As we leap into 2024, there are many challenges we are all facing to keep our entertainment programs healthy and productive. The general state of the overall economy and the crazy politics, both nationally and globally, are making for a more conservative approach from most businesses.
With those factors in mind, here are seven approaches to consider. Keep in mind entertainment can seem like a black hole, but without a good entertainment program, you can lose a lot of your brand identity – and that’s a pretty important consideration for your bottom line.
#1: Dial in on your entertainment strategies.
What are your goals for your concert entertainment? Your lounge entertainment? Your special event entertainment? How do you build, evaluate, and maintain your internal team – because it takes teamwork to build and maintain a strong entertainment program. Keep in mind that means outside vendors too. These relationships are just as crucial as your internal team. Budget considerations are pretty important. What kind of directive are you getting from your leadership? How will you stay within your budget? Make sure to lock these in for the new year.
#2: Understand your resources.
Everyone knows about the “big” artists like the Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran’s of the world. However, there are so many variables to consider. Keep in mind, a consistent and sold entertainment program does more for you than the random, trending concert experience. It’s all about creating your unique entertainment brand. Focus on quality versus quantity and consistency verses the “throw it at the wall” approach.
#3: Dial in to your guest experience.
The well of quality artists has emptied over the last few years, and the tried-and-true acts have been disappearing due to aging out. Plus, as they have aged out, your older customer has developed different needs and wants. Are you addressing these new preferences and desires? You have a younger demo than we had in the late 90’s. They have different needs and different tastes. Are you getting the most accurate read on your audience?
#4: Deploy outside the box thinking.
Looking at alternate entertainment for your property has got to be part of your 2024 plans. Game shows have been doing big business, and you can enhance these prizes by including your own giveaways and promotions on top of what the game shows are doing. Celebrity appearances and book signings are actually a great way to attract your older demo and can be scheduled mid-week. You can easily cater to your older customers, who want to avoid weekend crowds and driving at night.
Depending on your region, Asian & Hispanic entertainment takes a little more research, but the return is positive. The smaller regular comedy shows are also a strong option for this crowd. Just remember these kinds of events take time and consistency to generate the success you are aiming for. Keep in mind that you want to aim for quality here. Saving a few dollars is not your goal, it’s about building a successful promotion/event. Comedy programs need to build so that your customer knows it’s a once-a-month kind of deal and that the comedy is consistent and higher level. Give them something to look forward to.
#5: Master the challenging concert scenario.
So many of the affordable Artists have been in the region or to your property numerous times. There usually isn’t a demand for them unless it’s a free event. Sure, people will pay big money for those super acts and festivals but getting people to buy tickets to see someone that’s been around the region regularly year after year, that’s a different story. The costs for all Artists have all gone through the roof as they are dealing with higher costs as well for travel, crew, salaries, musician availability etc. So, finding an Artist who is actually affordable and will sell tickets can be very challenging and frustrating.
#6: Explore local talent.
Lounge entertainment today has been reduced to local musicians playing weekends for extra money. Most of these people have day jobs and do this on the weekends for the joy of being a musician. No longer can you find regional touring bands, as there just isn’t any demand for them anymore. So, find the best groups in your region and bring them in on a regular rotation. These folks will be looking for work and could very well be playing at the local club or casino in your area.
#7: Think about the music and what that represents to your customer.
Higher-end tribute acts are doing strong business, and most of them sound better than the original artist does today. These acts create a great event with the songs your audience/customer loved and still loves today. Additionally, the costs are much better to manage and absorb.
Concerts today need to be special, and you need to really do your research to see what that “special” is for your demographic. Depending on your customer’s taste, the younger country Artists are still relatively a good investment. They need to be part of a strong concert program that gets marketed aggressively. Social media today is really in control and is your biggest resource, so don’t miss out on doing your research there too. Some of these acts have become overnight sensations before you ever really hear about them. So, you need to be ahead of the curve, so to speak.
All in all, 2024 is likely going to reflect a more conservative approach for Tribal casinos, as we work our way through an election year and the stresses affecting us globally. Your best resources going forward will be the outside talent buyers. Honestly – that is where your best options are available to you. I mentioned previously about the importance your team, and outside vendors are part of that team. As buyers, we have a lot more resources, advantages, and relationships to use for availabilities, pricing, and routing. Again, it’s not about costs since everything is expensive these days. It’s about getting the best option for your budget and finding the option that fits your strategic plans. Remember – be aggressive. Hesitating will cost you the right Artist. So, get your platform laid in and your team on board. Then go out and make the magic happen.