Mass Behavior and Social Cues in Live Concert Venues

 

 

Formal Theories of Mass Behavior teaches us that when faced with a decision, the consumer will pull from external stimuli to test their initial hypothesis of what they anticipate the outcome to be. For instance, if you think a glass will break when you drop it. You can let it fall to the ground and see what happens. Then, classify this information for future situations regarding the fragile nature of glass products.

 

The problem arises when the consumer cannot test their initial hypothesis directly and efficiently. In a very timely example, it is cost and time prohibitive for the average voter to determine if candidate “A” will do well for them when in office. To truly gauge the outcome, the voter would need to dive deep into the candidate’s past behavior and history addressing various political issues through historical analysis, observing the party in action, and/or speaking with them directly. All items that require a great deal of decision investment to accomplish.

 

To counteract this problem, the consumer takes part in a social engagement where they ask someone – preferably someone they deem has knowledge of whom will be the best candidate and then they weigh those opinions against their initial hypothesis. If these judgments fall into alignment, the consumer’s decision is re-affirmed and they move forward with their initial opinion. This information is then retained in their decision-psyche to be pulled from in similar future situations. Just like our glass-breaking test.

 

However, if the external stimuli disagree with the consumer’s initial hypothesis. They will likely seek out additional opinions to “break the tie.” This back and forth can follow multiple cycles until the consumer makes a final judgement to abandon their initial decision or stick to their guns.

 

So, what in the heck does this have to do with live entertainment? In a previous post, I discussed a phenomenon I call the “adoption point.” This is when the crowd grows to a comfortable size, which reaffirms the prospect’s decision to “join the pack.” It is rooted in our primal instincts, which happen to form the foundation analyzed by McPhee’s Formal Theories text. A time when the young wolf analyzes what he thinks will happen to him if he goes it alone versus joining the rest of his howling buddies. The larger the pack… the more he feels secure in their collective decision to stick together.

 

This is something I see on a regular basis in the concert world.  One of our venues is an open design where onlookers can stand outside the perimeter of the space and watch the band interact with the crowd.  Constant observations have demonstrated to me that when the onlooker hears the entertainment and stops to investigate. They are less likely to enter the space if they do not see a crowd dancing or otherwise enjoying the music. In addition, monitoring this situation has revealed a direct correlation between the time it takes the prospect to enter the room and the number of persons on the dance floor.  If it is zero, the onlooker is extremely unlikely to enter. In a venue with a capacity of 250, if there are 125 plus on the floor. The prospect will very likely enter the space with their waiting time reduced per every ten or so persons in the venue. It is this author’s hypothesis that this correlation can be defined by McPhee’s analysis.  The prospect arrives at the entrance to the venue with an idea of how they will likely feel about their night out. They weigh these thoughts against the enjoyment they see – more specifically how the other patrons appear to be reacting to the environment. The prospect’s decision to join the group is compounded with each body (one unit of positive stimuli) they see.

 

Of course, there are numerous variables at play in these situations. Style of music, time of night, day of week, look of the crowd, other choices available to the prospect, etc. However, in my opinion, McPhee’s analysis could provide additional evidence as to why dance floors seem to go from “famine to feast” in the blink of an eye.  That being the consumer watching from afar is weighing their internal opinions about the quality of music and if they will enjoy it against the reaffirming stimuli of the group. Since it is easy for them to categorize the size of the crowd against the perceived quality of the act, this decision will become shorter and shorter as the dance floor reaches capacity.

 

Venue managers can use this behavior to both increase the turnout as well as ancillary income such as drink sales. Here are a few ideas.

 

Getting and keeping bodies on the floor:

  • When the band goes on break, do not turn down the music and dim the stage lights. Keep it up and keep it lively.  If the budget permits, hire a DJ to spin during the band breaks. And if you only hire DJs, there should never be a break.
  • Reverse host psychology. Most venues I see typically only hire bottle girls… why do we not use bottle guys as well? Males will appeal to your prime female demographic, which will draw your male demographic at a compounded rate.
  • Hire appealing and personable non-serving hosts with the sole purpose of driving the dance floor. Theories of Mass Behavior show us the business science of having a larger group equates to profitability growing at a compound rate. Really weigh the costs of paying a host against the forecasted returns of a room at regular capacity.
  • You have to do it consistently. You want to condition the group of reaffirms (the people your prospects will look to) to come back on a regular basis. You do this by not making them guess. Give them the same quality entertainment every night. Don’t switch genres or styles once you start to see a following.

