Tag Archives: Behind the headlines

Nine Shows Blow Out at Shanghai Arena

17 Sep

John Cappo, president and CEO of AEG China, stands before the Mercedes Benz Arena, Shanghai, which has been hosting 50,000 people a day at the World Expo, which ends Oct. 31.

“The spaceship has landed,” said an enthusiastic John Cappo, president and CEO of AEG China, over the success of the first multi-date concert on-sales for China and for the 18,000-seat, $400 million Mercedes Benz Arena, Shanghai.

The arena, currently site of a World Expo musical, will host the World Expo closing ceremonies Oct. 31, after which it will be turned over to AEG China to run commercially. The first concert there will be Nov. 19, when Faye Wong ends her five-year hiatus from touring and performs the first of five shows at the Mercedes Benz Arena.

“This reminds me a lot of the O2 in London when we put Scissor Sisters and Bon Jovi on sale and we blew through two or three days quickly. We knew we would sell two or three nights in Shanghai, but we’re a little awed that we sold out nine straight nights in less than a day and probably could have sold out 12 or 13 easily,” declared Tim Leiweke, CEO, AEG.

“I think clearly what it indicates is that the Mercedes Benz Arena is going to be like the Garden (New York), the O2 in London or Staples Center (Los Angeles) — iconic, world class and one of those capital markets that are must-play buildings now for everybody.”

The nine shows include five by Wong and four by Jacky Cheung, with the possibility of adding a fifth. The on-sale was Sept. 15. “Now you’re going to want to play Tokyo, you may want to play a market like Macao, you may want to play Hong Kong, but you have to play Mercedes Benz Arena,” Leiweke said.

Tickets for Wong were sold by Yong Le, the promoter’s chosen ticketing company, Cappo said. The on-sale marks the first five-show run ever for a Chinese artist and Chinese venue, Cappo said.

Cheung’s dates are promoted by Fun Entertainment and tickets are handled by Piao.com.cn. There is no national ticket company in China, Cappo said. Artists and promoters pick their own.

That fact fits nicely into yet another AEG initiative, its own ticketing company. Leiweke confirmed that AEG hired about half a dozen ticketing pros three months ago with the charge to forge a business plan that will allow AEG to sell its own tickets worldwide, a prospect that includes 20 million tickets and growing. That would certainly work in China, he said. The plan is to be presented by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, Cheung’s run begins Dec. 1. He will also perform at the AEG-managed Wukesong Arena in Beijing. Those tickets go on sale next week, Cappo said, and will hopefully continue the multi-date tradition.

China has not had the luxury of air-conditioned, modern arenas with all the amenities, Cappo said. Most artists have performed outdoors at stadiums, some not so comfortable. The public is responding well to the concept of first-class entertainment venues, evidenced by the fact they are willing to pay the price. The average ticket price is about $100, Cappo said. “This is a new lifestyle destination.”

Mercedes Benz Arena is part of a complex, not unlike London’s 02, also an AEG-managed, iconic arena. Cappo said the complex includes a six-screen movie theater, an ice hockey rink, 20,000 sq. ft. of retail and a music club where artists will perform, sign autographs and hang out before and after shows.

The arena also has 82 suites, all sold out for the World Expo, with about 15 percent left to be sold after Expo. By the end of the World Expo, 8 million people will have passed through the Mercedes-Benz Arena in one year.

“We knew that Shanghai was much more of a marketplace that was into live entertainment. But they’ve never had a facility. The fact that eight million people will go through the arena during the World Expo is awe-inspiring and requires probably some new tile. We always knew that Shanghai and the Mercedes Benz Arena were going to be the capital building for live entertainment in all of Asia,” Leiweke said.

After the initial concerts is the official grand re-opening of the Mercedes Benz Arena on Jan. 15 with a multi-act package. Cappo said AEG has budgeted for 45-50 shows in the first year of commercial operation but, given that he has 26 events contracted from November to February, he expects to exceed that. “We will over-perform our expectations,” he said.

He is talking to several promoters about a boxing event and has booked a dog show and several corporate events. Walking with Dinosaurs is also scheduled for 2011.

