How Live Nation Pre-Games for Data Insights

A Q&A with John Forese, SVP and GM of the Concert Promoter's Analytics Arm, LiveAnalytics

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John Forese, Live Nation
John Forese, Live Nation

As few as five years ago, Live Nation didn't consider itself a data company. Now data is a core part of the concert promoter's DNA, according to John Forese, who joined in 2011 to head a new data arm, LiveAnalytics, as senior VP and GM.

Live Nation sits on a slew of ticket buyer data, after all, that illuminates who is willing to pony up to see musical artists and sporting events. So it's no surprise that the company ultimately began investing heavily in its data division. Since his arrival, Mr. Forese has built a team of around 20 research experts and statisticians, most based in Los Angeles, where Live Nation is headquartered.

Now LiveNation, which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, uses purchase data to help marketers determine what types of music their target audiences enjoy. The key to reaching that goal was integrating databases that were once siloed.

"Looking across the entire entity, we said we really should be helping our clients … know the mind of the live event fan," he said. "We spent a lot of money in the infrastructure and database side … to get that all housed, to get this one source of truth."

Advertising Age: What types of data does Live Nation gather and how do your clients use it?

Mr. Forese: Our mission is to understand the live event fan. To do that we leverage multiple data sources: transactional data, primary research, engagement data as well as third party data. We want insights across all aspects of live event attendance. For example, awareness -- how they found out about the show or band -- satisfaction, did they have a good time, how was the sound quality, demographics -- age, gender, attitudes and psychographics -- what brought them out to the show, are they a hardcore follower of the band, did they attend more as a social event, or is it more about being with friends for the evening, and importantly, their affinities and propensities -- what other bands or events will they like.

We utilize the data across our different consumer engagement and marketing points, from Ticketmaster website recommendations and event listings to e-mail alerts. For our clients, the data becomes part of their overall CRM and marketing programs, helping them profile and segment their fan bases, target their offers and communications, and tailor their messaging.

The affinity of data is especially powerful, and we can see some interesting crossovers of purchase behavior between sports and concerts. Rap and hip hop fans are far more likely to attend basketball games but are pretty poor prospects for hockey or rodeo events. As you can imagine, this knowledge can enable much better targeting and relevance when one of our clients is marketing a show.

Ad Age: When you led the building of the analytics division at Live Nation, what was involved from an infrastructure investment standpoint? What were some of the biggest challenges?

Mr. Forese: Right when we started, we knew a major challenge existed because our fan and event data was spread across disparate systems and databases throughout the organization. The most important but less glamorous side of analytics is putting infrastructure in place to enable one common and holistic view of the fan. Step one for us was making the commitment to put the appropriate dollars and resources into creating that one source of fan information.

The other challenge was on the people side. We needed to add both IT and analytics resources. If you go back four or five years, we really hadn't thought of ourselves as a data company. Now it's a core part of our DNA, and we've built out a team of Ph.D.'s, statisticians and machine learning experts who understand the live event industry and how to practically apply data to live event marketing and pricing.

Ad Age: You refer to Live Nation as, at least in part, a data company. More and more companies that have lots of data they use internally have begun selling that information, usually in aggregated form. Has Live Nation ever considered packaging the data it provides to clients and making it available to data compilers or brokers?

Mr. Forese: Our current focus continues to be on using this data to help our clients -- artists, venues, sports teams and brand sponsors -- to be as knowledgeable as possible about the live event fan base. That enables them to be as relevant and targeted as possible with their communications, offers campaigns and programs, mobile and social strategies, and ideally across all of their marketing and fan interactions.

An example of a successful use of our data for brands can be seen in our Kellogg's Pop-Tarts "Crazy Good Summer" program, run by our media and sponsorship division. Using LiveAnalytics' data, we were able to identify artists that appealed to Pop-Tarts' target demographic -- teens -- like Austin Mahone and others. The program yielded 140 million impressions through social media, creating nearly 5% growth in sales for Pop-Tarts. (Learn more about the campaign and others using music data here).

We don't have any plans to make this data available more broadly.

Ad Age: Working at Live Nation sounds like a dream gig for sports and music fans. What are the popular teams and music artists or bands in the analytics division?

Mr. Forese: You're right, it is a dream job. For the LiveAnalytics team, it's a dream for people who both love analytics and are passionate sports and music fanatics -- think "Moneyball" for concerts and ticketing. My team is pretty evenly divided between sports and concerts. Though most love both, they will have a stronger passion towards one or the other. Our head statistician was seriously debating naming his first born girl Britney, so you can probably guess his preference. On the sports side I won't speak for the rest of the team, but I grew up in New Jersey, so that drives most of my allegiances. It's always exciting when we sign a new client that is someone's favorite team. It can also be strange when we bring on a sports team that was an archrival and I suddenly find myself rooting for what was once the enemy.

Ad Age: What's emerging in the world of data that you expect to come to fruition soon that you're excited about?

Mr. Forese: Mobile gets me the most excited, specifically around the use of mobile in the venue during live events. There are lots of opportunities opening up around things like in-venue seat upgrades, accessing proprietary views or content, line management and in-seat ordering. What's more, all of these interactions can be made more relevant based on good fan data and are data collection opportunities in and of themselves.

I also think location-based analytics is finally) poised to make a breakthrough. We are doing a few different trials around geo-fencing and predictive analytics based on travel patterns. Clearly consumer privacy needs to be respected and properly adhered to, but ultimately location-based analytics could answer some really important questions for the live event industry: Where do fans like to go before and after the show? What shows are playing based on where a fan is predicted or likely to be this weekend? Are the fans that went to last week's live event more likely to now show up at one of the event's sponsors? These are the questions we hope to one day predict.

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