On March 11, 2010, at 10:21 a.m., a message appeared on the Twitter account of comedian Conan O’ Brien (@conanobrien): “Hey, Internet: I’m headed to your town.” Hours later, most shows on O’Brien’s just-announced cross-country theater tour were sold out online. Ever since, the eyes of the live music business have been opened to the power of social media as a marketing and promotional tool. As Nic Adler, owner of the Roxy in Los Angeles, stated on a panel at the 2011 Billboard Touring Conference in November, “Bands come to town and then leave, but the new Twitter followers stick around.”
Most concert industry executives agree that social media sites–primarily Twitter and Facebook–will only continue to grow as a driver of ticket sales. Digital strategist Pinky Gonzales, director of West Coast operations for BubbleUp, believes that 2012 could be the watershed year for using social media to promote live music events.
“Twitter will finally be opening up its advertising platform, Facebook will be taking in billions of fresh dollars thanks to its impending IPO, and third-party developers from BandPage to Ticketmaster will continue to perfect the social commerce model,” Gonzales says. “Combined with tools like HootSuite, Twitalyzer and services like Klout, it’s not an exaggeration to say that we have never had so much power to identify and influence music listeners as we do today.”
For now, Live Nation will be at the forefront of social media marketing for the launch of its 2012 summer concert season. Earlier this year, the company launched a Ticketmaster Face book app that uses Facebook’s Spotify integration to recommend events to fans based on listening habits. The Facebook platform effectively opened a new Ticketmaster “store” that essentially works like Ticketmaster.com. Fans can browse events, view which shows their friends are attending, read reviews, build their own upcoming show list by using the “I want to go” feature, RSVP to let their friends know which events they’re attending and purchase any Ticketmaster ticket directly, without ever leaving Facebook.
On May 2, the concert promotion giant launched its new concert calendar Facebook app, which enables users to discover and share upcoming Live Nation events and all music/comedy shows ticketed through Ticketmaster in North America.
“It’s based on recommendations and shows their friends are attending,” Live Nation VP of social media marketing Gretchen Fox says, noting that like the Ticketmaster app, event suggestions are also based on listening activity through Spotify accounts with Facebook integration. “Along the way fans have opportunities to earn music-related badges and points. Those points are redeemable for real-world goods like concert cash.”
- The concert calendar had been in private beta for the past six months and tested by about 10,000 users, Fox says. Live Nation conceived the app–including architecture, functionality and user experience–and its code was written by boutique development company Kremsa. Fox hopes to get a better sense of how the app is being utilized by the end of summer.
“I want to make sure we’re paying attention to how people are using it and how well it’s integrating with Facebook’s different features as they keep rolling stuff out,” she says.
- Ticketmaster previously used Facebook primarily as a marketing platform that links back to Ticketmaster.com, which in itself has proved effective. “Sharing” a Ticketmaster purchase on Facebook resulted in a transactional value of roughly $6-$8 for the company, according to Ticketmaster executive VP of e-commerce Kip Levin. Similarly, each time the Twitter sharing function is on Ticketmaster.com, more than $20 in sales is driven back to the site, according to Levin.
Live Nation has also found success with encouraging concertgoers to check into shows using Foursquare. By checking into a concert, fans receive rewards that include ticket upgrades and concert cash that can be used at venue concessions. “We’ve had almost 400,000 check-ins across our venues to date,” Fox says.
Fox notes that large amounts of tickets have also been sold during presales by setting up Facebook event pages for individual concert dates. For Jay-Z and Kanye West’s 2011 Watch the Throne North America arena tour, Live Nation set up Facebook pages for each date on the trek. As a result, the tour received 88,000 RSVPs in a 48hour window, Fox says.
But not all concert promoters and music venues have the manpower or extra hours to undertake such tasks. Independent ticketing company Ticketfly, which counts Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club and Nashville’s Outback Concerts among its venue and promoter clients, provides social marketing tools through software on its website that assist with building Facebook event pages for concerts and scheduling automatic tweets that are sent before or after events. Ticketfly founder/CEO Andrew Dreskin says that many of the ticketing company’s clients take advantage of the social marketing tools.
“It’s very cumbersome and time-consuming if you’re a promoter who does 350 shows a year to create 350 Facebook events with multiple artists,” he says. “It’s perishable inventory and it matters how quickly you can get it onto the shelves.”
Dreskin has also noticed that marketing through social media has been far more successful in selling concert tickets than through traditional email marketing. “Our clients sell five times as many tickets via social media channels [like Facebook and Twitter] via our platform as they do using our email newsletter program,” he says.
William Morris Endeavor (WME) head of tour marketing Michele Bernstein says that email marketing can be challenging because if the person receiving the email isn’t interested in the advertisement, it may be negatively viewed as spam. “Social media is much more targeted,” she says. “If they sign up to be someone’s Facebook friend, they have a genuine interest. With social media, that person actually signed up with interest because they want to know.”
