What does Madonna’s New Tour Strategy Really Mean For The Concert Business?

In Uncategorized by wakemanconsultingLeave a Comment


In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the launch of Madonna’s new tour and her strategy of playing smaller venues and charging higher prices.

At the core of the article is an implication that this is a way to “beat” the brokers.

I’m not sure if I buy that angle, but I do think it is a wise decision for Madonna to change the way she is presenting her show and ensuring that she generous maximum revenue with minimum costs and expenses.

To me, Madonna’s new tour highlights 4 ideas we should pay attention to as they highlight trends that we can all use to increase our business from our experiences:

  1. Know your market
  2. One data point or even two doesn’t make a trend
  3. Making an experience unique is at the heart of “The Experience Economy”
  4. Always question anyone that says they are going to beat “scalpers”

Let me explain each of these a little more completely.

Know your market:

At the heart of Madonna’s strategy for this tour is a recognition of who her target audience is and making decisions based around that.

At 61, Madonna doesn’t really have anything to prove to any of us.

So the fact that she is doing more residencies and no arenas is just a wise business decision.


  1. She controls costs by not having to travel constantly.
  2. By packaging her show into smaller, intimate, and unique venues for her, she’s creating a unique experience that her fans may never have again, creating a premium experience.
  3. Also, by spreading her shows over a residency in smaller venues, she is taking advantage of the fact that her most hardcore fans are likely to come see her more than once in a city.
  4. At 61, many of her fans may have the desire for a more intimate or more custom experience and have the willingness to pay for it.

If you compare this to other artists that have seen some of their momentum stunted by playing venues that weren’t a good fit for them, or undergoing strategies that might not be wise long-term, you see the wisdom in taking control of the presentation of your shows by clearly recognizing your audience and taking a point of view in how you think they will best recieve your show.

This is what Madonna did by scaling down, creating something more intimate, and charging accordingly. She’s signalling to her audience, “this is for you, it isn’t for everyone.”

One data point or two doesn’t make a trend: 

The article points to Taylor Swift and Madonna as highlighting a trend in acts charging higher prices for their tickets and citing this as a way that artists across the board are beating “scalpers”.

Two, or three, artists don’t make a trend.

And, I think that the only trend that all of this highlights is that you and your organization or artists need to know their strengths and plan your tours and your events accordingly.

I say this because you have Taylor Swift and Madonna on one side. On another side you have Ed Sheeran. Somewhere else you have have Garth Brooks.

All of these artists have decided to maximize their revenue, try to win revenue that the secondary market was capturing, and satisfy their fans.

What’s consistent about them is that focus.

How they get there isn’t consistent at all.

That’s the trend. You have to know your audience and come up with a solution that fits your goals because the other trend that is on display is that the one size fits all tour is likely still going to be something that the secondary market actively participates int.

Making an experience unique is at the heart of “The Experience Economy”

I talked with an executive at the Sydney Opera House and one of the challenges that they have faced over the years is keeping the experience unique to people that once they’ve seen something start to view an experience as passe.

This is what Madonna’s tour highlights once again…you have to create unique experiences for your fans to capture the maximum opportunity in “The Experience Economy”.

Just as much as the trend of premium pricing or “slow ticketing” for blockbuster performers doesn’t hold as much water as many people would hope, a trend that does hold up pretty well is the idea that giving your fans something unique or special in their experience does hold a tremendous amount of water and we are seeing that in experiences across the world.

Recently, the Washington Nationals were promoting a first pitch package. The first of its kind in MLB.

Anthony Iannarino wrote a few months back about the incredible experience he had meeting Alice Cooper at the backstage meet and greet during his tour.

The article this morning highlights all the ways that Madonna is offering fans VIP experiences.

This is the core of “The Experience Economy”. Give people something that they are going to shout about because it is so different and so thrilling that they can’t do anything but talk about it.

Always question any article that builds one of its premises on “beating scalpers”

No matter what side of the debate you fall down on, pro-broker or anti-broker, the idea of one strategy eliminating the secondary market is laughable, at best.

The reality is that the secondary market is still healthy and has become the go-to destination for people when they start their event discovery process.

Why is this happening?

A few reasons, not least among them:

  1. Investments in branding, marketing, and digital spending.
  2. A failure of the primary market to have their marketing tactics and efforts keep pace with the best practices from around the world of business.
  3. A simpler, more customer-focused buying process.

I’ll listen to your arguments about pricing and gouging and manipulation. I’d even agree that in some cases I agree with a lot of them.

But the biggest failure on display regularly is how poorly experiences like sports, concerts, and theatre are marketing in most cases.

The outliers that people point to consistently like Pearl Jam, The Dead, or Ed Sheeran, prove this point.

Because of the lack of marketing effectiveness, this provides the entry point that the secondary market needs to create value for buyers and content producers.

Within that there are tons of people that create value and many that the only value they offer is having a credit card with a large credit limit.

While I agree with some of these businesses approaches and I’m a little skeptical of the value others create, the one thing I am certain of is that as long as the concert business and other experience businesses fail to market effectively, the secondary market will still have a place and no one will “beat” them because of that.

What did you think about the article and Madonna’s new tour? Let me know below.


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