But those licensing partnerships must make sense for both sides. For example, the company’s program with Peavey Electronics to sell House of Blues-branded guitars, straps and picks is successful because Peavey’s standing as a musical instrument and accessories manufacturer lends credibility to the products. “When it’s a great fit, it resonates with the consumer and becomes a more successful product,” says Janet Dwoskin, vice president of licensing.
Creating a Legacy
House of Blues first turned on its amps in Harvard Square in 1992 and has since grown to locations in 12 cities across the United States, boasting more than 4 million visitors and 6,500 performances annually. Live Nation bought the chain of venues in 2006 as a way to expand its club and theater business in major metropolitan areas. The worldwide conglomerate has a number of divisions that serve various aspects of the music industry, including event ticket sales through e-commerce websites such as Ticketmaster; Live Nation Concerts, which produces more than 20,000 shows annually for more than 2,000 global artists; Front Line, an artist management company representing more than 250 performers; and Live Nation Network, a provider of entertainment marketing solutions.
Although Live Nation has a range of interests in the music industry, the company remains committed to providing the best concert experience for House of Blues fans. Each of the 12 venues shares a common aesthetic, but is geared toward its specific market. “No two clubs are exactly alike and each develops a relationship with the local community that is a reflection of what those audiences enjoy,” David Fortin, House of Blues senior vice president of marketing, adds.
The theaters draw a range of acts, from major performers such as Say Anything and pop group Hanson to more specialized groups such as Celtic band Gaelic Storm. On any given night, House of Blues patrons across the country might hear country, hip-hop, electronic dance music, reggae or rock ‘n’ roll. “What is associated with House of Blues is that we present great artists in an intimate club where you can get close to the stage and experience your favorite bands in a setting unlike any other,” Fortin says.
The company is always looking for opportunities in new markets, and because venues range from 30,000 to 50,000 square feet, the locations must be primed for success to recover the necessary investment. House of Blues cautiously considers the market before committing to opening another of its concert halls. “Take your pick of any great city across the U.S. and we’ve probably talked to someone there about the potential of opening a House of Blues,” Fortin says. “The key to a new venue is finding the right development partner and the right location, and that takes time.”
Through its marketing strategies, the company targets a wide range of age groups to support its diverse collection of performances. House of Blues and Live Nation must be nimble, efficient and focused because each of their shows are supported with an individualized marketing plan aimed at selling the maximum number of tickets. “Finding and connecting with the right audiences for every single show is a monumental effort,” Fortin says. “So our teams have to think and work fast just to keep up with the pace of business.”
The need to quickly adapt to its customers has led Live Nation to shift its efforts into the digital space and market to fans wherever and whenever they are online. “With the advances in technology and ability to show someone a piece of content that aligns to their musical taste – whether it be on Facebook or Twitter, a news site or as a highly relevant search result – we are getting better and better every day at promoting artists to the people who want to hear about them,” Fortin explains.
Leveraging a portal like Facebook for advertising is a different skill than posting a status update to a personal page. Fortin says companies must take time to understand the different platforms and phone apps to connect with fans. Since Live Nation has invested more resources into social media, the company has seen greater returns not just in a financial sense, but also through opening the lines of communication between consumer and company.
Whether fans hear about an upcoming performance from Instagram or the newspaper, House of Blues is about providing them with great hospitality and a fun atmosphere to keep them coming back. “We want all of our guests and performers to know that when they come to a House of Blues they are going to be taken care of and get amazing service from everyone throughout the venue,” Fortin says.