Cultivate a less corporate approach to live entertainment – Rolling Stone
What happens at the house is happening in Vegas. As an entertainment entrepreneur, I have seen firsthand in the Las Vegas entertainment industry that the increasingly corporate approach to live entertainment seems to mitigate risk by only offering “proven products” . My beloved Las Vegas is one of the greatest victims of corporatization, which has a profound effect on the quality, quantity and variety of entertainment offered to visitors.
In fact, this homogenization has affected the entire city with restaurants and shops common to many other cities, as well as residences still turning up in other markets for a fraction of the price. But proven entertainment is generally not unique and has certainly been seen before in live entertainment, an industry increasingly controlled by a handful of gatekeepers whose decisions tend to dictate the content available. But this problem is not unique to Las Vegas.
It took a season four viewing spree of stranger things to remind me of Metallica’s journey from having a handful of rebel fans in my high school to being a stadium salesman number who is known throughout my son’s school 35 years later. Today, the journey from garage band to musical institution is very different, with the ability to self-produce music and get noticed on social media without ever leaving the garage.
Thanks to TikTok, Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, we are daily encouraged and even enticed to find new entertainment based on our interests, friends, behaviors and habits. The options we see are controlled by the all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present “algorithm”. But searching and finding content based on your personal preferences is very different from receiving content that the powers that be tell you is worth it. It’s the difference between being the puppeteer and being the puppet. To quote Morpheus, “You think that’s air you’re breathing now?”
Of course, we’re all about advertising, but the latest versions of the “matrix” algorithm limit our choices in the content we see online and, in many cases, the content we see in the real world. When businesses focus more on profit and minimizing risk, options become limited.
Finding content at home is such a personal discovery process, but when you go to a destination, your options are limited to what the company’s operators have decided you’ll see. It’s not that existing entertainment is necessarily bad, but I do believe it’s painfully common. Do you know who the biggest artist on the planet is right now? I bet you didn’t think it was Bad Bunny, whose songs, according to Bloomberg, have “topped the Spotify charts 100 more times in recent months than those of Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. reunited.”
At its core, entertainment is experimental. Innovation comes from pushing boundaries, and the road to entertainment success has always been paved with failures. There are exponentially more failed songs, movies, and books than hits. But most business models don’t allow for these necessary failures. Instead, they focus on pleasing shareholders and venture capitalists, which often leads them to follow a formulaic approach that cuts the soul out of entertainment.
Entertainment is not a widget to be redesigned over and over and reduced to its cheapest version; it is literally art that needs to be nurtured to grow and develop in new directions. Audience enjoyment must take priority over profit maximization. Then the profits will come.
The biggest problem with the corporatization of live entertainment is that companies view entertainment as an asset in their portfolio. Then he no longer has to entertain; it must generate a specific return, otherwise it is excluded from the portfolio. Thus, entertainment companies avoid edgy, niche and risky entertainment for the benefit of the masses.
When entertainment is homogenized, it ceases to be special and not worth the trip. Fans need more. Today’s industry is full of underserved audiences and underrepresented musical genres. Not every live show should or can be a blockbuster mainstream hit. Yet, shows aimed at these underserved audiences and underrepresented genres can succeed. In a world dominated by Coke and Pepsi, there is still a strong market for Barq’s root beer.
Fans would benefit from more affordable niche shows available alongside the superstar-focused stratospherically priced experiences. A modern fan craves more experiential and personal entertainment, which usually doesn’t fit the “bigger is better” style. But while it is to be bigger and more mainstream, it should still be an impactful, destination-worthy event. For example, an acquaintance of mine from when we owned nightclubs approached live performance from the immersive perspective of creating an experiential place experience for the new Usher Residence.
I am convinced that a more challenging and less corporate approach to live entertainment would have a positive and lasting effect on the industry. The future of live entertainment may not involve a front stage, and it may blur the lines between audience and performer. Innovators like Meow Wolf are already putting the audience inside the “show,” with the entertainment experience starting with marketing and even how you enter the attraction.
We have to find new ways to be different. Tackling these niches, without abandoning the big budget stars that generate the required rate of return on capital, could give the industry the chance to reinvent itself again – to be special again.