NBA China is a minority partner in Shanghai, but will not have an exhibition game or team in that facility the first year. Shanghai Media Entertainment Group is the lead partner.

“We’re feeling awful good about our investment today,” Leiweke said, including the fact that they now have eight founding partners, also a sellout. “It is gratifying. This is a new idea, a new concept and a new economic model over there.” — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: John Cappo, +86 21 612 63088; Tim Leiweke, (213) 741-7101; Michael Roth, (213) 742-7155

Grand Ole Opry House Ready for Shows After Flood

10 Sep

Little Jimmy Dickens celebrates the rebuilding of the Grand Ole Opry house with Brad Paisley.

When the Cumberland River went over its banks in May, the Grand Ole Opry house in Nashville, Tenn., sustained major damage, including the loss of much of its electrical system, lights, pews and carpet on the main floor and the stage’s wooden floor, all covered by 46 inches of water. The balcony area of the venue was not affected by the flood waters.

When all repairs were complete, the rebuild of the venue cost in the neighborhood of $20 million, according to Debbie Ballentine, executive director of operations at the Grand Ole Opry. After months of hard work, the Opry house will finally reopen its doors on Sept. 28, several weeks ahead of schedule.

On Monday morning after the flood, Opry staff members had to find a place to hold the Tuesday night Opry house, and alert ticket holders about the location of the new venue. A remediation company brought fans into the building to start drying the wood so workers could get inside.

“Sally Williams, general manager of the Ryman, began contacting Nashville area venues on Monday to book the Opry shows in other venues,” Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher, explained. “We secured War Memorial Auditorium for that first Tuesday night show. It had been the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1939-1943. It probably took two to three weeks to finalize all the dates with different venues.”

The Opry held shows at Lipscomb University, Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville Municipal Auditorium, War Memorial Auditorium, the Ryman Auditorium and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Theatre. The Opry did not miss a show during the five months it was on what Fisher calls the High Water Tour.

R.W. Matthews of Nashville was the general contractor overviewing the construction. Wolfe & Travis Electrical was the electrical contractor, and Anderson Design worked on the interior of the venue. David Plummer of PLAD Studio worked on getting the inside of the house ready.

“For the most part, it was truly a rebuild, but we definitely had an architect looking at everything we did,” Ballentine said. “We were very fortunate that the contractors we worked with were people who had worked there before and were familiar with the building.”

“Clair Brothers in Nashville did the audio and video, Bandit Lites in Knoxville did the lighting, and United Staging out of Alabama handled rigging and soft goods,” Fisher said. “Music manufacturers like Peavey and Yahama stepped up to help out in a big way.”

The new stage, which sports a teak floor, has all new moving lights by Vari-Lites and a new audio monitor system. The new stage curtains remain a deep burgundy color, and the riggings and backdrops were repaired. The signature barn backdrop now sports a high definition video projection system including an LCD video wall. There are new front-of-house amplifiers and additional speaker cabinets. The main floor of the Ryman has newly built pews identical to the ones that were lost in the flood and new carpet.

The new entry doors have stained glass, a reminder of the stained glass windows at the Ryman Auditorium, which was home to the Opry from 1943 to 1974.

The backstage entrance now has a warmer and more inviting look to it as artists and guests enter the building. The 18 dressing rooms have a slightly different layout and each is themed to tell a chapter about the Opry. Roy Acuff’s dressing room remains the one closest to the stage. Workers were able to salvage the brass plate on his door which reads “Ain’t nothing gonna come up today that me and the good Lord can’t handle.” Porter Wagoner’s dressing room, designed by Marty Stuart, remains, and a Minnie Pearl room has been added. The administrative offices, also located backstage at the Opry house, were completely renovated.

The stage doors inside the house were preserved to be displayed in the Opry Museum because there was a clear line where the flood waters reached. The Green Room has a bronze marker that shows how high the water was in the building.

“The backstage at the Opry house will have accommodations and aesthetic appeal unlike any backstage I’ve ever seen in any venue,” Fisher said.  “We have done all that can be done to weave the Opry’s legacy through this newly renovated Opry house.”

