The 2011 edition of the Billboard Touring Conference  got off to a
practical start with a panel titled "How Exactly Will Social Sell
Tickets?" Featuring moderator Pinky Gonzalez, Senior Vice President of
BubbleUp, the panel also included such industry vets as Root Music
Doctor of Pages Matt Conn, Vice President of Business at Showclix Jeff
White, Executive Vice President/eCommerce at Ticketmaster Kip Levin,
Vice President of Music at Reverbnation Nathan Hoy, co-founder and CEO
of Songkick Ian Hogarth and Vice President of Marketing at Eventful
Together, the panelists talked about a series of social networks,
including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and even MySpace
(which all agreed was dead and gone for good), and attempted to
identify ways in which each could be used to make money for artists
and venues. While much of the emphasis was on Facebook, one thing many
panelists agreed on was that by integrating products into larger
platforms, artists and venues could benefit from all the tools they
needed in a larger social space.
For instance, Levin pointed out that after Ticketmaster began offering
a "share" feature on its purchasing page, every Facebook RSVP was
worth $5 in sales in terms of the amount of traffic it brought to
their web site. Additionally, companies like Root Music offer
BandPages which have streamlined the way bands can communicate on
Facebook, while Hogarth's Songkick integrates with BandPages and other
apps to allow bands to display their touring information easily across
multiple platforms. "Musicians and venues should be able to rely on
tech companies to provide a big social platform that allows them to
focus on what they do best," said Hogarth.
Social networks were also touted as being useful for innovative
marketing schemes, often involving incentives for fans in exchange for
publicity on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. Showclix, for example,
offers to comp a ticket buyer's service fees in exchange for
promotional tweets or Facebook shares, while venues can utilize
platforms like Foursquare to run ticket giveaways or offer prizes for
check-ins in order to build fan loyalty. Armstrong pointed out that
Kiss was highly successful in allowing their fans to help route their
latest tour, then giving those fans who participated the first shot at
tickets. "When artists empower their fans and build a community, those
fans buy tickets and help to evangelize," she said.
One of social media's biggest assets is how it has opened a clear
channel through which fans, artists and venues can interact in ways
that are much more in depth than just applause or tomatoes. For
venues, artists and promoters in the midst of a tour, a great show can
produce a wave of optimism that can go viral and almost promote
itself, something that every side would do well to tap into. "For a
venue, hundreds if not thousands of tweets are being generated by your
event, all centered around the excitement it creates," said Levin.
Taking the time to build relationships, respond to fans and create an
outstanding customer experience are all ways that social networks can
help to build brands and get fans to get out to shows and keep coming
The second panel of the morning was titled "TMs and PMs: Here's What
We Really Think About Your Venue, Your Food, Your Fans and Your Event"
and featured tour and production managers for some of the biggest
names in the music business, including Steve Powell tour manager for
Jason Mraz and Avril Lavigne; Max Loubiere, tour director for Billy
Joel; Steve Lopez, tour director for Widespread Panic; Steve Lawler,
Production Manager for LiveNation; Richard Coble, tour manager for
Britney Spears and Mariah Carey; and Jake Berry, production director
for U2's record-setting 360 tour. Moderator Jim Lewi, a producer for
LiveWorks Events, relied heavily on the #bbtouring Twitter hashtag to
direct the discussion, where the comments and questions poured in.
The panelists discussed a number of common issues that come up on
tours of all magnitudes, from the mundane (lack of signs pointing the
way to the catering tables) to the serious (budget concerns, security
issues), including problems with the venues that crop up every day
that could influence the fans and reflect negatively on the artists.
"We design our shows to fit every venue for the best possible fan
experience," said Berry. "We bring the same show every night, so a lot
of the fan experience comes down to the venues."
One sobering section of the conversation came when a tweet came in
from @crbettinson asking the panelists to comment on the unfortunate
stage collapses that plagued the summer concert season. "As much as
it's a great experience to do a show outdoors, there are risks
involved," said Powell, while Berry lamented the "freak circumstances
and freak weather conditions" that conspired to bring down the stages,
also pointing to the proud safety record that the touring industry can
otherwise stand behind.
Money issues were also a common thread that wove throughout the
session, with budget questions and cost-cutting measures at the
forefront. While budgeting needs to include a margin for error and a
contingency plan for inevitable unforeseen problems that crop up,
trying to cut fringe costs to keep expenses down can often have more
implications than a decrease in the catering budget. "A good show is a
show where everybody makes money," said Coble. "So often it does come
down to [reducing] the artist's guarantee."
Ultimately, what tour and production managers value most is the
security and knowledge that a show will run as smoothly as possible,
even in scenarios like college shows where crews are often new to the
job. "Sometimes," said Berry, "enthusiasm can trump thirty years of
experience." For tours to come off without a hitch, tour and
production managers need a healthy dose of both.
Billboard.biz will have much more from the Touring Conference and Awards throughout the week.