And so you want to start your own festival?

If you know that the job of a Concert Promoter is far beyond complicated, imagine that of the promoter of a whole festival, especially if we’re talking about a big one. Festival Promoter’s have to deal with many artists and bands, many booking agents, large venues usually with many stages and many many people!! Organizing an international music festival is probably one of the most complicated tasks there are in the wide spectrum of the music industry. Therefore, if one day you decide that you would probably like to start your own new festival, you better first be absolutely convinced that’s what you desire. Probably the first step would be to have a clear concept of what the festival will look and be like, preferably an original one that makes it special among the many others there are.

If you decide to set up a new music festival, you better plan to do it in a genre that you really love and know, in a location that you like and identify and with an audience that you are familiar and connect with. This will increase your chances of success in this titan’s task. Once you meet the first requirements, you should start considering and resolving several different aspects that are essential for the success of the event. The following recommendations should be considered with plenty of time ahead (probably around a year in advance!), in order to be able to focus in each of them properly. We can probably enlist these factors as follows:

  1. Have a very clear vision of the festival and develop its concept properly.
  2. Choose an ideal date for the festival to take place: consider other similar events that might compete and factors like the weather (if outdoors), etc.
  3. Find an ideal location for the festival and start the process of booking the venue.
  4. Decide the kind of music and what specific artists is the festival ideally have as headliners, and start contacting the respective booking agents.
  5. Decide and analyze what your target audience is, remember paying attention to 4 essential classifications: Age, Gender, Socioeconomical status and location.
  6. Develop the plan for how are you going to finance the investment on the festival, explore different options of funding, finance and even sponsorship or state support.
  7. Consider the impact that the realization of the festival will have on the local area and how to approach the different issues you might find: noise, trash, parking, security, etc.
  8. Consider transportation plans for the attendees.
  9. Find options for accommodation for the attendees that may need it.
  10. 10.  Establish a plan for the marketing and promotion of the festival when launching it.
  11. Work very hard and find the right team!!

…and good luck!! 🙂

Concert Promoter: The Absolute Juggler

Of all the different music intermediaries that we can think of in general terms, probably the one that has the most demanding task of all, or at least the one who has to deal with higher degrees of pressure and stress is definitely the Concert Promoter. We all love to attend exciting live events and concerts in particular; however, of all the times we go to one of this, probably in very few of these we pay attention to the fact that the concert we just attended was made a reality by someone somewhere who took care of all the details. This person is commonly known, at least in the world of music business scholars, as the Concert Promoter.

The promoter is the one person in charge of putting together all the different parts to make a live event a reality: from hiring the talent, to booking the venue, producing and distributing the tickets, setting the stage, sound and other facilities, hiring the personnel of security, stage crew, merchandize selling and cleaning of facilities, etc.  In one side he has to pay the artist/s for the performance, the venue for the rental and the other persons for their service… and basically he have to make things (and numbers!) work. All for an ultimate income equivalent generally to the 20% of the concert’s net profit. Successful concerts can get the Promoter a lot of money; however, the risk is always present for there to be a different scenario, and loosing money is not unusual.

Even when the concert turns out to be a success, the percentage of the revenue that the Concert Promoter’s get is probably disproportional to the amount of effort, time, risk and energy that he/she had to invest in the realization of the event, especially compared to that of the talent’s Booking Agent, who generally gets a 10% of the gross revenue and saves all the juggling.

The Big Parasite: The Secondary Ticketing Market

Why do we need tickets? Well, we need them because in one side we have people that demands to attend a concert, and in the other side we have a promoter who puts together the show and needs people to pay for the attendance. The easier, better and most common way of doing this is by printing tickets and start selling them prior to the date of the event.

Tickets have become very important, and the matter of ticketing is one of the things that the concert promoter has to resolve in an early stage so that he/she can start selling them to earn some money that help put up the show. There are many ways of making this happen. Either the promoter can try to print his own tickets and sell them directly to the people interested in the concert, or he/she can look for the option of hiring a third party company to take care of the issuing, distributing and selling of the tickets. As live events have become larger and larger with the pass of the time, the need for these ticketing companies has become more crucial.