Studio A, located behind the dressing rooms, is being retooled to accommodate mobile productions. Fisher said now that the Opry house is finished, they will determine what to do with the Acuff Theatre, the Grand Ole Opry museum and other facilities at the complex.

When the Grand Ole Opry returns to its home, Opry members including Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels Band, Montgomery Gentry, and Brad Paisley will be on hand to celebrate. The two-hour show will air live on GAC: Great American Country.

Special events and artist appearances will follow throughout October in celebration of both the show’s return and its 85th Birthday. The Opry will resume its regular schedule the weekend of Oct. 2, when there will be an open house for fans to see the renovated venue. There will be music on the plaza and free tours of the building, plus regular Opry shows on Friday and Saturday night. — Vernell Hackett

Interviewed for this article: Debbie Ballentine and Pete Fischer, (615) 316-6000

Update: Tornado Demolishes Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Mont.

24 Jun

A tornado ripped the roof off of Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Mt.

The tornado that tore through Billings, Mont., on Father’s Day (June 20) destroyed Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, but no lives were lost. The arena had been host to 4,500 fans of the Billings Outlaws of the Indoor Football League just the night before, but was empty at the time of the tornado, said Sandra Hawke, venue marketing director.

She got the call about the 4:30 p.m. touchdown while preparing for a Father’s Day barbecue at her home 10 miles away. “We get the long views in Montana; we could watch it,” she said. On Monday, Bill Dutcher, manager, was meeting with insurance representatives and the National Guard and Billings police were controlling traffic and access.

Immediate concerns besides rebuilding included future bookings at the 35-year-old, $10 million, 10,800-seat arena. The repairs will be in the hundreds of millions, she said.

Hawke said on-sales included Brad Paisley, set for Sept. 26, and Carrie Underwood, Dec. 10, both of which will be refunded. Celtic Woman, set for Aug. 22, will most likely reschedule for up to three shows at the 1,400-seat Alberta Bair Theatre in town, Hawke said.

Concerts set for Rimrock Arena during the annual MontanaFair Aug. 13-21 will be moved to the outdoor grandstand, Hawke continued. Bookings include Jason Aldean, the Scorpions and Hinder and Finger Eleven.

The most immediate problem is Outlaws playoff games, which were to start June 27 at the arena. They will most likely have three playoff games and a championship remaining in the post season. The plan is to go forward with the games at their Sports Complex practice field. With risers, they can probably increase capacity to 1,500, well short of the projected attendance. The decision was made that it was most important to have home court advantage on an appropriate field, Hawke said.

Bookings also include the Antiques Road Show this Saturday, June 26, which Hawke said will still be held at the 77,400-square-foot Expo Center which was damaged in the tornado when debris broke through the roof. It is being repaired and the 28,800 square foot Montana Pavilion is being prepared for the preparation area where antiquers bring their valuables prior to being filmed on the show. Hawke said she pursued that booking for eight and a half years before they determined after a site visit last year that MetraPark could house the show. She intends to be there with her art nouveau antique vase from the 1890’s in hand. Space will be supplemented with tents, she added.

The AKC-sanctioned dog show June 22-24 is going on as planned in the Montana Pavilion, she said. “They’re as happy as clams.” Hawke has been calling them over for the press conference updates on the tornado damage and they have testified to the adequate accommodations and gained unexpected publicity for the event.

Cleanup efforts removing debris, including the six-inch roofing nails that were flattening tires on a lot of media vehicles that crossed into off-limits areas of the fairgrounds, were well underway Monday, Hawke said. The dog show crowd was already moving in with their motor homes Monday.

Several fortunate things happened in this midst of the devastation, she said. For one, the grounds were empty except for the maintenance man assigned to that day. Second, the power was already off to accommodate a lighting upgrade, so fire and electrocution were not a factor.

The roof was totally blown off Rimrock  Auto Arena and the water poured in, saturating everything. Hawke said eye witnesses said the tornado seemed to “park itself on top of the arena for 15 minutes. It was stripped down to block and steel.”

The management team was on site for three hours after the storm hit, Hawke said. Starplex Crowd Management, the security firm, secured the grounds and structure, with help from the National Guard.

