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Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Harry Styles at MSG


I’m amazed at how much ink Harry Styles gets for his Madison Square Garden residency.

Dennis Arfa, Billy Joel’s agent, quibbles with that term, but the game remains the same, playing an extended run in one location over a period of time. Billy can do MSG once a month because he lives nearby, but many artists aren’t close to New York, let alone their bands.

But Billy Joel is a legendary superstar. Harry Styles is a twentysomething at the heart of his career.

But all the buzz is about the fans coming to the concert, Las Vegas, as opposed to the record…

Yes, want publicity, GO FOR THE RECORD!

Now, the truth is that many arenas have a limited number of dates available, due to their sports teams. But the Los Angeles Forum doesn’t have any, it’s only music, so theoretically 365 days are available. Who can play the longest?

This is another reason why new arenas are built. Due to demand and availability. Comparing yesterday to today is apples and oranges. You see, there are a lot more people, not to mention a lot more acts.

I guess too many people miss the news. That was the essence of my SiriusXM show yesterday.

Let me start with the concept of residence. The big story here was in the “New York Times” last week:

“Why Pop’s Biggest Stars Stay Put For Long Residencies – Extended tours at one venue, once associated with legacy acts, have become popular with stars like Harry Styles and BTS, cutting bills and creating hype as touring costs rise.” :https://nyti.ms/3R3yU9L

This isn’t new to anyone in the company, but again, we haven’t seen a comprehensive article about it in the company. But how many people have seen this article? This is the problem. Before, if it was in the “Times” of New York or Los Angeles, everyone saw it. That’s not the case these days, they don’t reach those in the business. And “Billboard” has become an almost useless publication aimed at consumers. You can get inside information on HitsDailyDouble.com, albeit in many cases payment biased, but I’m amazed how many people don’t read it, don’t even realize it. You see when “Hits” started 36 years ago, the record labels ruled. Now they are a sideshow. Just read about executive movements, you won’t know who people are and you won’t care.

And then there was an article in the “Wall Street Journal”:

“Look Out Boomers: The Next Generation of Arena Stars Arrive – While the Stones and Springsteen show few signs of slowing down, newer and younger artists are selling out massive venues.”: https://on.wsj.com/ 3AKmKwA

Again, people in the business know all of this, but seeing it in one place puts it into context. A lot of classic acts start rolling around sunset, they won’t be able to play live forever. And at the beginning of this century, when files replaced CDs, it was thought that the era of the arena act was over. That it would become a theater business. But that turned out to be wrong. Regardless of their mood in the country at large, there are enough fans to support today’s artists to the point where they can perform in arenas and sometimes stadiums. You see, young people today have a different perspective. They haven’t crossed the scale of old…from clubs to theaters to arenas for several years, let alone stadiums. Kids today want to go and they expect their number to be played in a big venue almost immediately. You see, there are two levels of acts, those that break right away and those that take years to market and may never make it to the arenas. And young artists have a shorter lifespan, but the demand is huge. But, again, there is an increase in population, and also more disposable income. Talk about economic challenges all you want, but if they really existed in the gig sphere, prices would go down and instead they would keep going up. We are approaching a tough time in the gig business… with Covid demand having been met, will a potential recession affect sales? Sales fell a few months ago, but then recovered. Either way, in a digital and virtual world, the experience of live music is unique and desirable, an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

And then there was this story in the LA “Times”:

“After the Astroworld disaster and the Drakeo stabbing, Live Nation faces growing questions about concert safety”: https://lat.ms/3KppWRt

Nobody talks about it, it has no legs. If for no other reason it has no juice. Live Nation’s public relations manager answered questions, while Michael Rapino did not. Rapino’s quotes travel, the PR person’s don’t. That’s Springsteen’s problem… If you’re a celebrity, if you have a profile, don’t enter the fray without knowing that what you say will be repeated around the world and will never go away. Whereas if you don’t say anything… people’s memory is short, if they even know the story to begin with.