There are different companies that offer the service of ticketing, depending on the region and country. However, there is one company that has become the absolute leader of ticketing around the globe. This company is Ticketmaster, with representation in basically all the places of the world where there is a buoyant and energetic entertainment and music industry. In fact, Ticketmaster has become in many places some kind of monopoly when it comes to the physical + online selling of tickets, making it difficult for the promoter to have many options to decide from and therefore having to constraint to the limits and fees that this company has. The Ticketmaster empire has become even bigger and more powerful by merging with the US promoter giant Live Nation.

But there is another issue when approaching the ticketing topic, and it’s a very serious and damaging one. This issue is commonly known as the “secondary ticketing” or the “ticket re-sale”. It happens specially when the tickets for a certain event are sold out and there are still some people very interested in going (and willing to pay for it). This motivates the owners of the tickets that were originally sold, to think about the possibility of re-selling their tickets at a higher price than the “face value” of the ticket, depending on the demand for the show. At the end, the person who originally acquired the ticket doesn’t have the ticket any more but in exchange he earned more money that the one he/she spent, meaning that he/she made a profit!

This opportunity was explored by many others to become a business model in itself, where the “re-sellers” hurry up to buy as many tickets as they can of a very demanded show, wait until the show is sold out and then re-sell the tickets for a higher price and make a profit. This practice has become extremely popular in some countries, taking to the development of specialized websites where people can resale their tickets. And while someone could question how big is the impact of this new “parasite” industry, many studies can answer that the impact can be tremendous, sometimes representing the same amount of money than the event itself.

To solve this problem, that keeps pushing the ticket prices up and making it harder for everyone to pay, there have been different attempts of stopping ticket resale. One of them has been trying to push for legislation to prohibit and prosecute ticket resale, however this way has been very difficult to obtain and complicated to enforce. On the other hand, ticket companies and concert promoters have started to take some new steps to fight against the resale. Perhaps the most effective one has been that of issuing personalized tickets that include the name and picture of the original buyer, and then ask for a photo-id at the door of the concert’s venue.

Gotye: turning your online presence into an engine of success

We said that the Internet became, since a few years ago, the new crucial intermediary for musicians to deliver their art to their fans and for the fans to find and follow new musicians. The tools are there, accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Everyday there are thousands (if not millions) of content uploads by professional and amateur musicians that seek to generate a positive impact in their followers and hopefully become the next boom in terms of audience. However, as we said, most of these uploads are part o the million of sporadic and disorganized intents to get some attention.

We all know this story, the one of the random guy in a random place in the world, who does some extravagant funny or random video, upload it to YouTube, and two days later he or she is the absolute new sensation of the World Wide Web (remember Rebecca Black, Susan Boyle or even the Annoying Orange… to name a few). This phenomenon has become so common that every time is less surprising to see the amount of (million!) views that this type of videos can get. However, it’s still pretty surprising because they can definitely be a lot. The capability that YouTube has to propel somebody to the world “fame” is incredible.

Curiously enough, it’s interesting to think about how many of these day-boomers actually manage to capture the attention they generated and retain it in the long run, creating and maintaining a solid group of fans and followers. If we think about it, not many of the cases we may remember are still in the spotlight for many people. This is because the artists (and “artists”) that generate this hype do not have anything else to offer afterwards, they don’t have any way of truly capturing this attention for their own benefit and they don’t have any platform to establish a long-term relationship with their new discoverers. Gotye is a perfect example of somebody who did the opposite, of someone who did learned how to establish and maintain these new fan-relationships, of somebody that was ready to capitalize the enormous hype that he was lucky enough to generate.

