You're looking at a photo of Willie Nelson's very slick tour bus. Take a good look because if what we're beginning to see from legacy artists becomes a trend, the tour bus may become a thing of the past.
The basic concert touring model has always been a simple one. Buy a tour bus, outfit it with all the comforts of home, and set out on the road, playing one town after another. With the exception of some YouTube stars, just about everyone who has ever made a name for themselves or their band has hit the road in this fashion – from the Big Band Era through Rock N' Roll, and into Hip-Hop.
But now, rockers of a certain age are beginning to experiment with different performance models. And if it works, in the near future, we'll be going to them rather than them coming to us.
In many ways, this is reflective of the Cirque du Soleil model we discussed in a post last month. While the traditional circus picked up stakes, and used the railroad system to move from city to town, the Cirque model uniquely tethers itself to a venue – like a casino. Millions of people come to Vegas (and other markets) to pay to see them. And it shouldn't be lost on all of us that Ringling Brothers threw in the towel earlier this year, performing their very last show in May. The touring model wasn't sustainable.
And that same reality may be dawning on some aging rockers, tired of the monotonous, grueling life on the road. And now they're beginning to look at the same model that has worked so well for Cirque du Soleil – staying put.
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That's also how it works with Broadway plays.
And it could be exactly the model that is inspiring Bruce Springsteen to settle into a Broadway theater, and play a series of intimate shows for eight weeks in a killer performance environment. The New York Post reports The Boss is set to announce a partnership with Jujamcyn Theaters that will have him playing five nights a week on Broadway late this year.
The story is that Springsteen will hole up at the Walter Kerr Theater – 975 seat capacity – and you know these shows will sell out in…a New York minute. So no planes or tour buses, no setups and breakdowns. Just a perfect place for Bruce fans to see their idol in a unique venue – with less tear on him and the band.
The Who are pretty much on that same page – just a different venue. Right now, you can buy tickets to see the band, performing a beta run of shows in late July-early August at Caesar's Palace ($123-$1,872).
They call it a “residency” – an experience shared by artists like Celine Dione and Garth Brooks. But we're talking The Who – once cutting edge, but now fronted by two seventysomething rockers, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, looking for an alternative from the traditional concert tour experience.
Rather than ending a show and heading out to the bus for that long drive to St. Louis or Tampa, it will be a lot easier to head up the elevator to their respective suites, order dinner, and hit the sack.
They're calling these six shows “the first run,” an indicator that if they go well, The Who will be hanging out in Sin City for a lot longer.
For the performers themselves, the plusses of Broadway and Vegas are obvious. But the less intended benefit for fans is seeing these iconic bands in very different venues with smaller crowds and more amenities. But if you want to see either Bruce, Roger, or Pete this year, you'll have to fly to NYC or Vegas – they're not coming to your town. I'm told there's a lot to do in both places.
It's a reminder to us in radio that the traditional way in which listeners have come to enjoy morning and personality shows is by simply listening to the radio.
But as the consumer appetite for experiences that are new and different grows, it might be smart business to think about presenting top radio talent in different formats and venues.
Intimate studio audiences at the radio station, small theater shows during the year, and live in-studio video are all ways top radio talent might reinvigorate their brands and get their audiences more engaged. Not to mention opening up sponsorship and advertiser participation opportunities.
For Springsteen and The Who, it may be the end of the road as they knew it. But it may also be the beginning of exciting new fan experiences.
And for radio stars – why not?
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