Lessons From The Disney Music Block Party Cancellation

Again, slow to the punch am I this morning, as Bill has a nice update on the Disney Music Block Party Tour near-cancellation -- from the non-response from Disney (check out the disgruntled families here) to the Zapruder-like parsing of Gwyneth's crowd photos. (I admit to doing some of that myself from the other big photo dump -- see, for example, this shot near the end of the show.)

It seems clear that in the absence of any other reason, poor ticket sales are the only explanation, as I've already speculated. Or, at least, ticket sales too poor for the lineup constructed.

Now, without knowing the exact financial arrangements between Disney, AEG Live, and the artists, who knows where the breakeven point is. My (virtually entirely speculative) guess is that AEG Live was the one who was bearing the financial burden of the tour, that Disney was just lending its name in exchange for payment of some sort, and that if ticket sales were low, AEG Live was the one who decided to pull the plug. Disney, who worked with AEG Live to produce the wildly successful Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers tour, may be loathe to tick off their producing partner by throwing them under the bus. Plus, it's not entirely clear that it's in Disney's best interest to show that the tour wasn't doing well -- clearly, if they're not selling many tickets, the number of ticked-off families is low, and they made a cruel calculation that it's better not to offer a statement to those families. Were it just Disney producing the show, they may have figured the show was just an elaborate form of advertising. [Note: Spurred by a comment below, I should make clear, though, that by "statement," I'm talking about a big public statement as to why the tour was cancelled. Somebody should be notifying ticketholders. I'm not sure to what extent Disney/AEG are doing so, and how their efforts compare to that on other cancelled shows/tours.]

In the end, though, this is important, because with other kiddie entities looking to branch out (note: Kidzapalooza LA is now rescheduled for June 27), does this somehow put a damper in the multi-artist model?

As Bill suggests, Disney/AEG may have spent too much money on headliners. Now, I find it somewhat hard to believe that the bands wouldn't be giving Disney some discount, seeing as all the bands either have Disney shows on the air or in development, or at least have massive integration. Still, DZ and TMBG aren't cheap, and I don't expect Ralph or the Movers are, either. (Choo-Choo Soul, I don't know about.) So, yes, lesson #1 -- you can't have a 4-pole tent.

Lesson #2 -- go local. I realize that the whole point of the tour was to see these national faces familiar from TV. But it also means that there's no local artist with a substantial e-mail list to blast. It's pretty amazing what local artists can do, and, where appropriate, they could have included a local artist on the bill and probably easily generated more than their performance fee in additional ticket revenue.

Lesson #3 -- go cheap. I'm pretty sure that Kidzapalooza and Austin Kiddie Limits is produced for less than just one date of the DMBP. As a result, you can also lower the ticket prices. Families were paying close to $50 for a single ticket after ticket fees. Family of four, $200 -- that's a big hit. Considering you can typically see DZ for $25 or less after charges, with the other artists even lower, the marginal benefit to a family to see all the artists and have all the activities, might not have been worth it. The Kansas City Jiggle Jam might very well be the perfect amalgamation of the first 3 lessons -- a couple headliners (Justin Roberts, TMBG), some popular local acts (Jim Cosgrove, Funky Mama), and an insanely low ticket price ($8 kids/$5 adults per day).

Lesson #4 -- get a pay-or-play clause if you can. 'Nuff said.

The trick for artists is to get heard in front of live audiences. High ticket prices are a barrier to doing so. Most artists are still at the point where low prices are the key.

Any other thoughts?