The key factors for Gotye’s success are related first to having a great and sticky song like Somebody That I Used To Know, feat. Kimbra. Then, in making an eye-catching and entertaining video that was easy to share among his fans and the rest of the million curious people on the Internet; and lastly, but very importantly, in having an already up and running platform (his website) that allowed him to be easy to find and follow online, with his different sub-platforms (YouTube channel, MySpace, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) linked together, updated, and ready to turn curious visitors into super fans

The New Intermediary

Much has been said about the amazing power of the “new” internet platforms that allow the world of artists, bands, songwriters and music producers to get directly in touch with the world of fans, potential fans, music lovers and any other interested in the consumption of music. With these new tools, the traditional business model of the music industry has been challenged to death. Even when many of the old players have managed to stay in the game by adapting to the new ever-changing scenario, some of them grabbing themselves from the tip of their nails, it’s true that the need for many of the past-model intermediaries, like the distributers, publishers or even the record labels have decreased substantially in the past years. The new policies that some of these are taking, like the so-called “360 deals”, reflect the fear that these intermediaries have entering this new era. And they have many reasons to be afraid, because the revolution seems to be unstoppable.

With all these changes, some of the newly empowered musicians are taking their careers to the next level by using the different Internet tools in smart and strategic ways. However, the great majority of the Internet users (musicians and non-musicians) that are trying to benefit from it to promote their projects, are using the different available tools in a very disorganized and sporadic way, finding it difficult to generate a substantial impact in an immense digital universe that is full of disorganized and distracting content. It’s perhaps because of the fact that dealing with the Internet in a successful way requires a good amount of dedication and craft that the previously mentioned intermediaries are still an important support when an artist is seeking a long and sustainable career. But if we look at the recent cases of success by independent or semi-independent artists or bands, we will notice how their use of the Internet was not only helpful to their career development but absolutely crucial.

We can certainly say that the Internet is the new crucial music Intermediary, but it’s not an easy-to-get-along-with one. Its enormous conglomerate of content makes it very tricky to be noticed and followed in a large scale. However, it’s definitely possible; we just have to take the time to patiently learn how to establish a healthy and productive relationship with the platforms we decide to use, and develop the right skills that allow us to be friends and benefit from this new intermediary that is every time more difficult to ignore.

Gaga’s Intermediaries

I recently had the chance to read the case study of Lady Gaga, by Anita Elberse and Michael Christensen, published by the Harvard Business School. When it might be surprising for many at a first glance that there are high-level academic studies about a music celebrity in places like Harvard University, it may not be difficult to understand them when they are focused in the figure of Lady Gaga, whose abrupt jump into world fame in recent years represents an exceptional phenomenon far beyond the music industry and culture. The study of her case now even has a full course in the University of South Carolina devoted to it, the course SOCY398D, or LADY GAGA AND THE SOCIOLOGY OF THE FAME.

When reading the Harvard’s case study it was inevitable to think about the huge role that the so-called “music intermediaries” played in the development and rise of the figure of Lady Gaga. From her manager to her record label, agent, promoters, attorneys, accountants and even her outfit designers… it is thanks to the effort of all this people (together with the talent and devotion of Gaga herself) that Lady Gaga became the world superstar that is today and that all of us know about, besides our opinions about her or whether we like her or not.

A very surprising fact that the case study also talks about is related with the revenues of her concert tours. In the first stages of her 2009 Fame Ball Tour, Gaga’s first theater-sized venues tour around the United States, despite all the success that she had already achieved with her music and even with the ticket sales of the shows, despite all the hard work devoted in putting the concerts together, the tour was loosing money. The enormous expenses in the production of the show, the maintenance of an enormous staff team, as well as many other factors, were taking the new pop superstar in the way to bankrupt. It was again the job of Lady Gaga’s team to make the right decisions to revert this tendency and point Gaga’s career (and income!) to the stars. A partnership with the multinational promoter Live Nation, among other wise decisions, made that the second part of the tour (an arena tour around the world between February 2010 and March 2011) generated a total gross income of $195,000,000 US Dollars, which again should bring our attention to the enormous importance of having a great team working together in the common goal of success.