Back And Blue

Former Contemporary Productions and Clear Channel Entertainment exec Irv Zuckerman is making his return to the touring business after taking some time off. And he’s doing it with an act that is also going on its first outing in a few years: Blue Man Group, preparing for its production of How To Be A Megastar Tour 2.0.

The tour is BMG’s first since The Complex Rock tour in 2003. It’s Zuckerman’s first major concert business endeavor since leaving the top music post at CCE in 2002 along with co-CEO Rodney Eckerman.

“After Clear Channel, I decided I definitely didn’t want to do ‘tickets on sale Saturday,'” Zuckerman told Pollstar. “What I was interested in was trying to find, without looking, an opportunity. I knew something would come together on its own.

“The best plan is to let things happen and, when they do, walk through the door and take advantage of an opportunity.”

For Zuckerman, that turned out to be the formation of Pacific Arts Entertainment with partner Steve Litman, of Steve Litman Presents in St. Louis, and the decision for their company to then partner with Paul Emery of Emery Entertainment to co-produce and promote an expected two-leg, 90-date BMG tour.

“Paul Emery, who worked for me at Contemporary, called and told me there’s an opportunity to meet the guys from Blue Man Group,” Zuckerman said. “We got together and immediately knew there was some chemistry to create a relationship. It was one of those rare things where you are together one time and you feel good about the people you’re dealing with.

“It was a wonderful feeling and we – myself, Paul and Steve Litman – joined forces to do Pacific Arts Entertainment. Greg Hagglund joined Paul and we put together the old guys who, at one time or another, were at Contemporary and/or, in most cases, worked at SFX and Clear Channel.”

Like Blue Man Group’s return to the road, it was a matter of timing. In the three years since BMG delighted audiences with the Complex tour, the franchise has grown from three to seven open-ended theatrical residencies in four countries, including New York, Boston, Las Vegas and Chicago in the U.S.

“I think this is really the catalyst, a critical mass,” Zuckerman said. “All the things they’ve done over the last three years have helped them establish this opportunity.”

The first leg of How To Be A Megastar Tour 2.0 has already been announced with stops in theatres and arenas in more than 40 North American cities starting September 26th in Reading, Pa. A second leg is expected to begin in February and will be announced in the next month or two. Like the first tour, an eight-piece rock band fronted by singer Tracy Bonham will be on hand.

Something of a sequel to the Complex tour, in which the Blue Men find a manual with instructions on “How To Be A Rock Star,” Megastar 2.0 follows the theme but with a few more touches that include a heavy dose of audience participation – by cell phone.

“Using the new technologies that are available, like downloading into your cell phone, Blue Man Group is building off all that technology,” Emery told Pollstar. “They are incorporating a company called Mobcaster where people can actually dial in to the show itself through cell phones.

“If you’ve seen the theatrical show where they have the LED screens stage left and stage right that run messages, you know the Blue Men tend to argue with each other and they use the screens on the right side and the left side. With their messages, they start arguing with each other and getting the audience involved.

“This time out, fans get different numbers to dial in and take sides,” Emery continued. “Throughout the show, messages and instructions will be sent to people’s cell phones that correspond with what happens in the show. It’s very engaging – and you can hear the audience react in spots all over the venue.

“Ultimately, what seems to happen is the audience becomes the adoring rock audience of the Megastars and they actually play a role in it as well. It’s a lot of fun. I hate to use that term interactive, but it certainly is just that.”

Another innovation that Zuckerman, Emery and their teams have come up with is a marketing plan that includes a PBS special called “Inside the Tube” and on-demand cable programming to extend the Blue Man brand beyond the theatrical shows and Intel Pentium commercials.

“What we did with ‘Inside the Tube’ was meet with the group and I said, ‘Let’s put together something that extends the brand to the people who may or may not know the details of you, because they may not know the story,'” Zuckerman said. “They put this beautiful special together and went to PBS with the idea that it was the perfect vehicle to launch this story.

“‘Inside The Tube’ was born and it helped set up a tremendous marketing strategy along with the cable promotion we’re doing – a major cable promotion with all the major operators like Time Warner, Comcast, Charter, etc. – and we have created one of the best potential marketing/promotion opportunities to really make this a large, successful tour. We feel great about the strategy and great about the relationship.”

– Deborah Speer