yourself on top.  

Just having a website is not enough.  The more exposure you have on the web, the better your chances of coming out #1 on a search.  For example, I have a website, a blog, two Twitter pages, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  Google my name and I am the top eight of nine rankings.  The only reason I am not all nine is because my great great grandfather was a famous doctor listed on Wikipedia. 

Some people think I waste too much time on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. There is a method for my madness.  As a marketer I understand you have to work the web to get the results.  Every time you post anything you raise your overall ranking.  If you use Twitter for your business then you need to tweet every day.  This not only helps with your ranking but also gets you more Twitter followers.  

Next time your boss catches you playing on Facebook, just tell him/her you’re marketing.

Online Coupons

March 16, 2011

I get my daily offers from both Groupon and Livingsocial and I always chuckle.  Not because the deals are funny but because this concept was so… frowned upon just a few short years ago in the entertainment marketing world, and some still do. I was part of a concept in 2000 that was way ahead of its time with grouptickets.com.  These sites have taken our concept to the next level.  I was almost a dot-com millionaire!

I love these social coupon sites.  They have taken the idea of group sales and super groups to the mainstream.  You can get discounts for restaurants, car washes, clubs, bars, dental, etc…  The one participant I don’t see a lot is our industry.  Some are doing it, but they are in the minority. What is wrong with us?  Why are we always one step behind?  We should be all over these sites. I just read this morning that even the movie business is using it. Lions Gate Entertainment is offering a half price coupon on Groupon for an upcoming movie release.

Everyone always thinks that coupons make the product look cheap.  It’s all in how you market it!  If you market it cheap, it will be cheap.

If your show performs with empty seats then you should be looking at these sites. Why leave the seats empty.  Why do you try to fill them with comps?   When you paper the house you have no idea how many will cash in the comp. With these sites, the customer has to buy the coupon.  The chances they will redeem it are much greater.  

These sites offer minimum and maximum coupons that can be sold.  They offer time limits.  You can control the flow of coupons.  They do a mass email marketing campaign for you.  Do you realize how many million people get their daily emails?

No I’m not on Groupon’s or Livingsocial’s payroll, just a happy consumer who gets it.