Ticket prices and sell-out shows are common talking points when discussing concert industry economics. But for many tours, as well as live events in general, additional revenue streams often play out in the background, yet are just as important.
Some of these efforts go virtually unnoticed, or are seen as being part of the scenery at, say, NASCAR events or Major League Baseball games. We accept the advertising at the track or corporate logos emblazoned on outfield walls as part of the business side of entertainment. In today’s advertising-saturated world consumers are constantly exposed to messages, products and brands jockeying for attention, retention, and, sponsors hope, sales.
But in some ways concert audiences represent even more unique demographics than other live events with artists attracting fans belonging to specific age groups, income levels, gender or other common-ground areas. While setting up a booth in an arena concourse is easy, bringing corporations together with an industry that combines art with business is not only challenging, but almost a science in itself.
We met John Reese earlier this summer when the concert producer was preparing to launch his newest road adventure – “Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival” – featuring Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold along with Stone Sour, HaleStorm, Hellyeah, Airborne, Hail The Villain and New Medicine. However, while talking with Reese about band lineups and establishing a new annual event, we became intrigued with a company he founded in November 2009 with business partner Lisa Bennett, a new player called Entertainment 3Sixty.
In forming Entertainment 3Sixty, Reese and Bennett combined skills that often run in tandem in an industry that relies on artistic accomplishments as well as business acumen. Reese came up through the artist side of the equation, working as tour manager for Guns N’ Roses during the band’s early headlining years.
Years managing bands like The Used, Danzig and Goldfinger followed as did co-founding indie label I AM Recordings. Reese also helms Jagermeister’s live music projects.
Bennett hails from promotion, marketing and sales. Having started in radio, Bennett plunged into the concert biz when she signed on with Texas-based Pace Productions, then headed by Louis Messina, whom she calls her mentor. Bennett’s history also includes a 2005 project with Irving Azoff and time spent heading up the sports and entertainment group Connections.
Today, along with another partner – VP of sales Julie Curtis – Entertainment 3Sixty’s payroll includes five sales reps and an administrative position.
“In looking at all the companies out there that try to connect brands with music properties, there wasn’t a company that really specialized in understanding how relationships work from a standpoint of production and band relationships,”Reese told Pollstar while on location the day before another of his touring festivals, the “Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Tour,” launched at the San Manuel Amphitheatre in Devore, Calif.
“And with my expertise from the production side and the producer side and Lisa’s expertise from the agency side, we felt it was an opportunity to put together a team with a soup-to-nuts solution for people.”
Company co-founder John Reese at Entertainment 3Sixty's Los Angeles homebase.
While connecting bands and tours with sponsors is an important part of Entertainment 3Sixty’s business plan, it’s not the company’s only service. Reese and Bennett described goals, including pleasurable experiences for concert fans while at the same time providing avenues for businesses reaching out to consumers.
“I think that’s [matching sponsors with bands] one part of it,” Bennett said. “The second part is creating music platforms for various brands, completely integrating the soup-to-nuts.
“One thing we are not is we’re not a broker. We don’t go in, do the deal and then leave. What we try to create for every brand we’re working with is something that has threads tied back to it. It’s not just stick a logo on a tour and be done. Everything we’re doing and creating has got be integrated for the client.”
Reese and Bennett illustrated the details of the operation, describing “activations” where deals come to life in the form of a presence at live events via different channels including mini-stores, kiosks artist-signings, while at the same time cross promoting at stores and through advertising. While activations can encompass long-time concert staples such as merch tables and T-shirt sales, such elements only make up one part of the overall picture.
Members of HaleStorm psych themselves up for an autograph session in the Best Buy mini store on the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Tour.
“An example of that is the relationship we currently have with Best Buy on the Uproar Festival,” Reese said. “We basically created a solution for Best Buy that integrates so many different in-store activations. There are three activations inside their stores on their HD wall and in their music CD section as well as in their music instrument selection.
“They came to us and Lisa created a solution for them that integrates, not only the bands, but companies like Schecter Guitars. Lisa ties in all that and I tie in and make sure everything works from the standpoint of the on-the-road activation.”
How does this translate into a more enjoyable concert experience? Bennett described Best Buy pop-up stores at each venue, meet-and-greet events with artists as well as opportunities for demoing instruments and gear.
“Every day consumers will be able to meet six of our eight bands on the road, buy a CD and get the CD autographed,” Bennett said. “We’re also going to have a section for various gear companies on board, whether it be Schecter Guitars, D'Addario, Sennheiser microphones or Craig amps. We have a section featuring products from that. We’ll also have a demo section for those products, play a Schecter Guitar or plug into a Craig Amp.”
