Yes, we all know that this is still a very unpredictable and unsettling time for casino entertainment programs. Entertainment is the one unique element in your “brand” that is currently up in the air – but now’s the time to plan for tomorrow.
Here are some guidelines and our recommendations for you to review:
This is an opportunity for a reboot. What have you previously presented at your property that really worked well? Does your entertainment represent your brand and vision for your casino? What are the new norms going to be moving forward?
Entertainment is multi-faceted. Depending on your property, you may have a piano bar, a night club/lounge and a concert venue. Each one of these elements represents an opportunity to bring something special to your guest and keep them coming back.
Now is the time for you to clean all of this up and redefine what you are doing.
Of course, we want happy guests. We want to drive return business. We want to build our guest database and reward our current guest. You need to set some realistic goals and a realistic budget.
In a perfect world, we want to drive income. We are in the gaming business. We know from past experience that good, targeted entertainment will drive gaming and incremental revenue at your property.
In order to deliver this goal, we need a budget and a strategic plan. This is the time to put all of that together. Do your research.
Slow months, summer, holidays, etc., are specifics to guide you in laying out the annual entertainment program/budget. Spending money at the right and wrong time is important.
Structure & Planning
Setting up your entertainment team is important. Smaller properties have a lot less demand put on them for entertainment. You may have a small lounge and no real concert venue. This means that someone has to manage the lounge entertainment and in smaller properties, that person probably has other job responsibilities. However, the entertainment you bring into the lounge is a representation of who you are, so it’s a pretty important statement.
The larger properties with several entertainment venues have a lot more responsibility going on. Typically, there are several people in charge of managing these venues.
Redefine how much you comp. Too much, too little, comping the right people, this is important to determine. What is the directive regarding ticket revenue? Do you need to try to break even with door revenue? That will help determine your comping approach.
Look back at your concert day issues, unexpected issues from tour managers that were not covered in advance. Keep in mind Murphy’s Law, and be prepared and flexible.
One of the most misunderstood jobs out there is buying and booking entertainment. Why do you think that is? Entertainment is a black hole for your executive team because it is so convoluted.
A lot of money goes in and not enough comes back. Each department typically reaps the rewards from a successful event. Hotel rooms are booked, restaurants are busy, alcohol sales are up and the gaming floor is busy. It is important for each department to note that the increased business is not because they ran a special in the restaurant or a room discount or a slot promotion/giveaway. While these will always be noted promotions, your entertainment, when done well, will strongly drive business to all of your property departments on those concert weekends.
The most successful properties leave clues. The larger properties have a team dedicated to managing the on-property entertainment. This is especially true for your concert entertainment. The smaller lounge/night club entertainment is fairly basic and there are plenty of small lounge agencies in every region of the country. Your casino can build a strong relationship with these agencies and local groups, because they are in your “neighborhood.” You just want to be aware that local groups may play everywhere in your regional radius, and therefore may not help you necessarily stand out from your competition.
Concert entertainment is a different deal altogether. The concert business is complicated and is strictly based on relationships. The large agencies have multiple office locations around the country and represent the most recognizable artists in the world. You don’t just pick up the phone and call them. Agencies have considered casinos as cash cows since Tribal gaming was first introduced to the entertainment industry. They will recognize inexperienced buyers, whether internal team members or outside buyers who call with inquiries, who lack the relationships, history and experience.
Just like the reasons behind hiring outside vendors or contractors for advertising/marketing help, social media help, audio/video help, slot manufacturers support, etc. You create partnerships and relationships. The person or company you partner with for your concert talent buying is the key to your success and the opportunities created.
An inside team should consist of a casino person or persons who can make decisions and take care of details on-property. A production company, who can manage the requirements any touring artist will need. A qualified buyer, who understands the business and its requirements and knows what is going on across the country. This buyer knows pricing and availabilities.
An outside buyer works for you. That agent you call from one of the big national agencies works for the artist. Plus, most of the agents you would talk to have a boss over them demanding they get every penny out of each booking/show. Navigating this playing field takes a lot of years of experience and strong business relationships with those agencies. As an outside buyer, we attend numerous industry conferences. We see routing from all across the country. We know real prices and we create routing and support for those agents.
The concern we always hear is that we can save money doing this ourselves. But can you? The short answer is no. As a well-qualified outside buyer, we will more than pay for our services by the prices we get for you and the availability of opportunities that an inside buyer is not aware of. We build teams and we build success. We create and introduce your property to new and exciting ideas and programs to help you stand out in your marketplace.
Today we have an opportunity to redefine our business. Start things back up with smaller, more affordable entertainment, where your financial exposure is limited. Rebuild your inside team, set goals and create a strategic plan.
Entertainment is not going away and people today are really excited to return to some sort of normalcy. Depending on Tribal, state and federal mandates, we are all on a somewhat different schedule. But nonetheless, getting your program defined and in place is more important than ever. You need to be on top of this at the start, not left in the dust.