Venue managers and tour professionals took over the mics for an IAVM sponsored back-of-house discussion at PollStar 2014. Moderated by Scott Johnson (Greensboro Coliseum, North Carolina), the panel dug into venue selection, day of show dynamics, and what a tour looks for to build confidence for future visits. Here are a few highlights:
The general consensus of the tour pros was market saturation. Patrick McDill (LiveNation) said that going to a city too many times was the top issue. Doug Aitken (Borman Entertainment) reinforced this as a top priority, urging venue managers to “know their market” and the show calendar for other venues in and around their city.
Past experiences were also mentioned as a strong factor in deciding where to send a tour. Aaron Tannenbaum (CAA) mentioned that he needs to feel comfortable sending a client to a venue, and that is influenced by previous experiences there. When asked how a venue can overcome a bad show, the conversation shifted toward the major pain points that lead to a rough show in the first place.
Avoiding the Pain Points, Building a Great Day
From having one clear point of contact to knowing well in advance the exact details of a venue’s loading and rigging capabilities, members of the panel repeatedly stressed how crucial good, honest communication is. Pete Healey (production manager, Luke Bryan), described the toll it takes on the crew to arrive at a venue after little sleep, only to discover that the load-in is going to take twice as long as planned due to limited docks or a lack of needed forklifts.
“If your venue has a rough load-in … tell us in advance,” Healey urged.
Emphasis was also placed on that first interaction between the tour crew and the venue team. McDill mentioned that it’s the early morning experience that tells him how the day will go.
Jan Eric Volz (tour manager, Rascal Flatts) felt similarly, mentioning that, “I appreciate seeing the general manager early on the day of the show, because everyone tends to follow their lead. Smiling faces and a willing attitude make us look forward to being there and to coming back.”
Even towels were mentioned (more than once) as an important detail to a crew that is living on the road.
“We roll out of our bunks, and we’re immediately at work. A nice shower goes a long way,” said Mike McGrath (tour accountant, Blake Shelton).
“Your venue is not just a name and city on a piece of paper. When something doesn’t go right, it affects us personally. A bad shower, slow Internet, these things matter,” McDill said.
When I recounted the session to Michael Marion, CFE (Verizon Arena, Arkansas) later that day, he nodded and mentioned a Dippin’ Dots station that they placed backstage at the Verizon Arena—free for the tour crew. In a subsequent Pollstar session that Marion participated in, he reinforced the importance of a great experience for the artist and crew back-of-house in more direct terms, commenting that “there is nobody in New York or Nashville thinking their career is over if they don’t play Little Rock.”
Small details and the need for great service back-of-house came up all throughout the packed session (standing-room only by the end), a reminder that the audience coming into a venue isn’t just the one out in front of the stage. And while the session largely avoided heavier issues like settlements, cancellations, and personnel conflict (one venue professional in front of me turned to his neighbor and said, “They keep emphasizing the goofy shit?!”), it was a good reminder that excellent service from the venue goes a long way in building confidence that a great show is going to happen that day—and hopefully for many future days to come.
Do you have Dippin’ Dots backstage? What else do you see going a long way to deliver a great back-of-house experience? If your an IAVM member, we’re also talking about this in VenueNet!
This year’s Performing Arts Managers Conference gathered venue professionals to share ideas, trade business contacts, visit with some of the industry’s best service providers, learn about best practices and industry trends from the pros, and tour some of its oldest and newest performing arts venues.
Kansas City has a rich history in the performing arts so there were an abundance of places attendees visited (nine venues to be exact). While all nine were simply amazing in so many ways, I can’t cover them all in this post, so I’ll touch on just a few.
For those of you who would love to take an old building and make it new. This historically significant venue was constructed in 1913 as the Power House building located in the Union Station campus. Before renovation, the structure was run down, filled with debris, and had floors covered in pigeon waste. The facility reopened in 2012, expertly restored by BNIM. The architectural firm blended the structure’s rich historic fabric with sleek and modern industrial elements. Its entry is welcoming and the viewing areas quite intimate. The natural light floods in from grand windows and strips of skylights.
Venue managers were then transported to a past era and experienced a modern facility simultaneously when they visited the American Jazz Museum. The group was welcomed to the facility with a custom jazz-vocal delivered by Dhana Powell-Pope, the museum’s corporate sponsorship sales and special events director. Now there’s a new way to help brand your facility as a true jazz destination—have your staff sing to your guests!
This beautiful facility is not just a single museum, but instead houses a comprehensive history of jazz, displays an outstanding collection of jazz memorabilia, provides a curated collection of art from many of the genre’s most notable artists of the era, the Negro League Baseball Museum, and the John Baker Film Collection, where venue managers experienced state-of-the-art SoundShower ® technology, allowing them to independently hear the music simply by stepping under these powerful speaker systems that direct sound in a single direction.
It is such a unique facility and so unusual to see a venue that houses multiple types of collections from museum quality art, a baseball museum, an archive of film footage, and a museum with a comprehensive history of the art of jazz all under one roof.