Rimrock Arena was quite solid structurally and Hawke was guessing they would not rebuild from the ground up, but the damage was extensive. “We are fully insured,” she said, though there are always things lost that are not covered. The astroturf belonged to the Outlaws and that was ruined and the Billings Gazette had brought in lighting and equipment that was destroyed. “Personal things are all lost,” she said.

Hawke also noted the arena was highly functional for its age, with wide concourses, soft seats and good storage. “It works well; it’s just old,” she said. “We managed to hang Metallica, even with their load.”

The rebuild will bring some changes, including improved ADA compliance.

She emphasized that the fair will go on as planned, Aug. 13-21, with some adjustments to event sites. “I may change the theme to ‘raise the roof,’” she quipped. — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: Sandra Hawke, (406) 256-2402

Airwave Wars: Getting Votes vs. Selling Tickets

15 Jun

As television spot prices skyrocket during election season, arenas have taken a creative stance in promoting events.

“Every year, whether it’s election season, television sweeps or the Oscars, we are trying to be creative in working around certain events,” said Jamie Loeb, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Nederlander Concerts.

When 30-second television spots are sold out, the company will consider 15-second spots. With radio advertising, Nederlander will substitute a 10-second sponsorship for a 60-second spot.

If network television is not available, cable is utilized. “For a recent Scorpions concert in Sacramento, network television was sold out. We looked at the audience for this show and found advertising opportunities at ESPN and Spike TV,” Loeb said. “Finding alternative promotional outlets takes time, but it’s a matter of doing your homework.”

Unlike election ads, which are geared toward massive and broad audiences, marketing specific events or shows is more targeted and niche oriented.

“Part of the skill or art of marketing concerts and performances is about determining who the potential audience is,” Loeb said. “We can correlate various events, like fans of the Scorpions and NASCAR, [where there may be a lot of overlap].”

Supply and demand determine advertising cost, and if a medium is sold out, then bump rates apply.

“It’s hard to estimate the price increases during an election period,” Loeb said. “It varies from network to cable, station to station, media to media.” He estimated a network spot can be 10 times more costly during the election season, but a cable spot may cost the same regardless of the time period.

The BOK Center, Tulsa, Okla., has benefited from strong relationships with station representatives, who keep the venue’s marketing department apprised when inventory may be tight.

“Placing orders early is a challenge, because we find out about a show and place media a week before the performance,” said Paige Laughlin, the BOK Center’s director of marketing. “We depend on representatives and promotional departments to get extra mentions and value whenever possible.”

In Tulsa, television spot inventory is highly dependent on what political office is up for a vote and how many candidates are in each race.

“It would be difficult to estimate the percentage increase of television spots during political races,” Laughlin said. “Fortunately, the price hasn’t been so high that we’ve had to find an alternative medium to promote our shows.”

For Dallas’ American Airlines Center, it is the governor’s race that has presented the biggest issues with television time.

“Our governor’s race was heated this year, and we were bumped for political candidate ads,” said Melissa Mezger, American Airlines Center’s director of marketing. “It is usually not this bad. We know it’s coming, but there’s not a lot we can do about it except plan ahead.”

Predicting the upcoming shortage of television spots, the center’s staff planned many of its promotions early this year, securing prices and times before rates jumped.

“When we were priced out of the television market for our other shows, we cut those ads and focused on radio and online promotions,” Mezger said. “This only happened with a couple of our shows. Since we didn’t have a runoff, the political season was cut short.”

Mezger estimated television spot prices jump between 25 and 50 percent during political races.

Because promotions are considered a trade-out in terms of pricing, arenas can lose these freebies, in addition to air time, during the political season.

“Typically, if we do a buy on stations, we require them to do a giveaway, which shows up as a free promotion,” Mezger said. “During political races, we lose our promotions because stations can’t offer the same package to political candidates. So we lose airtime along with the promotions that go with it.”

Mezger estimates television stations provide between 15 and 20 free spots as part of a promotional campaign.

“If we can get placement before rates jump, we’re good,” Mezger said. “Our reps are great about reminding us early that the season is coming.” — Lisa White

Interviewed for this article: Paige Laughlin, (918) 894-4200; Jamie Loeb, (323) 468-1700; Melissa Mezger, (214) 665-4218