 

Once you have a crowd:

  • If you already have a strong crowd or operate a ticketed event that is at capacity such as an amphitheater. You can use social stimuli reinforcement to get people to purchase more drinks, food, and schwag. As anyone of legal drinking age who has been to a concert knows, when the guy next to you sits down with a beer. You suddenly want a beer. The more people sitting down with alcohol in your vicinity, the greater your thirst becomes.
  • Statistics are your friend. Collecting data has never been easier. If you sell food and beer, you should be recording those sales. Make sure sales can be categorized by time stamp as well. Now, make sure you are collecting door data through ticket sales or head counts. Those numbers should be time stamped as well. Look for patterns, seek out the lulls, and initiate “blitz” promos where you reduce costs for an hour or so. This will get beers in people’s hands and as more patrons enter after the promotion dies. They will see a positive stimulus and be more prone to buying beers to “join the pack.”

 

The goal here is to start using a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in your business analysis. Since I am from rock n’ roll, I like to call this measure The Bodies on the Floor KPI (in an ode to Drowning Pool).  If you analyze this social reinforcement statistic against your other indicators, you will likely find some secret data that could equate to better profitability for your brand.

 

 

The Strategic Importance of Brand Parity in Venue Management

 

Brand parity is an important component to marketing strategy. At its core, brand parity is aligning your product with the anticipated demands of the consumer by making sure you have the same attributes as rivals in your market. In his paper “Measuring Perceived Brand Parity.” James A. Muncy, from Valdosta State University, defines it as, “the overall perception held by the consumer that the differences between the major brand alternatives in a product category are small.” That statement is important from a marketing perspective because it reminds us that strategically aligning your offerings with what is expected in the marketplace can mitigate potential competitive advantages of your rivals. In venue management, this can be witnessed quite well in heavy “club” markets such as Vegas, Sao Paulo, Montreal, and Berlin where consumers have come to expect items such as VIP/ bottle service, security, scantily clad cocktail servers, top-of-the-line sound systems, impressive light shows and marquee DJs on deck. Club owners are happy to oblige because they know to compete they must “keep up with the Joneses,” or as marketers state – establish brand parity.

 

This brings us to the other side of brand parity strategy in venue management – if your pockets are deep enough. You can use it to oust competition by creating barriers to entry. This can be witnessed in Las Vegas where resident DJ’s (look at the list below from electronic.vegas) cost tens of thousands of dollars in performance fees alone with many easily cresting the $100,000 mark.

 

3LAU – Omnia Nightclub
A-Trak – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Above & Beyond – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Adrian Lux – Encore Beach Club
Alison Wonderland – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Alesso – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Afrojack
 – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Armin van Buuren – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Arty – Drai’s Nightclub, Drai’s Beach Club
Audien – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Axwell – Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club
Baauer – Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club
Benny Benassi – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Bingo Players – Hakkasan, Wet Republic
Borgeous – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Borgore – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub, Tao
Brillz – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
BRKLYN – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Burns – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Calvin Harris – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Carnage – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Cash Cash – Hakkasan, Omnia, Wet Republic
Cedric Gervais – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Chuckie – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Clockwork – Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club
Dada Life – Hakkasan, Wet Republic
Danny Avila – Hakkasan, Wet Republic
Dash Berlin – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
David Guetta – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Deadmau5 – XS, Encore Beach Club
Deniz Koyu – Encore Beach Club, Surrender
Deorro – Encore Beach Club
Dillon Francis – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
 – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Diplo – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
DJ Irie – Light, Daylight
DJ Mustard – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
DJ Shift – Drai’s Nightclub, Drai’s Beach Club
DJ Snake – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Duke Dumont – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Dyro – Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club
Dzeko & Torres – Hakkasan, Wet Republic
EC Twins – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
EDX – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Eric Prydz – Drai’s Nightclub, Drai’s Beach Club
Eva Shaw – Hakkasan, Wet Republic
FAED – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Fedde Le Grand – Encore Beach Club, XS
Ferry Corsten – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Fergie (DJ) – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Flosstradamus – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
French Montana – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Galantis – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Gareth Emery – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Getter – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Ghastly – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
gLAdiator – Drai’s Nightclub, Drai’s Beach Club
Grandtheft – Surrender
GTA – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Hardwell – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Heroes x Villains – XS
Hook N Sling – Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club
Illenium – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Ingrosso – Light Nightclub, Daylight Beach Club
Irie – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Jauz – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Julian Jordan – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Kaskade – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Kennedy Jones – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Krewella
 – Omnia
LA Leakers – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Laidback Luke – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Lil Jon – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Lost Kings – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Markus Schulz – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Martin Solveig – Surrender
Madeon – Encore Beach Club
Major Lazer – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
MAKJ – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Marshmello – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Martin Garrix – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Matoma – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Morgan Page – Surrender, Encore Beach Club
Nervo – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
NGHTMRE – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Nicky Romero – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Ookay – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Paper Diamond – Surrender
Party Favor – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Paul Oakenfold – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Porter Robinson
 – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Puff Daddy – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Quintino – Drai’s Nightclub, Drai’s Beach Club
Robin Schulz – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
RL Grime – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Ruckus – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Sander van Doorn – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Skrillex – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Slander – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Stafford Brothers – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Steve Angello – XS, Encore Beach Club
Steve Aoki – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Sultan & Ned Shepard – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano – Hakkasan, Wet Republic
The Chainsmokers – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Tiesto – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Timmy Trumpet – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Travis Scott – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Tritonal – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Tommy Trash – XS, Encore Beach Club
Ty Dolla $ign – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Vice – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Vinai – Marquee Nightclub, Marquee Dayclub
Virgil Abloh – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
WeAreTreo – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic
Wolfgang Gartner
 – XS
Yellow Claw – XS, Surrender, Intrigue, Encore Beach Club
Zedd – Hakkasan, Omnia, Jewel, Wet Republic

