Update: April 20, 2012 With Outlands SF tickets going on sale yesterday and Earth Day on Sunday, it’s the perfect time to ‘show and tell’ why concerts are the perfect venue to teach stewardship of the planet. Think of all the waste…now do something about it.
TerraCycle is a fave for the ‘hard to recycle’ stuff, especially in SCHOOLS and CONCERTS.
Original post: August 3, 2009 How long since you’ve been to an open-air rock concert, or seen ANY artist LIVE instead of free on the internet?
I strive to attend Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit extravaganza (this year it’s slated for 10-24/25) but I’m often ‘priced out’ of concerts and Broadway shows a lot, so I was excited to take our teen tribe to The Fray this past Saturday.
As it is I wonder how kids even afford concerts?
If the proposed merger of concert behemoths Live Nation and Ticketmaster comes to pass despite antitrust concerns, we ALL have reason to give pause with the power of big media increasingly in the hands of a small few…I’m with Springsteen on the stranglehold potential for upselling and greed.
The 21st century concert experience is ripe for analysis, with GPS friend locators, mobile mapping, iphone app-Zippo lighters used as encore waves, real-time reviews lobbed onto Twitter instantly, so I figured it would be fun to view today’s live techno-influences and digital engagement through the eyes of teens and compare with a ‘that was then this is now’ golden oldie…(er, me). Are adults out of touch with rowdy moshpit memories in a reality that’s far different than today’s digital concert world? What’s changed in media, marketing, and mood?
It’s been awhile since I’ve splurged on a summer fun ‘pass the beachball at dusk’ outdoor fest, reminiscent of my halcyon days when we used to have bands inside of Diamond Head Crater and sprawled on blankets at the Waikiki Shell.
So here we go…The Fray foursome…(us not them)
The Fray are a ‘media morph’ themselves…I think of them as pop piano, but many associate them with homogenized TV show soundtracks like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, One Tree Hill, 90210 and the Transformers movie. (Seems like smart marketing exposure from a strategy stance)
We bought advance tix as a ‘four-pack lawn promo’ way back in the spring and meshed into the multigenerational crowd with ease…
Aside from getting handed an entry-coupon promo that launched a badger-fest:
“Today only $20 tickets for The Killers with no service charges!” (I’m thinking, ‘wait a sec, they’re cross-promoting in ‘if you like this, you’ll like that’ Amazon style and I don’t even have my blanket down yet?) the rest of the booths encountered en route to the lawn put a wide smile on my face, like the mini-‘tent city’ to ‘green up’ The Fray tour.
Run by REVERB, this relatively new environmental nonprofit launched by Guster guitarist/vocalist Adam Gardner educates fans at concerts and engages musicians to pay it forward…
Again, putting my ‘target marketing’ hat on, you can close your eyes and almost predict who they’ve aligned with, sure enough, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, etc.
This is no small concept and frankly, it’s a long overdue no-brainer for tapping into positive influences…
Since 2004, REVERB has already reached “over 8 million fans at concerts and greened over 70 major tours, hosted over 1700 eco-groups in their tent village” and neutralized over 62,000 tons of CO2 via their carbon offset programs.
REVERB distributes tips on wasteful packaging, plastic water bottles, and the benefits of buying local, along with seeding future mindshare to promote their various partnerships. Example?
Their relationship with PickupPal leverages the impromptu dynamic of ‘always on’ media to provide global transport, reminding,
“80% of a concert’s carbon footprint is from fans traveling to and from the venue; last year’s DMB tour alone eliminated 3.2 million miles of driving as a result of carpooling.”
The Fray Fan Carbon Offset Program seemed to be a big draw for the teens, (ok, maybe ME even more than the teens) because you could donate a small amount ($3) to support clean, renewable energy and receive a souvenir sticker, a Stonyfield Farm organic chapstick, and a chance to win a guitar.
The mom side of me saw this as a win-win value, since I didn’t mind helping build their cause-marketing database, and the green teens got a smidge of consciousness that set me back much less than a pricey tee-shirt…otherwise, I would have just donated sans ‘incentive’ but as marketers would say, it was a ‘value-add.’