John Reese (center) hanging with Disturbed.
All the cross-promotion, from store displays at the retail level to store displays at concert sites, may appear at first glance to be a solid undertaking almost guaranteed to increase sales, reinforce brands and bring artists and fans closer together. However, Reese and Bennett are well aware that their undertakings are merely yet another message in a world where consumers are flooded with input.
From the Web to Instant Messaging to Twitter, target audiences, especially those made up of teens and young adults, are constantly bombarded with information, advertising and promotions. And, like any promotional effort, part of the job is cutting through all the static, clutter and noise.
“The important thing for the company is driving consumers and making sure it moves the needle and making sure that people come into the stores,” Reese said. “It’s tough enough to get people’s attention in this day and age with 600 video channels, video games and every little nuisance out there that grabs people’s attention. You’ve got to come up with ways and means for artists that will drive consumers to buy tickets and participate in your events.”
The video game company's high-profile presence on this year's Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar tour.
As Reese and Bennett described a company that specializes in bringing two diverse elements – artistic and corporate – to the same table, it became clear Entertainment 3Sixty’s mode of operation isn’t something one learns through MBA programs, but is more about combining passion for the music with the business chops for navigating boardrooms and building profit margins. The end result, such as activations at the concert site running in tandem with store displays and brand marketing, often represents the culmination of several elements In many instances, Entertainment 3Sixty is forging its own path as it enters previously unexplored revenue channels in its quest for success.
Which brings up an obvious question: What background, skills or talent does the company seek when hiring new employees?
“Closers,” answered Reese. “We look for people who understand our motto that first and foremost it’s about delivering, but in a compassionate and caring way. It’s about understanding the connection between what will work for both parts. On top of that, being a fuckin’ tyrannical closer.”
As an example, Reese described a recently hired employee whose experience was in the recording industry, saying although she didn’t have any agency experience, she had “made a lot of deals” for her label and “refused to take ‘no’ for an answer if she thinks it works for both parties.”
“People who have the philosophy we do,” Reese said. “Enjoy what you do, do a great job at it and give a fuck.
“I find a lot of times that passion has left the building. And giving a fuck about what you do is so important. And the rest of our team, they fuckin’ care.”
As with many companies launched in the last decade, it might seem as if Entertainment 3Sixty could not exist without computers and the Internet. After all, computers help reduce time and effort spent running clerical and other office-support operations, enabling smaller staffs to accomplish more than their 20th Century brethren. Although Reese believes Entertainment 3Sixty could operate in a less-connected world, he’s aware of the advantages of promotion via texting, tweets and e-mail.
“Ten to 12 years ago it was about radio, television and print. With rock ‘n’ roll you could throw 40 percent to radio and 30 and 30 to TV and print. Or maybe even 20 to TV and 40 to print,” Reese said. “Now, the Internet is half of the equation. That’s where people go to discover new things. It’s your selection to go and learn about things rather than a radio station telling you what to know or a newspaper printing an ad.”
Fans check out the brands at a Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar tour stop.
For an up-and-coming band, the world of sponsors, brands and activations might seem a somewhat sterile world for promoting an art form. Yet, there’s no denying that corporate dollars help make touring possible. For years artists and fans alike have often denounced the commercialization of music, such as U2 hawking iPods or Led Zeppelin pushing Cadillacs.
But it’s a different world than when The Rolling Stones once made headlines by selling its tour sponsorship to a perfume company. Factor in the loss of those once-trusty revenue streams known as album and singles sales, and it quickly becomes apparent that ticket sales and merch revenue aren’t enough to sustain the cost of doing music’s business, something many of today’s artists and bands are highly cognizant of.
“The stuff we’re working with or that we get approached to work on, are artists and bands that want to work with the corporate world,” Bennett said. “I think with where the record industry is going, it’s very important and powerful to them to be in the brand world. I think you’re really starting to see attitudes change because they see what a brand can bring to the table and how brands can drive sales on a different front than the label.”
What’s next for Entertainment 3Sixty? Apparently more of the same, but bigger, badder and better as the company strives to take its expertise, not only to the next level, but even beyond.
“I want to provide a turn-key solution. I see so many activations that could have been done better.” Reese told Pollstar. “I want a full-service agency where we sell it, service it and put it on the road. We see it from point A to point Z all the way through and we manage the entire operation.
“We started as a sales agency but I want to get into the activation side and pull off big activations for major companies. I’ve produced some of the biggest rock music festivals in the world and I think could pull off major activations in my sleep and do it better than anyone else.”
The Entertainment 3Sixty co-founder contemplates his next move.
For more information, click here for the Entertainment 3Sixty website.