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Too Much Tech, Not Enough Life…Or Putting Life Into Live Entertainment!

One of the great things about time is that it moves on and creates change. While not all change is good, much of what we really enjoy comes about because of the evolution of technology, life, whatever.

And, as I was reading Scott Cutler’s LinkedIn post this morning, I got to thinking about the way everyone is rushing to grovel at the alter of tech, no questions asked.

Look, I’m no luddite by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve got an iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, and countless other things that put me definitely into the pro tech team.

But what a lot of the things that we see about technology and its adaptation miss is that instead of enhancing our ability to connect and experience things, they detract from it.

Mark Cuban wrote a few years back about his goal with the Mavericks being to get people to look up from their devices.

But in too many cases, we find that our games and events are only opportunities for people to stare down at their devices even more.

That’s not technologies fault, that’s ours.

Because if we don’t create the kind of experiences and environments where we capture your attention and transport you, its our fault. Because consumers have countless other entertainment options these days, they don’t need us…whatever live entertainment form we are: sports, theater, concerts.

Technology is just a tool. A tool that moves data from place to place. That facilitates transactions. That enables communication.

What happens if we don’t do enough to create an environment where great experiences can occur and will happen?

We find that technology is a better option than what is in front of us, driving whatever we might have at our venue into the position of a commodity.

That’s why we have to refocus on what we are producing for our buyers and fans.

Here are 3 ideas to put the life back into live entertainment:

1. Think about the whole experience:

I’m pretty rare in the world of sports business, for sure, but in most businesses, I think, in that I think about the full lifetime value of my customers and any customers I might be seeking.

Let’s be honest, gaining new customers is expensive and time consuming.

But in too many instances, we spend so much time focusing on making transactions that we miss out on making relationships.

And, what this thinking does to our ability to sustain our business is harms us, sometimes for the short term, sometimes for the long term.

A big way that this plays out is that we never think about the full lifecycle fan experience from the start of their buying journey, through the event, and until the exit and beyond.

If we thought about the live event experience as a journey, I think we would find that too many of our “best practices” or “ideas” aren’t very fan friendly or don’t produce the results that we need them to.

If we start to think about the full experience, we are going to change the way that we do business with our customers.

An example that I love to point to is the way that Pearl Jam tours.

Mike McCready says that they like to be pretty DIY about touring. And, I bet that on any given tour they don’t make the most money. But I bet on any given tour that the spend per fan is higher than almost any other act.

Why is that?

Because they consider the full lifetime value of their fans.

I mean the fan club experience is top notch. To get the best seats, you go through the fan club. The band controls the box office for most of the inventory. They do special merchandise for each show. After the show, they produce setlist t-shirts and bootlegs for the show. They allow open bootlegging of their shows which means that typically high quality video of the shows is produced on the Internet.

And, the cycle picks up where it left off.

What this does is produces a positive feedback loop.

Compare that to most other experiences that you have.

Does the NHL do that for you?

Does the NBA communicate with you across a full lifecycle?

Does your theatre?

This can be accomplished by more bands, productions, and venues with the right thinking in place and an understanding that ticket buyers aren’t necessarily evergreen and renewable resources that can just be plucked from thin air with enough cold calls.

2. Give the consumer something that deserves their attention

It is easy to bemoan the idea that technology has intruded too much on live entertainment.

Maybe it has.

I like to think it is our fault for not making better in-venue experiences.

I’ve been to a few concerts recently and a bunch of games.

What have I noticed, that there is no uniform idea for what will keep people’s attention and what won’t.

What I have noticed is that if you can engage fans in the experience, you have a better opportunity to keep their attention.

I mean, I remember attending the Wilco concert at DAR Hall in DC on Super Bowl Sunday in 2016 and Wilco had the audience in their hand. No one was paying attention to their cell phones, checking football scores, or anything like that.

Wilco, not a hard rock band or someone that you would say is putting on a spectacle. The music carried the show.

Pearl Jam, more high energy…unbelievable energy for dudes in their 50’s. Energy and focus, on the band.

College basketball, less so. So many stops in action that energy waned and people were distracted.

Hockey, which should be the most popular sport in North America, has fans riveted. I mean I can go an entire period without ever even thinking about checking my phone. Fast, exciting, and engaging.

On and on.

What we have to do is find ways to focus our fans on the action and make sure that the action moves in a way that allows fans to focus their attention on the product we have produced. Sure, nothing is 100%, but we can improve.

And, if you think about it like this, the more time fans keep their eyes on their phones…the more they consider your event a commodity.

Commodities are cheap.

You don’t want to be cheap, you want to be special.

So give them something that is worthy of their attention.

I get it. We have to have ads and commercials and sponsors, but there are better ways to deliver sponsorships and commercials that are less passive and less likely to be shut out. There has to be because sponsorship awareness and attention to commercials is at an all-time low and dropping fast.

3. Build technology that supports the things that you want to happen

This is the key thing about technology: it should be a tool to help create opportunities for you to be more human.

The stuff that is low value and doesn’t allow you to be the most human should be systemized and have technology assist it.

God bless you for making the ticket buying process easier over the Internet.

If I can sit in my seat and order a hot dog, beer, and popcorn at my seat that comes in a shorter time than me getting up to stand on line, even better. I’m almost certain I am going to spend more money!

If your technology makes me spend a lot of time on useless interactions, no thank you.

The thing is that we all do a very poor job of identifying the root challenges we face. Like when you do fan surveys, they are going to tell you about pain points. Which make it seem easy to solve those problems, but what is the root issue?

Long lines on a survey is easy to associate with the need for more points of purchase. But more points of purchase might still take fans away from the action.

What about how can you eliminate lines and increase revenue per customer?

What would that mean from a technology standpoint?

Fans aren’t buying enough merchandise?

Maybe their is a technological fix for that?

Is there an on-demand solution that would allow customization or specialization?

Can you use this technology to create special, event specific merchandise?

Fans aren’t buying tickets until the last minute?

This can easily be associated with they can’t discover what’s on sale or whats coming up?

When in fact, we are struggling with several issues that lowers ticket sales. A poor online experience. Poor pricing structures. Trouble getting friends and family to decide on events and a bunch of other challenges.

What would building technologies that simplified the buying process mean? Especially if we created situations where we made it easier for groups to buy adjacent seats without one person necessarily having to buy the tickets? Or promoting that kind of opportunity?

The thing about it is that we have to do a much better job of making the technology support the actions that we want to have occur and not just taking the path of least resistance and finding out that it doesn’t create the outcomes that we desire.

Together, all of these ideas focus back to the real hypothesis about the growth of live entertainment. We really have to focus more on the live part.