Instead of shilling a bunch of concert paraphernalia, REVERB uses fan culture to harness the opportunity to share other like-minded messages and fabulous partner groups in the eco-village…Like? Love146.org which combats child sex slavery and exploitation and works to ensure the care of survivors, OxFamAmerica.org which works to end poverty, hunger and social injustice, NativeEnergy.com helping tribes build sustainable economies via wind farms, or mobilizing voter youth through the music community via Headcount.org.
As Dave Welsh, guitarist for The Fray notes in the eco-concert program,
“We have an opportunity to bring thousands of fans each night into an important conversation that they can continue in their own communities. REVERB is an integral part of this conversation.”
Sure, there was merchandising, but again, very targeted, leveraging the opportunity to take action toward a more sustainable future instead of souvenirs and tossable tchotchkes…
Think ‘laser beam precision’ of wares versus a scattershot mish-mosh of booths, tees and quality.
Long gone are the ‘I wouldn’t touch that if you paid me’ tacky rock concert items, which is actually very encouraging on the minimal consumption front…
Except when you consider the Orwellian sort of digital data-mining and behavioral profiling it took to get to that level of design sophistication, tracking, exclusivity and strategic price points of those vendor deals…but hey, that’s another post. Trade offs…always.
Plus, now that bands have moved from a MySpace anchor hub to live Twitter updates (here’s The Fray’s guitarist Dave Welsh posting TwitPics from his TwitterFon account) the whole concept of perceived intimacy takes on a new fan dimension.
Most bands leverage their own private label online stores along with point of purchase (see The Fray’s Train Station Tour, and riffs off their own lyrics like the dog tags with “Lost and insecure, you found me” etched into the gear)…so the fact that I had expected to be bombarded with ‘surround sound advertising’ and instead found a pretty clean walk-through baffled me at first.
Silly me, it’s all digital now!
I was bemused by the teens carping about the profusion of ads served up on the screen once the summer sunlight faded…then tuning the ads out dismissively. (I thought kids were supposed to be ‘desensitized’ to ambient noise?)
Waiting for the warm-up band, Live Nation invited the audience to text a personal SMS message to the widescreen to scroll in real time underneath the ads…A digital form of free ‘self-entertainment’ akin to the movie theatre quizzes to keep people’s eye on the screen I guess.
Question: Are there REALLY that many marriage proposals, pregnancy reveals and ‘coming out of the closet notices’ via the virtual stage of life’s reality show today, or is the desperate desire for fifteen seconds of fame that pronounced?
Ironically, no one appeared to even watch the ads, focusing myopically on how pithy the audience texts would get, which truly seemed to captivate the crowd. I joined in the fun and sent an SMS to the screen that said, “Do we get a discount for watching all these ads?” which of course never made it live…but it IS a fair question.
If I’m going to pay big bucks to attend a live show, they shouldn’t have the right to ambient mind pollution.
If Live Nation is going to subsidize the show with nonstop screen advertising to a captive audience, then it should be reflected in the ticket price to make it more affordable for youth to attend, n’est ce pas?
Interestingly, the participatory texting to draw eyes to the screen didn’t have the intended effect, since everyone in my perimeter tuned out the ads as urban wallpaper and focused on the texts. How do I know?
I did a random recall poll while idling in exit traffic with other gridlocked cars out of boredom…
Consistently, the only ads making the top tier were those three primary sponsors that were stationary and visibly apparent. (Verizon, Sleeptrain and Jack in the Box) Not one of the other ads flashing on the screen in rotation could be named. Put that in your subliminal anecdote file…
Whether it’s the highly personalized experience of audience participation in real time (e.g. an SMS to donate to Sweet Relief etc.) or the 21st century techno-experience that’s seamless and a bit surreal, there’s little doubt digital impact is everpresent…
With videocams the size of a card deck and people taking pictures of pictures (on the massive screens) it’s a bit mind altering to ponder what ‘live media’ really means…Cue the Dickensian mumbling, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” while I go grab my copy of Tale of Two Cities…
Other noteworthy shifts besides an increase in ticket prices, security and waistlines?
“No outside food” is the mantra for most every entertainment venue these days, which has given way to nothing short of vendor extortion, often marketed under the guise of ‘security.’