 

This impressive list demonstrates that if one wanted to start a club on the strip in Las Vegas, they would be extremely hard-pressed to do so as the environment demanded by consumers in this area would force them to meet the venue design, ambiance, and reportedly $1 million Calvin Harris makes each night at Hakkasan. Quite simply, they would need to adopt the brand parity of a market put in place by conglomerates backed by casino money. And if they choose not to, they would be lost in the advertising noise of a collective market working against them.

 

Obviously, other attributes come into play when launching a venue. You could position yourself in a tighter niche in the EDM world such as trance. You could reduce costs and charge consumers less than the $30-$50 charged by the major-branded clubs. You could even move off of the strip and cater to the locals. However, that is not the point of this post. The lesson here is. When planning, launching and running an entertainment venue, one must forego the blanket advice of many armchair marketers to simply differentiate the brand. Rather, you need to pinpoint what attributes you should (and can afford to) fall in line with to meet the customer expectations your competition has put in place. Only then, should you look for ways to differentiate.

 

 

 

Respect the Pre-Gig Window

 

 

Musicians and entertainers are a unique breed of individuals… an enigma if you will? Many times, that outgoing personality we see on-stage is not the same person behind it. In fact, from my experience, I find that most entertainers are more introverted than extroverted. They are reserved and highly emotional individuals partly because the product they present is based on emotional attachment.

 

This is why it is imperative that managers, stagehands, venue representatives, marketing personnel, etc. respect the pre-performance time of the artist. I am speaking about the hour directly before they hit the stage. During this time, that introvert is preparing to “come out of their shell,” and for your venue to succeed. You want them to complete that transition. Over the years, I have seen personnel mismanage acts large and small at this point because they do not understand this aspect of the entertainer psyche. I have watched security give them hard times as they approached the stage about their credentials (even with me leading them). Managers argue with musicians about bar tabs before they hit the lights and tech’s fight with DJs about their set-up minutes before showtime.  In all of these situations, the show suffered. Why? Because, in each instance, these events did not allow the artist to get out of their introverted state – a state you do NOT want them to be in when they are entertaining your audience.

 

I understand that any event is made up of numerous personnel with various personalities, job demands, and views of their position within the concert eco-system.  Regardless, in the end. The show is ALL about appeasing the audience and the person they are most connected to at that point is the entertainer. They are the direct link between your success and the audience and for the next forty, sixty, or ninety plus minutes the most important person on the property.  Here are some pieces of advice to help you set them (and your venue) up for success.

 

Give them their space. Make sure the act has a spot where they can “get away” if they need to. It doesn’t need to be a green room. A small corner of the lounge or section of the patio will work. Many times, you will see artists “hide-out” behind the stage.  This is usually a sign to leave them alone.

 

Hold off on your reprimands. Was the artist late? Did they not dress properly? Did they load-in through the wrong door? Did their last show bomb?  NOW is NOT the time to address this with them. You will have plenty of time to discuss these items later on. If you want a great show, you can’t send them on stage worried or thinking about how they already failed. Give them feedback after the show, or better yet. The next day.

