We don't get 'em all right, but we predicted this one early this year. At the time it seemed obvious.
In April, I wrote a post, “Too Many Concerts, Too Little Time Money,” in which I created a programming and sales road map for radio stations hoping to cash in on this amazing year of concert tours. But it goes beyond simply people spending money on music entertainment, and right to the heart of our emotional healing post-pandemic. (The post is linked above.)
It looks now like a certainty 2022 will be the breakout year for live entertainment, notably music concerts. This good news comes after most bands lost two full touring seasons of potential revenue of concerts tickets and merch.
And radio is in position to reap some of the benefits. It's still mid-June, not too late for radio to make its move, and equate concerts with a major political year (which 2022 also promises to be). But stations need a strategy to truly cash in on this concert bonanza.
Digital Music News reported over the weekend that Live Nation's “Concert Week” (May 4-10) sales figures broke the all-time record set in 2019 – before COVID.
During this week of concert sales, Live Nation offers $25 all-in tickets to north of 4,000 live shows throughout North America. This year, “Concert Week” sold more than 2.2 million tickets.
Even better, more than one in four buyers purchased concert tickets for at least two shows, underscoring the pent up demand to see live music this summer.
Note that these gargantuan ticket sales were simultaneous to the worst inflation this country has seen since the 1970's with gas prices hitting in all-time high in the U.S. Digital Music News quoted Kelly Strickland, SVVP of U.S. Concert Tour Marketing for Live Nation:
“We have seen that fans are willing to spend money on seeing the artists they love live over any other entertainment option out there.”
And there's no supply chain shortage of Classic Rock this summer. Here's the second piece of evidence this year will be one to remember for concerts, especially among acts that have been around for decades.
NJ.com lists no fewer than 53 major concert tours under the “Classic Rock” umbrella this year. Their complete list is linked to the story above by staff writer Matt Levy.
It includes Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and Elton John – all megawatt performers. It also includes tours from the Who, Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, and Santana.
Then there's the Eagles, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Styx, and Alice Cooper. And the list goes on…and on.
The 2022 Classic Rock tour schedule is yet another reminder of just how many truly super groups emerged from the 60's and 70's. For rockers of a certain age, it may be the last time to see some of these performers live in concert. And for the groundswell of Classic Rock fans under 40, it's the chance to see many of these icons for the first time.
One of the standouts, of course, is Sir Paul who turned 80 years young this past Saturday. For Classic Rock stations, these birthday celebrations have been something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, rock survivors are obviously a hardy lot, given how many have left this earth way too young. So, it's always a great excuse to play a bunch of songs back-to-back to celebrate one of these red letter birthdays.
But on the other, perhaps it sends out a different message to younger listeners – namely, some of their favorite artists are old enough to be their grandparents. The conventional wisdom in the Classic Rock format has been to recognize that Don Henley has a birthday next month, but to omit the detail that he's older than your Aunt Florence.
But turning the Big 8-0 is indeed a milestone, and two of the smartest programmers I know – Scott Jameson and Bill Weston – didn't just acknowledge Macca's big birthday, they built a day of programming around it on both WCSX here in Detroit, and on WMGK in Philly.
And why not? The former Beatle proves he truly still has it, playing a 3-hour set the other night in New Jersey, bringing local music gods Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi on stage for the finale of his “Get Back” tour. Brenna Ehrlich, chief research editor for Rolling Stone documented the moment on Twitter, marveling at Sir Paul's stamina:
Bruce and Bon Jovi came back for the encore. The audience is wrung out. Paul hasn’t even stopped for a sip of water. pic.twitter.com/aM1IlWKJQh
— Brenna Ehrlich (@BrennaEhrlich) June 17, 2022
Strategically, many Classic Rock stations have pruned their Beatles' libraries to the point of extinction. But to celebrate a brilliant artist and his 80th trip around the sun is a moment worthy of your time and playlist.
For radio stations across the continent (and the six others), this is the summer – and the year – to pull out all the stops. Celebrating a major concert tour that comes to your town – whether it's Elton John or Grand Funk Railroad (yes, they're on the road this summer, too) – is a hand-wrapped gift.
After all, Spotify isn't going to mark the moment these amazing bands play your city. Nor is Pandora, SiriusXM, MTV, Apple Music, or any of the 2.5 million podcasts trying to get some attention.
This is what local radio does best – show up, turn it up, and talk up the amazing musicians and performers that make your town one of their tour stops. There's still time and opportunity to meet the audience where they are – that is, at the local stadium, shed, arena, or auditorium lapping up some great live music.
If that station van has been gathering dust or needs an oil change, this is the time to polish and tune it up, and rehire that street team. You might even convince a local TV station to hire one of your personalities for the season, providing more credible concert coverage when these artists show up in your market.
Of course, ticket giveaways in this heated concert environment shouldn't be run-of-the-mill. They're opportunities to truly connect with your fans, and hopefully attract more of that all-important reach and frequency. Live Nation's record weekend aside, your audience is likely struggling to make ends meet, whether it's paying for gas, food, and other staples. A pair of tickets to virtually any concert is a huge deal.
Got two extra tickets to the Rolling Stones on the 3rd of July at Hyde Park if anyone is looking them? Face value pic.twitter.com/VWTEUHuVPh
— Chris Sim (@ChrisySim) June 14, 2022
And it doesn't hurt to make your station's concert promotion look great. Graphic artist Doug Warner from Beasley Detroit did the Macca banner you see displayed above. He's in-house, and exceptionally creative and talented. But chances are, there's someone in your building who can create good-looking art for your website, social media pages, and other assets. If not, consider a site like Fiverr or Upwork that provides you with a bevvy of pros happy to turn your job around pronto at a shockingly low rate.
And finally, the same advice I dolled out earlier this year: Share the moment with your audience. Reconnecting with seeing a favorite group live is part of the remedy we're all seeking as we emerge from this nasty pandemic.
For your station, this is more than the chance to rack up revenue with political or gambling ads. It is both a strategic and tactical opportunity to connect with your local audience on a subject that virtually everyone can agree on:
The joy of experiencing live music again.
- In Radio, Whatever Happened To “4 And Out The Door?” - December 7, 2023
- An Open (News)Letter To Radio - December 6, 2023
- The Case For Handcrafted Radio - December 5, 2023