This year is undoubtedly THE year for veteran artists returning to the limelight with new material. Madonna is back with one of her strongest albums (titled “Rebel Heart“) in recent years – and a tour that is destined to impress. Duran Duran is back with their best and catchiest single (titled “Pressure Off“)in 22 years. Simply Red not only announced a 30-year anniversary tour but also returned with a surprise album titled “Big Love“. But one of the biggest surprises of the year and the most unlikely reunion is that of Norwegian pop/rock trio a-ha. The band had officially called it quits in 2010/2011 after a tour aptly titled “Ending on a high note“. This tour took them across the globe for their final bow (or at least what appeared to be their final bow). While we believed that they would never reunite, we could not help but think they had a deep attachment to their catalog and to their live presence as a cohesive three-piece unit. They reunited for a one-off performance after the terrorist killings in Norway not long after they split. Last year, they announced a performance at the “Rock in Rio” festival in Brazil to mark 30 years since their rise to stardom. Despite solo projects, it seemed like their hearts were still deeply entrenched in a-ha. Their return to the limelight this year met with dizzying levels of happiness as well as cynicism given that they had already announced an official farewell just to reunite a few years later. a-ha debuted their new single “Under the makeup” a few weeks ago and has already announced tour dates for their “yet to be released” album titled “Cast in Steel” (scheduled for release in September 2015). The list can be found HERE.
Interestingly enough, the US and Canada are NOT on this list. While it is unfortunate that the legacy of a-ha in the North American mainstream has been tied exclusively to their debut hit single “Take On Me“, multiple North American tours over the last decade and a half have proved that a-ha is not only a viable touring act in the US and Canada but are also a profitable act. While no one expects a tour on the scale of something the band would do in Europe or South America, we truly believe that leaving out the US and Canada is equivalent to leaving money on the table and walking away from it.
We understand that while bands have fans across the globe, touring in every part of the globe might not necessarily be commercially viable. This is a business and the bottom line does matter but we do have to wonder if a-ha’s record label and management is using the data they need to decide whether or not it is worth having the band tour in the US and Canada. This post of ours is similar, in flavor to one that we did a few years ago about Manchester quintet (now a trio) Take That. The post was titled “Is there demand for a Take That concert tour in the US?”. Our basis for the analysis of a-ha’s tour viability in the US and Canada is also the same as that outlined in the article mentioned earlier.
The management companies and record labels for artists such as a-ha seem skeptical about there being demand for these artists outside UK, Europe, and parts of South America. This assertion is based primarily on the fact that these artists/bands have no exposure via terrestrial radio outside of Europe and South America. In the case of a-ha, the only song that gets regular exposure is “Take On Me“. But is terrestrial radio the final word in terms of determining the lack of viability of a concert tour for a globally successful artist? Maybe not.
In this world of big data, it appears that the music industry displays the most resistance to leveraging data in making marketing and promotion decisions around musicians. Record labels are to blame for this. They continue to resort to “old world” approaches such as “focus groups” to figure out the marketability of their artists. Decisions are made primarily on gut instinct and are very often divorced from reality.
When deciding whether or not an act such as a-ha is viable in North America from a concert tour perspective, the following questions need to be answered:
- What is the market demand (in terms of potential ticket buyers) for an act such as a-ha in North America and what cities is this demand concentrated in (if indeed there is a concentration)?
- If there is market demand, how many shows can be put on and in which cities?
- Can the tickets be priced in such a way that the tour is profitable? Depleted levels of demand on a per-city basis can make this a tough one
For bands that do not have a significant commercial footprint in a specific country’s mainstream (i.e. not much terrestrial radio play), record sales is NOT a good indicator of domestic demand for an artist or band. So given that record sales are inadequate and radio airplay on terrestrial radio is practically non-existent, what is the answer?
The answer can be summarized in two words – “social data”. In the last few years, companies like The NextBigSound have proved that a music listener’s activity on a social network (especially as it relates to his or her favorite artists) is a stronger predictor of music consumption patterns than responses to old-world research approaches such as focus groups and surveys. It is absolutely mind-boggling that record companies do not dig into this pool of social data to make any of their decisions about their artists. Here is the best part of this data. It is literally available to ANY of us (or so we think!).