 

Make them feel tech-secured. Make sure your technicians touch base with the artist and ask them if they have any questions, comments, or concerns about a 1/2 hour before showtime. Then, actively listen to their demands. NOW is NOT the time to fight with them about mic placement or to start a rift regarding in-ear monitors. Rather, NOW is the time to make them feel like you have their back for the next 45-plus minutes.

 

Treat them like rock stars. Even if you hate their music or dislike the entertainer as a person because he stole your girlfriend. Smile and tell them to have a great show as they head towards the stage. If you have a history of their performance. Tell them about something they did at the last show that you thoroughly enjoyed. Just don’t tell them your mom or grandma likes their music and don’t oversell your enthusiasm.

 

Remember the Berklee Recording Rule. While studying briefly at Berklee College of Music, I spent many hours in recording sessions with my roommate who was in the final year of the program. I heard variations of the following phrase.

“It is your job to support the artist and stay out of their way.” 

I learned that this meant that you supported the artist’s physical and mental space above all else. You rolled with every punch.  You didn’t force the drummer to move his snare for better mic placement. You worked around it. If the pianist runs all of his keys through the same amp, you find a way to work within his set-up and don’t force him to change it. If the singer feels comfortable in the dark with candles – you shut the lights off, even if you can’t see a damn thing.

 

What Berklee’s recording and engineering lesson teaches us is that ultimately, your goal is to send an artist on stage feeling confident, respected, and in-demand. This will help pull them out of their introverted headspace, let their artistry shine, and focus on connecting with their fans. The end result is a better show with a greater opportunity for success.

 

 

 

 

KPI’s in Venue Management

I recently asked my LinkedIn network what KPI’s, besides revenue, they use for their entertainment venue analysis.

 

I figured this would be a tough question because I removed the most prevalent answer when it comes to venue management analysis – revenue generation. I wanted to omit the low-hanging fruit to force my network to consider other Key Performance Indicators regarding their entertainment space and how valuable they can be.

 

For those who do not understand what KPI’s are.  Here is a quick and simple breakdown from Investopedia. According to their site. “Key performance indicators (KPI) are a set of quantifiable measures that a company uses to gauge its performance over time. These metrics are used to determine a company’s progress in achieving its strategic and operational goals, and also to compare a company’s finances and performance against other businesses within its industry.”

 

The revenue metrics are the most important and fairly easy to digest in regards to entertainment booking. If you book a band and they sell out the venue. That is a positive KPI. Just remember, if you are in charge of assigning revenue metrics you should include ancillary income such as food and drink sales.  I have seen many situations where one act didn’t sell out the room but brought in a demographic that drank the house dry resulting in an overall larger return on investment.

 

Key Performance Indicators go beyond just revenue-generating metrics. Better institutions will assign them to other areas of the business eco-system such as cost reduction, process improvements, and customer satisfaction. All of these variables work off of one another and when assigned properly and analyzed consistently can lead to exponential growth.  Here are a few suggestions of non-revenue generating KPI’s to consider for an entertainment venue.

 

Cost Reduction: Is the venue overstaffed? Are your performance hours not in-line with your demographic (e.g. does the room die at 11:00 pm, but you are paying entertainment and employees to be on-site until 2:00 am)?

 

Process Improvement: Are you getting your guests in fast enough and moving them to areas of revenue such as the bar efficiently?

 

Customer Satisfaction: Are you monitoring the social chatter regarding your venue?  Are the reviews of your entertainment, venue, and operations positive? Are you surveying past customers to learn about their experiences to share with your team?

 

*BONUS – Employee Satisfaction: Are you talking to your team to see if THEY are happy? Do you survey guests regarding their experience with specific employees through analysis such as Net Promoter Scores and satisfaction surveys?

 

These are just a few suggestions regarding non-revenue KPI’s you can adapt for your entertainment venue. Just remember each business environment is different and you may have to tweak your analysis to uncover your areas of weakness and opportunity.  If you would like some help analyzing your entertainment venue, give me a shout.

 

 

Five Take-A-Ways from Five Years Booking and Managing Entertainment

I celebrate my five-year anniversary with Mike Moloney Entertainment on March 1st, 2018 and what a crazy, chaotic, and fun ride it has been. So, I wanted to share with you five take-a-ways from my time as a booking agent and entertainment manager.  Enjoy!