Did you ever see The Beatles live? Elvis? I didn’t, but I can only imagine it’s akin to the Garth Brooks concert Ryan and I attended in St. Louis on Saturday.

A few one-off benefit concerts and an unplugged residency at The Wynn notwithstanding, this is Brooks’ first real tour in seventeen years. I saw him then as well. He may have gained a little in the middle and lost a little on top, but he hasn’t lost an ounce of energy and, if anything, his Vegas stint increased his already outstanding ability to deliver an unparalleled entertainment experience.

10 Things Marketers Can Learn From Garth Brooks

  1. It’s not about you. It’s about your audience. From the first note to the last chord of the final encore (I think there were four), he held the sold-out crowd (in the third of four sold out St. Louis shows) in the palm of his hand. Brooks was always on. He had a magical ability to make every one of the 22,000 people in attendance at the Scottrade Center feel like he was performing specifically for them. Even though he couldn’t possibly interact with everyone, he specifically circled the round stage and made eye contact with someone at each point before he moved on.
  2. Engage your audience, then take them where you will. He knew this wasn’t just his concert. It was his audience’s concert, too. In addition to eye contact, he waved, he pointed, he posed for front-row selfies, and his adoring audience responded in kind. Many of Brooks’ songs are no longer his; they belong to his fans. He expressed wonder and gratitude each time people sang every word… even though most certainly they do this every evening.
  3. Be consistent. Be present. Heaven only knows how many times he’s strummed those first notes of Friends In Low Places, but each time his audience loses its mind, he gives them what they want – a reaction that makes them feel their reaction is appreciated. Read reviews from around the country. He’s consistently delivering this level of entertainment and energy to audiences around the country.
  4. Have a strong team. As he introduced his band, I think he said the new guy had been playing with him only twenty years. They know each other. They trust each other. They can anticipate each other’s every move. They can pick each other up when one is down. No matter how good Garth is, he couldn’t do this at this level singing to a backing track. It’s what separates him from a really wild Karaoke singer.
  5. Have a nice team. Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood, began introducing the band by saying, “They’re not only the best players. They’re also the nicest.” Life’s too short to spend time on the road with jerkfaces. Life too short for us, too.
  6. Be the most humble person in the room. My favorite moment of the show was when he yielded center stage to Yearwood. She sang four of her own songs toward the middle of his set. What did Brooks do? Went back with the rest of the band and played rhythm guitar. He wasn’t afraid to let someone else have the spotlight. And yet, when he had it all to himself, Brooks was gracious and kind and appreciative of it all. On stage, he’s relentless in his humility. Some have called this an act, but the last time I checked, we all paid tickets to see an act, and I like the character he’s playing. So did everyone else (88,000 in four St. Louis shows). No one ever complained about someone being too gracious.
  7. Provide incredible value. Yes, $70 is a lot of money for a ticket to anything, but when you compare it to the hundreds of dollars several acts are charging for nostalgia tours, and you measure it against the breathtaking show Brooks produces, you won’t find a better value anywhere. To say Brooks over-delivers is the understatement of the year, and it’s also why he’s a lock to win country music’s entertainer of the year. Find ways to raise your audience’s expected price in contrast to your actual price.
  8. Provide surprise value. Some friends were heading to their nosebleed seats at the top of Scottrade when a gentleman approached them, asked the location of their seats, then invited them down to the front row courtesy of Mr. Brooks. Scalpers don’t get the seats. Brooks evidently keeps his front row empty but keeps it a secret so he can provide the ultimate delight to regular fans.
  9. Understand mystique. Maybe Vegas taught Brooks the power of wonder and mystique. Unlike virtually every other performing artist, Brooks doesn’t announce his whole tour at once. He announces one city at a time, and he’s performing multiple shows in nearly every city. You never know where he’s going next, but you’re hoping it’s your town.
  10. Know every detail matters. The set’s interesting but not overly complicated. It’s a circular stage with the drum kit inside some sort of geodesic dome in the center. Suddenly, during the first encore, the drum platform rises fifteen feet above the stage as the geodesic dome spins. His two keyboard players rise into the air as do heretofore unseen platforms along the circle. It’s an extraordinary spectacle… for one song… in the encore. That’s just one of many little (and big) touches that were considered and executed and will continue to be executed night after night after night across America.

I Hear What You’re Saying…

You don’t have the money Garth does to create such a spectacle. You don’t have an audience that adores you. You don’t… you don’t… you don’t…

Yeah. I hear you. Neither did he back in 1988, before the country had ever heard of him, but he was still doing these things on a smaller scale. One of our clients saw him perform on the back of a flatbed trailer back there back then.

He was still doing these things, but to tens of people instead of tens of thousands.

He was still a star. He just didn’t know it yet.

Don’t feel like you have to be the size of Garth Brooks to behave like a superstar.

Act the part.