Junoon concert: Poor marketing and heavy ticket prices lead to desperate measures
If fizzy drinks weren’t enough to spoil the creative industries the cookies have also jumped in the game. Kudos to those who thought this extraordinary mixture of entrepreneurial capabilities and a knack for music is going to pay dividends in the long run – it really isn’t. Perhaps what you need is not a knack but an understanding of the creative business and a vision that goes way beyond identifying a ‘brand’. Redbull was quick to learn the lesson hence they invested a lot in putting the word out there. Amateur and stupid as the pop vs rock idea was it did the trick for them and rest was covered by two of the most popular live acts of the country; Strings and Ali Azmat.
All the fears surrounding the music industry seem to have come true with the Junoon Reunion concert. Random venues changes, tickets priced at unimaginable rates and weirdly unprofessional dealings with the artists are just a few of the problems that have made the Junoon reunion sound even more impossible than Ali Azmat made it look like.
“I don’t think they’ll be able to pull crowds as the concert is taking place at the Arabian Sea Country club. That’s asking for too much, “an industry veteran who has been around as long as Junoon told me early in December. Arabian Sea Country Club was the first venue for the show and the brand was capitalizing on its marketing strategy and the craze of Junoonis to fill up the venue secluded from the main city. I personally thought Junoonis would do anything to make it to the show but then another musician made me realize the problem here.
“The Junoonis are in their late 30s and 40s and have a kid or two to take care of. Why would they even give it a shot?” I agreed with reservations, as the Karachi audience is known for its hunger for live music. However, as soon as the ticket prices were disclosed, it seemed the speculations might turn out to be true. The cheapest ticket was priced at Rs 3000 and the most expensive ticket was priced at 7500 Rs.
Until last week the brand remained mum about the number of actual ticket sales. They refused to give a number of online sales stating the number will increase when the physical sales open. The Express Tribune confirmed from multiple sources that a total 280 tickets were sold as of December 12. That is fourteen days before the show. The brand continued to remain silent on the matter.
We then looked into what is happening with the artists involved in the show and the picture was gloomier than expected. “The brand is literally asking the opening (mostly upcoming acts) bands to sell a certain number of tickets on their own to get a slot on the show. That is how the deals are being made. They have no clue what is happening and the artists are not happy,” said another source in the music industry. The opening acts that were reachable refused to comment on the matter and said they were happy to open for Junoon.
The ticket sales didn’t improve much and suddenly a rumour circulated that the venue has changed once again. This time it was the Golf Club. I called a bunch of musicians who were performing at the show and they said they weren’t even notified about the change. “In fact, we don’t know about the final venue. We just know we have to perform on December 25.”
Insiders suggest that people didn’t really respond to the hype that was being initiated and that reflected in the negligible amount of tickets that were sold. Another musician performing on the same day poked fun at how no one is talking about the concert everyone should be talking about. “Junoon was the biggest band of South Asia and now they need to be made relevant, again. Apart from a big banner that shows a very tiny illustration of Junoon and a huge biscuit pack, the band is nowhere to be seen. There is no hype.”
That is also true. Until the filing of the story just one promo of the opening acts, Tamasha, Sounds of Kolachi, Lyari Underground and Khumariyaan was released. The Redbull model however was built around a very cleverly initiated online campaign. “There’s not a single video or interview of Junoon saying we are back apart from a lame promo that was released on August 14,” said another professional musician. Another point to consider here is that the ticket price of the SoundClash was Rs 1500 and the two acts performing were very relevant to the contemporary live music scene.
Then the venue got changed once again and now Moin Khan Cricket Academy is the final venue for the show. The musicians have been informed and the owners of the venue paid. What went wrong there? The brand remained silent once again. Sources inform that the brand failed to sell enough tickets which is why they had to change the venue thrice and settle for a venue right next to Nueplex cinemas.
The Express Tribune finally received a statement from their PR representative of the Sooper Junoon concert, “A total of 4500 tickets have been sold while the Bronze and Silver sections have been sold out,” said the representative. The number of sold tickets that The Express Tribune had received a day before these figures were disclosed was less than 1100. The bronze and silver stands were still available right after the statement was issued but the website showed them as sold-out a day after. Perhaps half of the Karachi audience miraculously woke up overnight.
There’s not one particular factor that may have compelled Sooper and the organisers to take such desperate measures but there’s definitely a lack of planning and professional ethics. While the concert business model is finally picking up and becoming sustainable in Pakistan, corporations need to be more aware of the sensitivities involved in the creative industries. People will show up on free-tickets and the sponsor will have a frame wide and full for a private channel to buy the airtime, but will it benefit the industry you are trying to get into? Will it encourage others to invest in it? Not at all. Learn to take the artist seriously!
The story was published on the morning of December 19 in the Express Tribune and taken down in the evening.