Whilst in the seemingly endless queue tonight at Wembley Arena tonight for The Prodigy (I shit you not – it was 1h 07m from the point we joined the line outside the venue until we were actually standing inside the venue, by which point we’d missed Dizzee Rascal. Narrow escape there then…), we spied one of the posters for the tour, which only listed April 17th as being the Wembley concert date. This meant that tonight (16th) was an extra date thrown in after the 17th sold out. We got into a bit of an argument about this, because we had differing viewpoints on best practice when putting together a tour.
It’s worth pointing out that the argument was fairly foolish, because whilst I am a computer nerd who exists primarily with his arse in front of a desk, pushing buttons to form arcane text strings on a screen to try to convince computers to do things, James in fact works in the music industry, and regularly organises tours. On the balance of things, James is more likely to have a sensible business-backed opinion here.
Anyway, suppose Band X books Venue Alpha for a gig, and are confident that when they promote it it will sell out virtually instantly, due to the quality of their music, hype, and devoted fanbase. Is it better for Band X to start promoting a Wednesday night gig, then when that sells out open a Thursday gig, then Friday, then Saturday? Or is it better for Band X to promote a Saturday gig, then when that sells out book in a Friday one, then extend backwards? I felt that the first approach made more business sense – you’re likely to sell more tickets because the initial gig will sell out if it’s the only one, but adding dates into the weekend was more desireable because people seem to regard weekends as better going out nights than school nights (apparently). I felt that the second approach however was fairer to the fanbase – assuming the ludicrous idea of the closer to Saturday a gig is the more ideal holds true – you’re just gonna piss people off by starting at the least ideal and once they’ve committed to that then offering a better option. My rationale was also there that you don’t want to go out of your way to piss off your fanbase, as they’re the ones showing your music to other people and acting as your word-of-mouth campaigners.
I think one of the reasons James said promote the gigs in order made sense was because many fans will buy a ticket for gig 1, then when gig 2 comes on and it’s more convenient they’ll buy that too and flog ticket 1 to a tout or on ebay – either way you as the band have still sold 2 tickets. Rinse & repeat. And of course some diehards will want tickets to all gigs. Or alternatively, by selling out the first gig in the sequence it means that if there’s a real buzz on at the first one then the punters there are more likely to tell their mates or even go again, and if the ticket sale dropoff is at the end of the week then you’re in a safer position.
There are some exceptions and caveats of course: when the old Wembley Stadium was set to close down, Bon Jovi were booked to play there on Saturday August 19th as the last ever concert in the old stadium. The concert sold out incredibly quickly, as much for the historical importance as for the talent. Unfortunately the organisers were spurred on by the rush in popularity that they arranged a second concert date, on Sunday August 20th.
There’s a third option which we didn’t discuss, being the Michael Jackson approach – list a whole string of dates at once. You’d need to be pretty confident that they’d all sell out though.
Actually the more I think about it, the more I agree with the book Saturday gig and add dates back towards Wednesday approach. And by “agree” I mean “that suits me better” because – as in the case of the Nine Inch Nails gig I went to on a Thursday night at Brixton with Brett the Aussie Nude Hooverer – it means that you can get along to a non-packed gig earlier in the week. Where you’re not stuck queueing up forever to get into the venue, and if you’re disorganised not to have a ticket you can possibly pick one up off a tout for £3.
Having said that, tonight’s Prodigy gig displayed none of those characteristics.
James said that it made more commercial sense to book out the first gig then add in extra dates, however my interpretation of that was it only made commercial sense in terms of ticket sales, and didn’t factor in the commercial impact of pissing off the fanbase.
What was my point? Ah that’s right – we never reached one. By some miracle of persistant forward motion we made it through the external doors before we ever conversationally sailed anywhere near a point. But it is interesting*.
* or, if you prefer, “interesting”**.
** meaning “boring”.
*** something else I just thought of, which I didn’t refer to above and am prefixing with 3 *’s for no apparent reason as it’s not a proper footnote – another thing that pisses a band’s fanbase off is if you book a gig on a Friday, then when that sells out bok a second gig on the Saturday, and then announce that special guest artists at Saturday’s gig will be John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, whereas Friday’s gig will not have any guest artists. Yes, Foo Fighters, I’m talking about you. Although technically I don’t suppose I’m one of the Foo Fighters’ fanbase, but was rather a randomly interested party. Either way, it still pissed me off.