And there’s a catch in the LA “Times” article:

“CSC’s job listings for event staff show the typical salary to be less than $20 an hour, and its own job posting told applicants, ‘Why pay more than $100 for a ticket when you can experience the event with the CSC family and get paid? for that?'”

How well can a security guard do his job if he is enticed to see the show as part of the concert?

CSC is Contemporary Services Corp. That is to say a security company. Yes, the security of these major events is OUTSOURCED!

It’s what killed GE, it’s what continues to kill America, it’s what hurts so many workers, who are shadow employees, even in technology. They do all the work for the well-known company, but they are paid by an intermediary, and they don’t have the same salary and benefits. You can work for Google, but paid by a third party.

So the buck stops with Live Nation, but that’s not the practical part.

And you have to watch the Woodstock ’99 documentary on Netflix to see the character and quality of these third party security guards, it’s not much better today but the reason I mention it is that a member of the public offers big money for security staff t-shirt and he sells it to him! He has money in his pocket, and the person with the shirt now has access and other powers. It’s like a backstage pass.

Security is a huge issue. Something we should all discuss. But this exhaustive article in the LA “Times” had no reach, no impact. Even the LA “Times” is its own private backwater. Reaching everyone is impossible. We have a million verticals, and often the ones that need to be reached are on TikTok, where mainstream media has no presence or impact.

But let’s get back to the residence…

It can be a badge of honor. Similar to a Grammy, but better. How many nights have you played at the arena, do you hold the record? And was each concert sold out?

You see, fans will flock to the residence not just to see the number, but to be part of an event, to say they were there! It’s one thing to say you saw the number at your local arena, it’s another thing to say you were at show 16 at the residence. It’s part of the fandom, you want to own the act and experience! As for the plane or the car to the arena… you’re going on vacation, aren’t you?

Sure, there’s a company going around the country, but it’s never going to be cheaper. You don’t have to pay for hotels if you stay in one place, let alone all those trucks. And it doesn’t have to be in Las Vegas, in Vegas, the music is secondary to the game and the fun. But at the Forum, IT’S MUSIC ONLY! Added gravity.

Don’t expect change overnight, but there will be evolution.

God, most of Billy Joel’s ink over the past decade has been about his residency, without it there would have been a lot less press and possibly less ticket sales not just at Madison Square Garden but elsewhere .

And it’s not like the Harry Styles record just came out. It came out on May 20, but now it’s on the cover of “Rolling Stone”… which nobody reads anymore, because it’s behind a paywall, but the quotes are pulled by other media and it’s been a good tweet… and now there’s another article in the “New York Times” giving an update on the show:

“The Harry Styles Show (and Music) Comes to New York – The first two nights of a 15-concert series at Madison Square Garden were loaded with charisma, banter and nods to the past.” : https://nyti.ms/3Tb3Q9k

It doesn’t stop! The Harry train continues to roll. And, again, Harry fans aren’t reading this story, but advertisers and movie producers are, they’re seeing Harry’s impact. Harry Styles may be the biggest superstar in music today, along with Bad Bunny, but old people think it’s Beyoncé. Now they know otherwise. And as for Beyoncé, not being on the road hurts her buy-in to society at large, there was buzz around the album release, now what? The experts here are the Kardashians. They are online and in the news every day. Have you seen that Apple even has Kim Kardashian headphones? And they’re sold out but Apple has full page ads and the result is that people still think the Kardashians are a sideshow but if you’re involved with Apple… that’s the top of the heap, that’s the Saint Grail!

There’s a lot going on. But no medium has a grip on it, not to mention having little reach and almost no legs. In a world where you can reach everyone instantly, they reach fewer and fewer people and what is there today will be gone tomorrow.

That’s why mainstream media is only part of your plan. Why the dossier is only part of your plan. Live, the fan can feel the connection, again it’s a unique experience, capitalize on that. Harry Styles a.

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