We used Facebook’s Audience Insights to project demand for a-ha’s “Cast In Steel” tour in North America. For this analysis, Facebook’s Audience Insights gives us the following data:
- The number of ACTIVE a-ha fans (based on whether or not a facebook user explicitly “likes” a-ha) in each country.
- For a given country, the “percentage split” of a-ha fans across the country’s major cities.
We made the following assumptions in our exercise of determining whether or not a-ha live gigs are profitable in North America:
a. Facebook gives us a lower estimate and a higher estimate of the active monthly fans of a-ha. The number of people in the US that would be willing to buy tickets for an a-ha concert is equal to HALF The number associated with the lower estimate of a-ha fans as reported by facebook . The number of people in Canada that would be willing to buy tickets for an a-ha concert is equal to 60% of the number associated with the lower estimate of a-ha fans as reported by Facebook.
b. The likelihood of a Facebook fan to buy a ticket is NOT lowered by the fact that the fan has already watched a-ha in concert in one of the earlier tours.
c. All the demand for a concert is LOCAL. No one will travel from one city to another to watch a-ha. For instance, a fan in Minneapolis will NOT travel to New York City to watch the concert. We made this assumption in an endeavor to be conservative with our ticket demand estimates.
d. The cost basis for a-ha to perform in North America is similar to that of their prior tours in North America – all of which enjoyed great live success.
e. a-ha needs to be able to sell a MINIMUM of 3000 tickets in a US city and a MINIMUM of 2000 tickets in a Canadian city for the concert(s) in that city to be profitable.
f. There is ZERO “opportunity cost” associated with a-ha spending a few weeks in North America for live concerts.
The infographic below is purely for a-ha’s Facebook fans in the US.
The infographic above suggests that a-ha has a minimum of 250,000 active Facebook fans in the US. The potential number of ticket buyers is hence equal to 125,000 (half the minimum number of active a-ha fans on facebook). Assuming the “percentage splits” in the above infographic can be applied to the 125,000 number, the ticket demand (at a bare minimum) in each of the cities is as follows:
Los Angeles – 7500 (6% of 125,000)
New York (inclusive of Brooklyn) – 8750 (7% of 125,000)
Chicago – 6250 (5% of 125,000)
Houston – 3750 (3% of 125,000)
San Diego – 3750 (3% of 125,000)
Las Vegas – 3750 (3% of 125,000)
In each of the above scenarios, the ticket demand exceeds the minimum of 3000 tickets needed for the concerts to be profitable.
The infographic below is purely for a-ha’s Facebook fans in Canada.
The infographic above suggests that a-ha has a minimum of 25,000 active Facebook fans in the Canada. The potential number of ticket buyers is hence equal to 15,000 (60% the minimum number of active a-ha fans on facebook). Assuming the “percentage splits” in the above infographic can be applied to the 15,000 number, the ticket demand (at a bare minimum) in each of the cities is as follows:
Montreal – 3300 (22% of 15,000)
Toronto – 2400 (16% of 15,000)
For each of the above scenarios, the ticket demand exceeds the minimum of 2000 tickets needed for the concerts to be profitable.
Based on the data above, the table below provides a sample tour plan for a-ha in North America:
|City||Total Ticket Demand||Venue||Capacity||Shows|
|Los Angeles||7500||Greek theatre||5900||1|
|New York||8750||Beacon Theatre||3000||2|
|Chicago||6250||House of Blues||1300||4|
|San Diego||3750||Humphreys Concerts By the Bay||1400||2|
|Las Vegas||3750||Pearl Theater @ Palms Casino||2500||1|
The table above suggests that for every city (with Toronto being the exception), demand outstrips venue capacity (including cities with multiple shows) and hence the probability of “sold out” concerts is incredibly high. We just hope a-ha’s management and record label consider this while ironing out details for the 2016 tour plan. Meanwhile, for those of you that live in North America, please sign the petition by clicking on the image below to bring a-ha to the US and Canada to tour. More importantly, SHARE the petition on your facebook walls and twitter feeds.
Once again, DO NOT forget to SHARE the petition! Feel free to comment on and share our article too.
We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of a-ha (both old and new) is a regular staple on our radio station. The music (both old and new) of a-ha is a regular staple on our station – including songs from the “Cast In Steel” album. We also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s. Noteworthy examples include Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, INXS, Depeche Mode, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!