“Are there any Americans in the audience tonight” – asked British superstar Robbie Williams as he indulged in playful banter with the attendees at his concert at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas on March 9, 2019. When Americans in the audience (me included) yelled back at him with an emphatic “yes”, he responded by saying “so why don’t you tell your f**kin friends about me?”. This interaction underscores America’s stubborn insularity from the broader global music landscape. There is an endless list of British pop and rock acts that rose to prominence in the 90s that have large fanbases (as a percentage of a country’s population) everywhere in the world except the US. As the recipient of the second largest recording contract of all time (valued at 80 million pounds), Robbie Williams just might be the most noteworthy member of this list of artists that are “globally famous” but relatively obscure in the US.
After a 15-year hiatus from American stages, Robbie Williams opted for a Las Vegas concert residency to reacquaint himself with American audiences. The shows in March in Las Vegas were undoubtedly fantastic (the details of which can be found in our review of Williams’ March 9 (2019) concert HERE). AEG live (the concert promoter) claimed that this was the fastest sellout they had witnessed. Six additional shows had to be added to cater to the staggering demand for the tickets (70% of which were purchased by US residents). This proves the following:
a. Radio airplay and chart success on the Billboard top 40 are weaker predictors of concert demand than they used to be 20 years ago.
b. The notion that awareness of an artist is low (i.e. percentage of the population that is aware of an artist or band’s material is low) equates to a lack of concert demand for an artist or band is false.
Working on the premise that the Las Vegas gigs by Robbie Williams were profitable, I wanted to explore the economic viability of a broader mini-tour in the US and Canada for Robbie Williams. To this end, I have chosen to leverage publicly available Facebook Audience Insights data to project concert demand for Robbie Williams in the US/Canada and also understand where (geographically speaking) that demand is concentrated.
The assumptions guiding the projection of concert demand are as follows:
1. Robbie Williams’ tour promotion company can get the word out on the live gigs to ALL the band’s Facebook fans in each of the cities in the US and Canada wherein there is a sufficiently large fanbase.
2. Facebook gives us a lower estimate and a higher estimate of the active monthly fans of Robbie Williams. The number associated with the lower estimate is equal to the number of GUARANTEED ticket buyers for a Robbie Williams concert.
3. A maximum of 90% of the demand for a concert is LOCAL. At least 10% of ticket buyers for a concert will travel from one city to another to watch Robbie Williams. For instance, a fan in Boston that will travel to New York City to watch the concert will be part of a minority that is at least equal to 10% of the attendees for the concert in New York City. I made this assumption to factor in the propensity of music enthusiasts to travel to other cities for concerts.
4. The cost basis for Robbie Williams to perform in various US and Canadian cities is similar to that of his concerts in Las Vegas.
5. Robbie Williams needs to be able to sell a MINIMUM of 1500 tickets PER CONCERT in a city for the concert(s) in that city to be profitable.
6. There is ZERO “opportunity cost” associated with Robbie Williams spending a few weeks in the US and Canada for live concerts.
Here is an infographic from Facebook Audience Insights that estimates the size of the Robbie Williams fanbase in the US as well as the geographic distribution of this fanbase.
The infographic above suggests that there are a minimum of 70,000 monthly active Robbie Williams fans on Facebook in the US. Furthermore, there is a concentration of fans in the following cities – New York City (6%), Los Angeles (2%), Chicago (2%), and Seattle (2%). In view of this, I attempted a deep dive into Robbie Williams fan insights (from Facebook Audience Insights) for these specific cities. The results were as follows:
a. New York City has a minimum of 4500 monthly active Robbie Williams fans – and hence the demand for at least three concerts (wherein the venue capacity is 1500 people).
b. Los Angeles has a minimum of 2500 monthly active Robbie Williams fans – and hence the demand for at least 1 or 2 concerts (wherein the venue capacity is 1500 people).
c. For Chicago, the minimum monthly active Robbie Williams fan count was closer to 1000 and hence insufficient to justify a concert.
d. For Seattle, the monthly Robbie Williams fan count was under 1000 and hence like Chicago, the case for a concert there is not compelling (looking solely at Facebook Audience Insights data).
I took a similar approach to the fanbase in Canada. Here is an infographic from Facebook Audience Insights that estimates the size of the Robbie Williams fanbase in Canada as well as the geographic distribution of this fanbase.
The infographic above suggests that there are a minimum of 10,000 monthly active Robbie Williams fans on Facebook in Canada. Furthermore, there is a concentration of fans in the following cities – Toronto (12%), and Montreal (8%). In view of this, I attempted a deep dive on Robbie Williams fans insights (from Facebook Audience Insights) for these specific cities. The results were as follows:
a. Toronto has a minimum of 2000 monthly active Robbie Williams fans – and hence the demand for at least 1 concert (wherein the venue capacity is 1500 people).
b. Montreal has a minimum monthly active Robbie Williams fan count that is closer to 1000 and hence based on Facebook Audience Insights data alone, it is difficult to make a compelling case for a concert here.
Our analysis undoubtedly understates concert demand for the following reasons:
a. The analysis cannot quantify the propensity of Robbie Williams fans’ willingness to travel from within the US/Canada and from overseas for concerts in the cities that I analyzed.
b. It assumes that there are no Robbie Williams fans on Facebook besides those that have EXPLICITLY listed themselves as Robbie Williams fans. I most certainly fall in this category of fans that have not explicitly “liked” Robbie Williams’ Facebook page and hence do not count towards the monthly fan number.
c. It assumes that Facebook adequately captures Robbie Williams fanbase characteristics in the US and Canada.
But that being said, there is not a shred of doubt that there is at least REAL demand for a US/Canada mini-tour in venues with a capacity of 1500 people that looks like the following:
a. 3 concert dates in New York City
b. 2 concert dates in Los Angeles
c. 1 concert date in Toronto
As mentioned before, this data is public. Record companies and Concert promotion companies do not have to work hard to access this data. Their modeling assumptions to calculate the size of the Robbie Williams concert “ticket buyer” market in the US and Canada might be different from the ones we have used but the source data is there and it is easily accessible. Last, but not least, if a concert promotion company such as AEG live can get Robbie Williams’ former bandmates from Take That to join him, the demand for this type of tour in North America (outside of Mexico) will get exponentially larger. Whether that is viable or not is yet to be determined – but one can only dream!
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