So House of Blues, looking to fill a void, is pitching record labels about marketing midlevel performing artists for them. It's taking on unsigned artists as well.
Established stars like Limp Bizkit, Garth Brooks, Lauryn Hill, Kid Rock, Madonna, Puff Daddy and Sugar Ray get the full marketing attention of their labels, with music videos, TV, print and radio advertising. But the majority go wanting.
"A label may have 13 artists, but they can only market the top three effectively," said Chris Stephenson, senior VP-marketing for House of Blues Entertainment, the parent company for the brand. "This [plan] is a dream for music labels."
House of Blues started in July by acquiring the No. 2 concert promoter, Universal Concerts, from Seagram Co. for $191 million. It's now folding that into House of Blues' seven club locations into a unit called HOB Concerts. Harnessing the power of both, House of Blues is promoting artists with a live-event and Internet-based marketing approach.
It's also drawing from its publicity division, a radio network and own music company.
House of Blues' first full-scale integrated marketing effort started in August when it booked unsigned U.K.-based '80s rock brand The Cult in its Los Angeles venue. The band sold out a series of seven dates -- a record for the club -- and the move was credited in getting the band a deal with Atlantic Records.
This month, it's working to re-establish the progressive rock group Yes, and up-and-comer Blink 182 will get marketing support next month, as House of Blues looks to push the band's status up from venues with 5,000-6,000 seats to those with quadruple that number.
House of Blues says it has an advantage through its Internet business, which the company claims is far ahead of other music sites in terms of video and audio technology.
"New ways of promoting music are now around live events, where historically it has been around recorded music," said Mr. Stephenson. The Internet "is allowing live music to become a more promotional vehicle than touring has been by itself.
"We say to the labels, 'Give us your artists, we want to promote the hell out of them.' For our part, we want to drive people to our venues," he added.
For its upcoming program with Yes, House of Blues will be using six of its seven locations to showcase the band in an intimate setting. Yes will be touting a new CD called "The Ladder," from independent record label Beyond Music, which recently signed the band. Long known for playing in big 10,000-to 20,000-seat stadiums in its 30-year existence, the band is looking to showcase the new effort in smaller venues of 1,000 to 2,000 seats.
"This is not a band who is going to get a lot of radio play or be seen on VH1," said Phil Sandhaus, general manager of Beyond Music.
BEST BUY TIE
A major element of the marketing initiative with Yes will be the first-ever, high-definition Internet pay-per-view broadcast for House of Blues' Web site (hob.com) Oct. 31 from its Las Vegas location. The event will cost $4.99 for a fast 300K Internet connection, but it will be free for consumers using slower Internet speeds.
Electronic retailer Best Buy will rerun the broadcast, starting Nov. 1, on its in-store TV network to help promote the sale of HDTV systems from Sony Electronics.
"Our research shows the band appeals to an older demo who is into new technology," said Mr. Sandhaus. "Our goals are to introduce Yes to a young audience who have adapted to new technology, and maybe we'll get them as new Yes fans."
So House of Blues is touting October as "The House of Yes." Throughout its venues, Yes will be its artist of the month, and featured on the company's Web site. In all its venues in which Yes will perform, there will be signage, as well as local newspaper advertising. Ads are handled in-house.
Additionally, on the company's syndicated radio show, "The House of Blues Radio Hour," an interview with the group will run on 190 stations. Digital audio postcards were also sent by e-mail to people who register on House of Blues' Web site, featuring sample tracks from the new album.
Next up: Blink 182, the first big push for HOB Concerts since it bought Universal Concerts. The deal will feature an Internet pay-per-view broadcast, artist interviews, and interactive chat for fans. There'll also be a HOB Internet Radio broadcast, "Blink 182 Radio," a 60-minute interactive discography of the band's hits to date.
Last year, the band was playing in House of Blues' 1,000-seat clubs. But by playing on the HOB Concert circuit, next year the band will be featured in 20,000-seat amphitheaters.
The goal is to nurture and build followings for bands no matter whether they are on the up or downswing of their career.
Strategic marketing is a rare commodity in the music business, which is just plain-behind other areas of entertainment in that regard, Mr. Sandhaus said.
"The music industry is the last entertainment industry to get on board from a marketing point of view," he said.
"We call this from cradle-to-grave marketing," said Mr. Stephenson. "This is