So you’re an artist. You think crisis communication management isn’t something you need to worry about; think again. A crisis communication management team is a group that works within your company and is designed to protecting you, the individual, your company or corporation when faced with a threat to its public reputation because of a crisis. The world is changing at breakneck speeds, and everyone out there wears the title of a communicator. The problem becomes telling the story you want told and not some alternate version of a story, that may or may not be true. Having a team that knows exactly who is sending out what messages to whom, and in a timely manner is critical. If you wait too long to respond, say or send the wrong message, your reputation or that of your company can be damaged beyond repair. In an article for Forbes, Ronn Torossian writes “A key takeaway for brands is that it’s necessary to apologize immediately after an offensive mistake has been made, especially in the current age of social media, when minor missteps are amplified into major crises within a matter of minutes” (para 13).
Eddie Obeng said that “We’ve doubled the population in 40 years, put half of them in cities, then connected them all up so they can interact. The density of the interaction of human beings is amazing.” He also suggests that “Size and scale are no longer the same. Every time you tweet, over a third of your followers follow from a country which is not your own.” [Video File] If you, the artist, are involved in a crisis you need a team of people who will decide on the message you want to be delivered to the world and a team that can effectively and promptly deliver the appropriate content across all media channels. A great manager and team of people around you can quite literally save your career from a crisis, and conversely, a bad manager and team can destroy your career in the blink of an eye. In an article about Irving Azoff for Scoop Marketing, an attorney was quoted as saying “Ultimately the artists are in control, so whoever most influences the artist has the power” (para 3). In the same article, Azoff is quoted as saying “It’s all about the artist and those they empower to execute their business” (para 10).
Not convinced? Let me share a couple of stories from Irving Azoff. But first, if you haven’t heard the name Azoff, Steve Kurutz wrote that he was a “one time protege of David Geffen, began his career by setting up Front Line Management in the mid ’70s. Drawn to Azoff because he had the reputation of being a tyrant when dealing with record companies, Front Line eventually became the most powerful management firm in rock history counting Steely Dan, Boz Skaggs, Stevie Nicks, Heart, Jackson Browne and the Eagles, (bequeathed to Azoff by Geffen) as among its clients.” And that was only the beginning of his career! Variety reports that “he’s also been CEO of two major record labels — MCA and Giant — and head of the world’s largest live entertainment company, Live Nation, whose merger with Ticketmaster he oversaw. Currently, he’s running, co-running or overseeing five companies: Full Stop Management (Eagles, Bon Jovi, rapper Travis Scott); the sprawling live-entertainment firm Oak View Group, with its arena alliances and ticketing services; licensing organization Global Music Rights; a venture with Jim Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Company that includes the L.A. Forum; and an investment wing. Safe to say the man is in every corner of the business” (para 1).
The Eagles are undoubtedly one of the biggest bands in the world, and they have held that esteemed position for many years. Members of the group haven’t always been that easy to coral or keep in check. You might say they were a disaster waiting to happen. Here are two quick stories that Azoff recounts in a Q&A session after a Touring Conference Keynote he gave for Billboard.
Azoff recounted his earliest Joe Walsh experience and said: “I went up with him to a gig in Montreal, Canada where he opened for “The Who” for his buddy Pete Townsend. Later in the evening with Peter Meaden, the then manager for “The Who” and a good friend, we were standing in the lobby, and Keith Moon and Joe Walsh drive a Lincoln Continental Limousine through the front plate glass window of the hotel.” [Video File]
Another memory Azoff shared was another Joe Walsh tour, he said “they checked into one of those round Holiday Inns somewhere in upstate New York, and I used to get Joe and adjoining room because sometimes in the middle of the night he would kinda hallucinate, but this particular time they didn’t have adjoining rooms. So I said Joe, it’s no problem I’ll get the room next door to you and give you the key to my room, and I won’t double lock it and if you wake up in the middle of the night come on over. So, I’m on the phone, and I hear the chainsaw start up in the room next to me. He cut like an Igloo hole between his room and my room, and he crawled through, and he looked up to me and said, “Hey I made it just your size” [Video File].
Now granted, the world was a different place back then without cell phones capturing videos of rock stars driving a car through a hotel lobby or cutting holes in the walls of hotels with chain saws but getting the band out of what were surely crisis situations, especially in a different country was not easy. Not only did this manager and their team keep this under wraps but they were able to turn this band into one of the most loved bands in the world. Like I said, a great manager and your crisis communications team can make or break your career.
Well, you say that you would never behave like that so there’s no need to worry about a crisis communication plan and team. Let’s look at some of the top concerts today and what they earn. In an article for Billboard, Kevin Rutherford reports these acts and their total gross incomes from their tours in 2018.
- “ The Rolling Stones $117,844,618. May 17 – July 8.
- Taylor Swift. $21,779, 846. July 26-28.
- Beyonce and Jay-Z. 14,803,969 July 14-17.”
And the list goes on. If for some reason you have to cancel a show, and it’s been known to happen, think of all of the crisis communications that need to be delivered to all of those fans, the venues, the ticket outlets, the security, the road crew… and again the list goes on. You don’t need to be throwing TVs off of a hotel balcony or cutting holes through walls to need a team managing your online and physical reputation. What if you leave someone a nasty voice mail and it gets out? Alex Baldwin found that out the hard way. What if you get a DUI? What if you get mad on a gig and yell at someone in the band and it finds its way to the internet via someone cell phone? What if you say something to some and you think it’s behind closed doors, but it really isn’t? Sound familiar? Billy Bush. How about yelling at your child’s coach and it finds its way to the world. These are things that happen to everyday people, not just artists, that are now caught on tape and played for the world. If people didn’t want to see all the torrid details of people’s failings, then shows like E, Scandal, and TMZ wouldn’t be as popular as they are.
With the onset of social media, a crisis can become trans-boundary in a matter of minutes. A story can go global even as it is happening. Crisis management teams need to have plans in place and practice regularly so that if something happens, they can respond appropriately, accurately and promptly. The public expectation of transparency is at an all-time high and the longer you wait to deal with the situation the more backlash you will get for your unresponsiveness. Finding a great manager, like Irving Azoff, who has exceptional leadership qualities is one way to be sure your team is prepared to limit damaging press during and after the crisis. By preparing and practicing your plan to effectively anticipate, respond and recover from any disaster, you will be limiting your exposure to negative feedback. Analyze and your threats and vulnerabilities and prepare everyone on the team to be a communicator for the company or artist. Then make sure your response effort is closely monitored to ensure it is doing the job it is intended to do. Adapting your strategy during the response phase may be necessary. Once the crisis has ended go back and review the actions of your team and critically evaluate how effective and responsive your team was to the crisis. As Neil Chapman said in an interview for CIPRtv, sometimes “There’s not much you can say that makes it better, but there’s a lot you can say that makes it worse” [Video File].
Azoff, Irving. November 2012. Irving Azoff Touring Conference Keynote Q&A. Retrieved from:
CIPRtv. (March 2011). Crisis Communication in conversation with Neil Chapman. Retrieved From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjb196dB0VY
Kurutz, Steve. Irving Azoff Biography. Retrieved from: https://www.allmusic.com/artist/irving-azoff-mn0001738386
Obeng, Eddie. (2012) Smart Failure for a fast changing world. Ted Talk. Retrieved from:
Rutherford, Kevin. (2018) Billboard. Retrieved from: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/8468602/the-rolling-stones-wrap-no-filter-tour-with-2378-million-earned
Torossian, Ronn. (May 2017). The Biggest PR Crises of 2017. Retreived from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/05/23/the-biggest-pr-crises-of-2017/#11f6eee050a8