The Art of the Upsell: Giving Fans What They Want Around a Full Live Event Experience (Pollstar Live! Panel Recap) 

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Moderator: Jaclyn Lash, San Diego Padres/Petco Park
Dan Berkowitz, 100x Hospitality
Daren Libonati, Jampack
Maria Camila “Maca” Litman, WME
Darby Moeller, Sixthman
Emily Wright, United Talent Agency

When it comes to mastering the “art of the upsell” – whether you’re talking premium seating, VIP treatment, enhanced experiences like cruises and destination events, or brand partnerships – there are lots of opportunities for maximizing revenue but ultimately it comes down to authenticity and helping create more connection between the artist and fans. 

Early in the panel discussion Sixthman’s Darby Moeller shared about her first “wow moment” that cemented the unique space that the leader in festival and music cruises operates in, explaining how Paramore decided to host a karaoke contest (aka “Paraoke”) after brainstorming an activity to do with its fans on its debut “Parahoy!” cruise in 2014. 

“They performed on the main stage with the band judging the contest … on the pool deck, it was this cool moment of seeing how the fans were connected to the band and each other,” Moeller said. “It was them cheering on their fellow community…. There’s so much more here than a photograph or a special setlist, it’s about creating an experience, an opportunity for the community to bond. It was a special time – we did that every year on the [Parahoy!] cruise.”

She later added that having been with Sixthman for 11 years, “I’m not in the cruise business – I’m in the community business.”

It’s all about finding hyper passionate communities who want to be together. This was seen last year with fans willing to spend a lot of money to see Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s tours, along with travel costs, merch, etc. – “so they can feel free and be with other like-minded people.”

Moeller also talked about playing the long game with brand partnerships. One example of how fans may go home after a Sixthman cruise and become brand ambassadors was the Runaway to Paradise with Jon Bon Jovi, which featured tastings of Hampton Water Wine, a brand developed by Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi. She noted that after attending theJon Bon Jovi cruise, fans are going to go to the wine store and buy that specific wine because it reminded them of the best time in their lives – “I drank it with Jon’s son.”   

As far as vetting opportunities for one’s clients, UTA’s Emily Wright noted that it really depends on the artist and what their appetite is in the brand space. 

“They are all individual people and they all have very different roles and objectives … They also have very specific ways they talk to their audience. Their threshold for integrating their brand varies greatly. And on the flipside, [it depends] what the brands are looking for with a partner.” 

Wright brought up the partnership between upcoming country artist Matt Stell and Busch beer as a pairing that’s gone really well. 

“Matt Snell out of Nashville who has only ever drank Busch beer. He had wanted that partnership for a long time. He had wanted to secure it and now it’s going into its third year,” Wright said, adding that the partnership has been “game changing,” in how it’s helped him achieve his goals for the year. 

“It’s a lot of work but it doesn’t feel like work for Matt. … They speak the same language; they sponsor Nascar, so it makes a lot of sense.”

Following talk of comparing great brand partnerships to dating or marriage, WME’s Maria Camila “Maca” Litman said that she calls herself a matchmaker. 

“What I try to always do and what we do on our team is really try to see what values align with a brand.”

She later added, “What I like about my job is the artist actually gets to have a different source of income. When they go on tour they’re spending money … When they do a brand deal, they usually get most of the money – usually – and have fun doing it. Can go from 5 figures to 8 figures, depending on the artist & the brand and deliverables. That’s what makes me want to do it more.” 

And then for other artists, they might not make as much doing a cruise or destination festival as they could compared to four days on tour – but it’s about those intangibles and building that connection.