by Troy Wyatt
Live entertainment is back, and casinos are experiencing several new changes. Artist pricing has elevated, ticket prices have increased, venues are experiencing low staffing levels, and the amount of concerts available to a concert-goer is innumerable. With so many conflicting shows happening in the same month, week, or in many cases, on the same date, an operator can’t help but notice the shift in patron behavior due to the saturation. Rising inflation and skyrocketing gas prices affect concert-goers more than you might think. For starters, patrons are far less willing to burn half a gas tank to drive a long distance to their old favorite venue. Rather than wasting fuel (money), patrons might find a local event or decide not to go out and spend time with family instead. The average gallon of gas is $5.22 currently in Washington State. The average concert ticket is $75, which is up almost 15% from the 2019 average. Third party resellers have reported a 70% rate of increase per individual ticket. When you add gas and the new ticket price together, you could be looking at $100 to get the night started if you live outside the sprawling city.
There is some good news for the industry, however. In recent earnings reports, the most prominent promoters in the industry reported a 45% increase in sales through February compared to 2019, and the top 10 tours in the world are up over 20%. Is that good news for everyone, though? Not really, because only roughly 5% of tribal casinos use the “top promoters,” or are big enough to accommodate that kind of tour associated with the increase. Many tribal casinos use smaller independent talent buyers or local promoters, and their venues can only accommodate smaller shows.
Following are five tips your casino concert venue can use to help adjust to an ever-changing environment:
- Stimulate demand by avoiding oversaturation to fill your calendar.
- Be strategic while selecting your event dates.
- Get creative with the type of entertainment you are offering – try new formats.
- Put shows on sale early – patron buying habits have changed, and they need more time.
- Create an unforgettable experience for those attending your shows, so they think of your property first for future events.
Stimulating demand isn’t always easy. It can be downright challenging. One way to compel customers to act is to create scarcity, which means that adding another show to your calendar may not be the best choice in the current conditions. Instead, reducing the number of shows could be the better choice. Remember, there are more entertainers than venues right now, so use this as a bargaining tool. Walk away from deals that do not pencil, and use your current sales velocity to determine how or when to book shows on your calendar. Less could be more, and the sparse offerings will make the shows you are doing stand out more. Besides, why would a patron feel inclined to commit to going to your show this week if you have three more to offer before the month is over?
Strategically selecting dates is one of the most powerful tools you can leverage. For example, there are dozens of concert venues in Seattle, all competing for patrons who live within a 100-mile radius and are booking based on the exact 104-weekend dates available to everyone. Try to break free from the conventional and use the mid or earlier weekdays to promote an event. You will be surprised with the results of booking an act on the off days, and the excellent act’s sales will be unaffected. The act’s prices are usually lower on Tuesday versus taking an entertainer’s prime weekend date.
Being creative works, especially when facing saturation with live entertainment and concerts we are experiencing currently. Everyone has access to booking the artists from the same genres: country, rock, comedy, and hip hop/R&B, etc. Be more creative and less boring by offering something nobody else is, such as sumo wrestling, drag queen fashion shows, Mexican wrestling around Cinco de Mayo, or even a Sasquatch convention. Talk about exciting, new, affordable, and inclusive.
Start your events on sale early. The old days of waiting for 60-75 days from the event to put a show on sale to stimulate a sense of urgency are dead. Don’t forget the schedules of many working professionals have changed. Many people now care less about a live concert than being with their family. Concerts are competing with priceless memories, so more time may be needed to plan and prioritize.
Creating an unforgettable experience during an event will help your venue stay front of mind in the future. This isn’t something you can do to attract patrons while marketing to first-time ticket holders, but it is something you can execute once a patron has arrived at your doors. You could include decorating, special lighting, pre-show parties, and/or ticket giveaways before the show. In addition to these ideas, many venues use a photo booth and incorporate a hashtag to encourage the sharing of pictures online. Take it one step further and add ridiculous props such as a giant inflatable cow or horse for a country concert. Perhaps try using custom printed foam boards in the shape of a guitar or something relevant to your show. Never underestimate the merit of someone’s elevated experiential encounter with your venue. Patrons will share their pictures, experiences, and memories associated with the event if you leave an impression after they’ve committed to visiting your casino. Now, they have more than one reason to pick you over the competition.
To overcome the live entertainment saturation we see today, mix and match these concepts, then experiment with your ideas along the way. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for competing in any marketplace. In life and business, the success you experience will always be directly related to the company you keep and the businesses you believe in.
Troy Wyatt is Founder of Seattle Entertainment Group, a Native owned and operated casino entertainment company. He can be reached by calling (425) 530-9913 or email [email protected].