This is an archived blog from when I ran Conscious Public Relations Inc. from 2008-2018. Excuse the potential outdated-ness!
Last night I attended a concert featuring one of my favourite artists, Justin Timberlake, accompanied by one of the said greatest rappers of all time, Jay-Z.
Swag, swag, swag
The subject of PR came up when a few of my friends were disappointed that the merchandise booth was not selling concert tour programs. Last time we went to JT’s FUTURESEX/LOVESOUND tour in Vancouver, I had one, and the concert program is a staple souvenir at most large performances (operas, musicals, etc). I thought that perhaps the idea of the Legends of the Summer Tour came about quite quickly and there was simply not enough time to create them. Also, the second album of JT’s The 20/20 Experience has yet to come out.
This raises the question of how much time is needed to successfully put on a huge production – or any kind of production, for that matter – with all the bells and whistles that long time fans (or engagers) might come to expect?
Well, I have to give both artists and their teams props for how they marketed both of their albums (Jay-Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail album came out just in the nick o’ time before the Van concert). JT has a big presence on both Twitter and Instagram, and is known to have tried to revive the MySpace network. Jay-Z… well, he doesn’t really need networks, since he’s been in the game since the 90’s. But staying out of trouble as far as headlines in the media – with the exception of marrying equally successful wifey Beyonce and having a daughter – has bode well for him. Just search for all the variations of #LegendsoftheSummer and you will see how much it was trending since the tour started.
I may be assuming that most fans were there to see JT, but if I am right, then I think it is because JT doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t. He had a very laid back vibe on stage, doing away with the fancy boy-band style choreography and going for playing instruments, grooving solo as if no one else was there, and belting out them soprano notes like no average woman can. Being who you are is good when it comes to PR.
Another funny moment was when a friend of mine said she wished one of us had the connections to be able to tell the artist(s) that they were late (almost 1.5 hours to be exact) and to just start already. And then it turned into a conversation about how I as a PR person should just tell the entire production what they are doing wrong. This is an interesting angle to our profession. Maybe I’m stretching it, but hear me out.
PR people are not in a glamorous business by nature. Sure, I would kill to spend 24 hours in the footsteps of JT’s management team to see how they pull off everything they do. But we do not have magic databases built into our phones where we can tell the powers that be what to do. I would LOVE to tell my clients how to spend their money, but there must be a respect there. Often even the biggest events I work with have limitations because there is only so much budget to go around, and you must strike a balance between pleasing your audience and getting things done.
Also, not doing something does not necessarily mean that it is wrong. At the last JT concert, we had purchased $5 soft drinks but in return for the high price, got a souvenir cup. At the end of the concert we saw all the cups that people had left behind, and after a quick rinse had ourselves each up to four differently coloured souvenir cups (which I am proud to say I still carry). At Legends of the Summer, there were no souvenir cups. As a matter of fact there were no Jay-Z souvenirs to be seen at all. Too bad for theJay-Z fans. But are they really there for the souvenirs anyway, or to see HOVA in all his glory? Some merch is fine. No merch = disappointed fans. Vancouverites enjoy waiting, but I think they can just as easily turn their backs when something is not right.
Interesting things to think about. To me, Legends of the Summer gets a 4 star rating out of 5 in terms of PR. The late start, coupled with the lack of intimacy in the staging and the displeasure that the merchandising caused for my besties, prevented it from being a perfect score.