I left the music business in 1999, right around the time that Napster and other peer-to-peer file sharing businesses were giving consumers the ability to pirate recorded music for free. Recording artists soon turned to live performances as a way to make up the lost income.
And, the recording artist mistakenly still thought they remained the king. After all, they were the brand name. They were the reason people bought concert tickets and they demanded very hefty fees to play. So, ticket prices rose and rose, until consumers became very selective about which concerts they were going to see. As a result, many second tier performers canceled tour dates because ticket sales lagged due to the high prices. And, combined with rapidly declining CD sales, the demise of the music business began to rapidly pick up speed.
Until the music business discovered one thing – brand.
Not the artist’s brand. But, a different kind of brand. A brand that was based upon the very thing that music lovers everywhere truly craved during a live performance. The experience.
Particularly, the experience of a community of thousands during a destination music weekend with friends. The festival names are now all familiar. Coachella ($47.3 million, 78,500 people daily, six days), Lollapalooza ($22.5 million, 100,000 people, three days), and Bonnaroo ($30 million, 80,000 people, four days) And in the U.K., the five day Glastonbury Festival draws over 175,000 people per day.
By branding the experience, festival promoters created a different value proposition for music lovers. It was less about the artist. And all about the experience and the festival.
Want proof? Last year, my daughter bought a $375 ticket to Coachella before she knew any of the musicians scheduled to play. She wasn’t the only one. In 2013, tickets to Coachella sold out in 20 minutes.
Coachella’s promise is the experience. With great musicians. The specific choices of recording artists are entrusted to the promoters. Which drives down the promoter’s cost for musicians. And increases the money they can spend on enhancing other aspects of the experience. That delivers a far richer experience than simply a concert. So, kids want those tickets even more.
Because after all, a brand is a promise and a promise is based on trust. Year after year, Coachella delivers on that promise, no matter which musicians it invites to play.
It took the scourge of piracy and the demise of the music business as we knew it for industry executives to discover the power of leveraging brand as a way to increase revenues and profits. Perhaps, your company can embark on that journey a lot sooner in its lifecycle.