There was a time when corporate gigs were, well, taboo. Artists felt they would be perceived as “selling out” and, maybe, that the atmosphere would be a little stale. But the music industry has changed and artists are no longer earning their keep from record sales alone. The tour is what’s contributing to the paycheck and that includes side gigs, like corporate concerts.
In the b-to-b event world, the entertainment is not the major draw for attendees—but it does play a significant role in generating buzz and giving attendees who’ve invested time and budget to be there an exclusive gift and indelible experience.
Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce concert announcement has become a much anticipated part of pre-event marketing communication across the customer, partner and employee attendee base. The artist and opening act names are blasted across channels, from email, to the website, press and social media (George P. Johnson, San Francisco, handles).
“Our entertainment choice is an opportunity to surprise and delight our audience,” says Karen Reul, vp-strategic events at Salesforce.com. “Different genres are considered each year—from legends such as Stevie Wonder to chart toppers like Green Day, and the unexpected with Metallica.” Metallica headlined in 2011, Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2012 and Green Day in 2013.
Dreamforce’s concert is typically scheduled for the evening of the second day of the four-day conference. It follows a full day of activities, announcements and keynote speakers, including chairman and ceo Marc Benioff.
The Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference and Exposition attracts attendees, on the whole female, that come for this content-heavy meeting for education and networking. But to balance it all, SHRM shoots for big name talent that offers attendees an extra boost in confidence in the investment they made to come (inVNT, Washington, D.C., handles).
“We try to go pretty middle of the road in terms of getting people who’ve got pretty wide appeal–we’re never going to go super edgy, we’re never going to go into a genre that somebody isn’t able to cross over and enjoy,” says Lisa Block, vp-meetings at SHRM.
The concert or act is typically held on the next to final day of the conference. At this point, attendees have been in meetings and sessions for several days. It’s the “denouement” of the conference. Keith Urban headlined in 2011, Jerry Seinfeld in 2012 and Kelly Clarkson in 2013.
Booking The Band
Dreamforce leverages the art of surprise to generate interest in its event. SHRM goes for a good cross-over artist with broad appeal. Here, six more tips to consider before you book your next band.
1. Consider the C-Listers: Enlist that colleague who’s always on YouTube or tracking emerging talent. Up-and-comers can be less restrictive in their demands. Think “America’s Got Talent,” and get creative (if you’re in the Las Vegas market, tap it, and find that great act that may not even be musical).
2. Crowdsource the Talent: You’re never going to please everybody, that’s for sure. But, you can certainly get some good ideas for the next year’s headliner by soliciting feedback from attendees through a poll or survey. One idea: Get attendees to share their personal playlists and mine for common themes.
3. Hire a Professional: You need a skilled and seasoned person on your end to deal with the contract negotiations for talent. At the end of the day, artists are artists; they’re not going to tweak song lyrics to include your brand or play acoustic when they do rock. But what they agree to do and their fee—that’s negotiable.
4. Tap the Local Flavor: For new product launches, it’s great to try and discover the artist the locals are raving about, because that can align nicely with the excitement around your brand’s new offering. Use your site visit as an opportunity to check out clubs to see what’s resonating within that community.
5. Make it Accessible: Most business audiences are a mix of Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers, so make sure the artists craft their set lists differently than they would on tour playing for a house of consummate fans. A wide range of attendees needs to recognize the songs.
6. Leverage the Talent: See if your artist is open to meet-and-greets to satisfy your important customers or executives that need that extra-special experience on-site. Artists will often autograph posters, CDs or photos in advance of the show. Also, be sure to give the talent your event hashtags and see if they’ll promote your event on their social media channels.
Sources: agencyEA, TBA Global, G7 Entertainment