In late April, Portland, Ore.-based social commerce startup Chirpify simplified the process of buying concert tickets through Twitter by launching a new platform that allows artists and record labels to sell tickets or MP3s using nothing but tweets by linking Twitter and PayPal accounts (Billboard, May 5).
“Everyone is trying to sell on social,” Chirpify CEO Chris Teso says. “But all these tweets and Facebook posts link to somewhere else. We do away with all that and allow you to sell in-stream directly to your fans over Twitter.”
WME’s Bernstein has observed that impact is most felt in the social media space when artists directly communicate to their fans, whether it’s through Twitter or Facebook. WME client Lady Gaga demonstrated this perfectly in early February by tweeting details about her upcoming 110-date Born This Way global tour to her 19.2 million followers. The pop star caused a media frenzy around the trek by tweeting an illustrated rendering of the stage, which was later followed by a tweet of the official tour poster and a list of concert dates.
“We couldn’t get that out of a TV station, an email blast–we couldn’t get that out of any of those other mediums,” Bernstein says. “But coming from her? Huge impact.”
The O’Brien tweet was a watershed moment in the live business. His tweet announcing the trek resulted in selling 125,000 concert tickets in one day, Bernstein says. “We always knew that an artist talking directly to fans through social media was powerful, but this showed the immediate impact of how it can translate to ticket sales,” she says. “The dates were sold to individual promoters–it wasn’t just one promoter–so every promoter in the country who assumed risk saw the power of an artist speaking directly to the fans.”
Katy Perry has also experienced the power of aligning with a major social media company to announce a large arena tour. After nearly a year of promotion for 2010’s Teenage Dream, Perry became the first musical artist to appear on Facebook’s live video streaming channel when she announced her North American arena tour in January 2011 to more than 1.4 million viewers. It went on to rank 13th among the top 25 tours of the year, grossing $48.8 million from 98 concerts that drew more than 1 million fans, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Perry’s 2011 trek also featured the first Tweet 2 Screen campaign, a deal that was brokered by Creative Artists Agency’s Glenn Miller, who oversees digital strategy for CAA’s music department. Each night of the singer’s tour used a different Twitter hashtag, and if a fan’s tweet was approved it would appear on a screen near the stage. As opposed to past text-to-screen campaigns, which were anonymous messages, Tweet 2 Screen displayed Twitter handles and avatars, creating a more personalized experience, Miller says.
“Not only are you creating excitement in the venue, but since it’s a public platform, you’re now spreading the word outside to anyone who happens to be following you or searching for that term on Twitter,” he says.
To create an even bigger buzz during the European leg of Perry’s trek, the first 100 fans who showed up at arenas and checked in through Facebook received better placement near the stage. The 100 concert-goers who arrived early enough were escorted into a VIP line and allowed into the venue five minutes early. “That’s where you start to see how digital influences [everything] from announcements to buying tickets to in-venue experience and what happens after that,” Miller says. “The first couple of shows we’d message out on Facebook and Katy would tweet about it. A couple shows in we never had to mention it again, because every fan was starting to line up at the show and check in.”
Even artists who’ve been on the fence about using social media are quickly recognizing its power when it comes to touring, concert industry observers agree.
“Sometimes we have to fight to get promotions done on their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts,” AEG Live VP of digital marketing Joyce Szudzik says. “Now we’ve given them enough data from different campaigns we’ve run, so they know this is what they want.”
A recent social media success story, she says, was Enrique Iglesias’ 2011 U.S. tour, which featured Pitbull and Prince Royce. Szudzik notes that the AEG Live-promoted trek had sales spikes each time there was activity on Iglesias’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, ranging from video posts to tweets between Iglesias and the opening acts. Surprisingly, ticket sales declined around traditional TV appearances on “Today” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” Szudzik says.
“Traditional TV wasn’t moving the meter,” she says. “But we saw that when we increased social engagement, ticket sales immediately bounced up.”
Artist representatives and promoters have also observed that increasing use of social media to market and promote live music has allowed them to save money on traditional advertising like TV, radio and print. Charlie Walker, a partner in C3 Presents, which produces music festivals Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza, says C3 has invested those savings in bulking up its marketing staff.
“We’ve taken resources from spending large amounts of money at traditional media outlets and reinvested that money in-house to develop the personnel we need to officially operate and work on social media,” Walker says, noting that nearly 100% of C3’s festival tickets during the past three years have been sold through social media and email marketing.
Meanwhile, Szudzik says that with so many new social media sites sprouting up each day, it’s tough to keep up. “It’s really about trying to figure out which ones have the legs to be adopted in the space where we need them,” she says. “If it’s too complicated or there are too many hurdles, [users are] not going to do it, because it’s not worth their time to be in that space.” * *
Additional reporting by Glenn Peoples and Ray Waddell.
.biz MOBILE: For 24/7 news and analysis on your cellphone or mobile device go to: mobile.billboard.biz