Yesterday I wrote that sometimes bigger is not necessarily better; sometimes bigger is just a fat Elvis in a jumpsuit. Last night’s U2 show proved that the band has embraced the jumpsuit. No one wants to blame them, but I will. They are the brand, the company, and I’m sorry, but when you make your product more about the spectacle than its founding mission, good music, you deserve to be boiled down to a brand and you deserve to be shamed.
I’ve stated it many times before: rock and rolls stars are either artist who also happen to be marketers or they are surrounded by a team of marketers or both. It’s one thing to produce good music; it’s a business to get that good music heard, bought, and adored by millions.
U2 did a few things right: they promoted heavily, they did a a great promo with Blackberry, and they advertised on You Tube. What they did wrong was forget that the people there, in the flesh with them and paying hundreds of dollars for so-so seats, belonged to that experience.
The promoters, the City of Pasadena, the Rose Bowl management, and U2’s management all share in this blame. This reviewer does a good job of describing the vices, namely that they hyped this show up so much that people were panicked to get there early, take the shuttles, tailgate (i.e, drink heavily prior to the show) and in general, brace for WWIII. The lines for the shuttle to the stadium were long and took an hour. The lines getting inside the stadium were long and it took a half hour just to get to your seats. The t-shirt lines were a joke, crammed with pushing people, and the credit card system went down so fans had to pay cash only, and the vendors quickly sold out of every over-priced item. I don’t need to comment on the lines to the ladies room. They are always long for any show. After all this, the worst thing in the world happened: they sold out of all the good wine, except for the crappy white zinfandel.
And then after the show, it took an hour and a half to get back to the shuttle, another thirty minutes to get out of the garage. The sweetest part of the evening was the freeway, somehow, proving there is a Rock-n-Roll god, and he likes a quick trip, free of traffic.
So here I am, a marketer who preaches the value of giving the customer an experience, and I realized that in my entire career, I neglected, we all neglected, to really stress the obvious: if you give customers a bad experience, they won’t return.
Hey U2, those folks who bought tickets, you know, the ones you call “fans”? That’s not what they are called in the real world. No. We call them “customers.”
I’m told by the smart folks who sat at home and watched the show on You Tube that it was a great performance. I would not know. I was too busy trying to block out the drunk bimbo behind us who sang off-key at the top of her lungs the whole show. Hey lady: the lyrics are “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” not, “Some day valley some day.” And the drummer’s name is Larry, not Harry. If you don’t know him, why scream his name?
Okay, U2 cannot be blamed for her, but maybe said Bimbo wouldn’t have been such an annoyance if she hadn’t been at the show since noon, drinking her way through the boredom of sitting in a parking lot. Again, U2 didn’t make her drink, but, they are the brand, and hence, I blame the brand.
I will never again do a stadium show, unless it’s Bruce Springsteen, who understands that you can do stadium shows over a period of five nights and have a pleasant experience free of over-hyped media, and you don’t need to perform inside an octopus-space ship because a) you look like a geek and b) it’s about the music, not the spectacle.
U2, it was a nice ride with you for awhile, but I’m sorry, I prefer early Elvis, not the fat guy in the jumpsuit. Enjoy your rocket ride in your space ship. I’m getting off here.