One the final night of PAMC, IAVM’s own Patrick Donnelly, the director of theater operations for the Kauffman Center, hosted attendees at a closing reception in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The night began with a rather witty, yet informative introduction to the history of the region’s performing arts culture, starting with a history lesson and ending with the construction of what has now become one of the City’s most iconic structures—the Kauffman Center.
The behind-the-scenes tour ran almost 1.5 hours and covered the building’s cutting-edge performance spaces as well as its architecture. Donnelly talked about using glass for a curved building façade. The venue requires each panel to be individually designed in Germany, created in Asia, and delivered and installed in a climate that can be challenging in its diversity. In fact, Donnelly mentioned that each season panes do break under the Missouri heat and must be replaced.
Most of the PAMC attendees were seen with their heads tipped to the ceiling, iPhones in hand, taking in everything from the seatback digital displays to the stunning vistas of the city and the signage at entry doors providing guidance on what is and isn’t allowed inside the venue.
It was certainly a spectacular opportunity for all.
If you would like to hear about PAMC, I’ll be writing a story about one of of the signature educational sessions called Boot Camp. And, if you missed PAMC this year, your chance will come again next February when the conference heads to San Francisco. In the meantime, you can always sign up for VenueConnect 2014, the all-association conference taking place July 26-29 in Portland, Oregon, where each of IAVM’s sectors come together to share a week of inspiration and education in a city as cool as the Pacific Northwest breeze!
I just posted a story about Bill Marriott, a huge influence in the hospitality world. This post is about another influential person, this time from the world of sports, specifically sports marketing.
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, is never shy with his opinions, and he shares them often via his personal blog. This week, he wrote about sports marketing, all stemming from an SMU basketball game he recently attended.
“Atmosphere. The electricity you feel when you walk into an arena. The uncertainty and anticipation of what will happen before, during and after the game, and most importantly the communal feelings that can only happen when thousands, if not tens of thousands of people share their emotions,” Cuban wrote. “That is what makes going to a game special and the smart people at SMU knew it.”
It’s a great post, and I suggest you read it. In the meantime, here are six items Cuban feels sports marketers can learn from an energized and emotional fan base.
1. Know where your team is in their “lifecycle.”
“It is easier to engage fans when the team is turning a corner and winning is new, but you have to work hard at selling the fun of coming to an arena. The more seats you have to sell, the harder you have to work. Fans want a reason to get out of the house and have fun.”
2. Know who your long time fans/customers are.
“Fans know when you care. You can’t fake it. It is hard work, but it has to be done. Know your customers and treat them like gold.”
3. Price to the market, not to maximize revenue.
“IMHO, it is far more important to know the price points that will enable you to fill the arena than to know the price points that will max out your total revenue. Why ? Because winning matters. It is important to have fans in the stands. They impact your winning percentage.”
4. Fans buy tickets where they like to buy them.
“The Mavs have found that some of our customers prefer to buy from a given secondary provider than from our site. They have a credit card set up there. They buy not just Mavs, but other Dallas teams, concerts and other events from a single source. That convenience, from their perspective makes it a better choice.”
5. Selling is the most important job at a team.
“At the Mavs we value customer satisfaction and sales. We want you to have an amazing time at a game. We want our advertiser/sponsors to get amazing value from their Mavs partnerships. We want to have enough great salespeople to reach out and communicate all of the above. Every team cannot have enough great salespeople.”
6. Spend money on fun.
“If you have a limited budget and the choice is between fun or anything else, choose fun every time.”
Do you agree or disagree with Cuban? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Ted DeDee, CFE, an IAVM member and president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin, was recently named “Medium Company Executive of the Year” by In Business magazine. Here’s a part of why he was honored with the award:
Check out the article for more about DeDee and the award, and please share your congratulations in the comments below.
Bill Marriott is one of the most respected businessmen and leaders in the hospitality industry. His father taught him to achieve excellence in everything he does. When he was tapped to lead the namesake hotel company, he created his own 12 rules of success, which he shared on his blog yesterday.
1. Challenge your team to do better and do it often.
2. Take good care of your associates, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and they’ll come back.
3. Celebrate your peoples’ successes, not your own.
4. Know what you’re good at and keep improving.
5. Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.
6. Communicate by listening to your customers, associates, and competitors.
7. See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk the talk, make yourself visible and accessible.
8. Success is always in the details.
9. It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.
10. Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.
11. Always hire people who are smarter than you are.
12. View every problem as an opportunity to grow.
“‘Hire friendly, train technical’ is the most important mantra in our HR manual,” Marriott wrote in previous blog post. “I want passionate associates who go the extra difference to help a guest. I want associates whose enthusiasm for their hometown rubs off on guests. Guests know the difference between a forced smile and a genuine one.”
These rules are applicable for any organization that wants to court success. Which one(s) do you follow the most?
(Image: Marriott International Facebook page)