Getting Lost in the Show: 5 Minutes with Highline Ballroom

Chelsea has been long a hub of artistic activity in New York, brimming with galleries and artist lofts. This artistic legacy coupled with the renewal project along the Highline made Chelsea the perfect place to open the Highline Ballroom — a space that doubles as a nightclub and concert venue. NYC jazz mogul, Steven Bensusan and musician, Lou Reed opened the venue in 2007.

The Highline Ballroom allows artists to play intimate shows without sacrificing the production quality of larger venues, making it popular with big-name artists. Since opening its doors, The Highline Ballroom has hosted an all-star lineup of musicians including Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse and even Justin Bieber. And we were honored to have them host us this year for our VIP Closing Party.

We get to sit down with Jeff Mann, Head of Digital at Highline Ballroom, to answer some questions for us about his work at the Highline Ballroom and the ways that increased digital interconnectivity affects music venues and the artists that perform in them.

  1. In what ways has the Highline Ballroom been a part of the change occurring in the neighborhood?
    Highline Ballroom has been becoming a household name in the Meatpacking District over the past few years. We are a tremendously flexible space that provides a unique experiences for all our clientele, all of whom want to enjoy the chicness the location of the Meatpacking District offers. From providing extraordinary concert experiences during the week or a destination hotspot for club life on the weekends, to being a unique event space to hold a holiday party or closing party, we’re able to offer an outlet for all types of nightlife.
  2. How has digital strategy played a part in Highline Ballroom’s success?
    Digital analysis has never been more key. Since our booking varies greatly across all genres of music, numerous outlets of marketing and promoting must be applied and measured. Knowing the ROI on each effort becomes increasingly more important to stay efficient and effective for future bookings. Tracking links with referral IDs, targeted online ads, Google analytics, online survey data, targeting previous customers based on purchase behavior, and an effective social presence all play a part in our digital strategy.
  3. Through social media, fans have unparalleled access to their favorite stars. How does this new level of connectivity impact artists as they perform live?
    As marketers and promoters, we all want sneezers, don’t we? Someone who will provide that positive word-of-mouth marketing for our brand. Social media has made it easier for artists to do just that. Fans constantly share their concert experiences with their friends through live-tweeting, posting to Facebook or Instagram, or recording and later posting on Youtube, increasing the artists’ reach, and hopefully fan base. While I’ve never seen an artist tweeting live throughout a performance, artists have taken photos w/ the audience while on stage and posted it to their social platforms, making fans excited in other cities for that upcoming concert in their town.
  4. Digital music is completely disrupting the traditional music industry. How has the move toward digital music changed the way artists are thinking about their tours/concerts?
    Touring has increased, whether artists are touring more or there are more artists touring. Many artists will meet their fans after the show, hoping to increase merch sales. Some artists have created VIP upgrade packages through their fan sites, offering an autographed album, merchandise, and a meet & greet. We also see several artists enhance their ticket options by offering a download to a new single or bundling an album with the ticket. Some artists have gone so far as providing free downloads with a purchase of a ticket. These various alternatives are sometimes just what the artist’s fan base wants.
  5. Whether Instagram or live-tweeting, do you think that the use of social media during a concert enhances or detracts from the experience of the music?
    For the right venue or event, it could work. One night using a hashtag, we had live-tweeting displayed on our LED wall while a hip-hop trio incorporated it into their rap battles. Festivals have integrated large displays posting tagged posts and images, sharing what’s happening all over the grounds. Otherwise, on a small club setting, I feel it detracts from the experience. Some concert-goers spend a large time buried in their phone typing away social posts, which can lead to missing a memorable moment on stage. Others spend half the show watching it through their smartphone, sometimes even face-timing with a friend. Since the artists are giving it their all performing for us, as fans we should be giving them our all and experience the show.
  6. As a concert venue and nightclub, what are some of your strategies for connecting and building relationships with your customers?
    Several platforms are used to give back to our customers. We provide numerous opportunities for fans to win tickets to upcoming shows, whether through onsite activation or online social outlets. Twitter and Facebook have become important customer service tools for our box office, rather than solely a push marketing tool. Through social check-ins, we provide our repeat customers with free drinks or appetizers. Using past purchase behavior, we are able to email offerings to those of similar music genre tastes, foregoing the clutter of shows fans wouldn’t care for.
  7. Lastly, what was the best Highline Ballroom show you have ever attended?
    It would have to be a tie between Yann Tiersen and DeVotchKa, who each spent two sold out nights with us. I was so into the shows, lost in the music, enjoying it with friends, I don’t think I took my phone out once.

A big thanks to Highline Ballroom for hosting us again. Make sure you check them out, and see our photos from the night here.