Gawd forbid we lose an ‘opportunity’ to make a buck on the backs of hungry attendees.
Let’s get real, folks. The ‘no glass’ rule may have been security.
The bright shiny objects of weaponry like eco-Thermos’ for healthy fare might as well be called ‘cucumber contraband’ since parks and shows seem to watch for smugglers of (gasp) water and nutritional fare…
Force feed french fries to youth long enough and you net a triplefold obesity issue and set normative patterns for life, but hey, call me short-sighted on the marcom strategy since we’re killing off the target market with early mortality. Sigh.
I know, I know, concerts have always been ‘big business and big bucks’ but once upon a time, you COULD choose to drag your wholesome picnic and Little Igloo coolers into a show.
I still have ‘parrot head’ flashbacks from the Waikiki Shell, beach towels sprawled and sushi/musubi/sandwich fare with the wafting scent of teriyaki on Hibachis OUTside the concert environs. ‘No hot coals’ was the most formidable reprimand.
Is there an “upside” to hawking over-priced junk food at eye-popping, exorbitant rates? Hmn…I’m reaching here, but I guess it would be that people stepping over you on the lawn have minimal spillage. After all, at $8 for a soda, who wants to risk sloshing any out?
Besides, most kids can’t afford ‘em.
AND there are fewer drunken fools and nasty hair-holding incidents, since adult beverages cost too much and BYOB is a remnant of the past. Plus, there’s always the benefit of a body cleansing ‘forced fasting’…right?
Even on the food front, hands down, MOBILE wins the ‘what’s most different’ snapshot…
I’d barely even secured the corners of our place to plop, and before I could even say ‘find me something healthy’ the teens had darted off tethered by text messaging.
Like scouts on a mission, they did recon on viable edibles, bathroom line lengths, freebie finds, and the time it takes to circle back for relocation…But it also reinforced how dependent and walled off people are, turning to gizmos for environmental awareness instead of landmarks and touchpoints.
Mobile is handy, no doubt, but it can also alter the concert ecosystem a tad, as people noticeably seem to self-amuse instead of befriending the next blanket over or play games and text message instead of chat with their nearby neighbor or absorb the live vibe ambience.
Hat tip to parents: Lift a teen’s mobile and do a panic check. I always reiterate the human compass ‘find something familiar’ theory, ever since I wrote this piece, “The Nature of Tweens: Wired Worlds & Outdoor Ed” about our trip to the Rockies when I was in ‘shock and awe’ at the extent to which they relied on phones for emergency assumptions.
It instilled a hearty commitment in me to prep the basics of survival, using one of my favorite tomes, Cody Lundin’s humorously pragmatic field guide, “98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive.” Whether trekking to a concert or on a trail, to me, it’s a core conversation.
As far as leveraging pop culture entertainment to fuel positive potential…
I think The Fray is textbook for ‘how to do it right.’
Between their REVERB alliance and their commitment to kids in music education with VH1’s Save the Music Foundation about they’ve done a great job ‘walking the walk’ as alternative rock role models along the lines of Ecorazzi.
I’ll be doing a follow up post on some fabulous finds where rock meets youth to make beautiful music together too, like last week’s Black Eyed Peas visit to our local Boys & Girls Club here on the peninsula for digital arts to cultivate creativity.
Specifically, they’ve just launched New Media Academies for Bay Area Youth in Oakland and Redwood City, funded by Adobe Youth Voices and the Peapod Foundation. The Adobe-Peapod partnership has a URL that says it all: PlantandInspire.org
I can’t think of a more empowering message to send to kids on behalf of pop musicians and live concerts. Rock star marketing by marketing like a rockstar. Using the power of media for positive change indeed.
p.s. One more digital media snippet:
The night before The Fray, when I hosted the film Consuming Kids in my home, one person said she “saw The Fray perform “How to Save a Life” …When I asked which concert, she said, “Grey’s Anatomy” (music video below!)
“Note to self:” With LiveEarth and LiveAid streamed from the internet globally, the words ‘live’ and ‘in concert’ are all relative…
Visual Credits: Diamond Head Crater, Wikipedia Commons-Hawaii Magazine; SMS graphic BlueSky Comm; logos via Reverb and Vh1 site