Case Study: Why Bon Jovi is Music Business 101-10.2005

"Bon Jovi isn't Music Business 101, Bon Jovi is Music Business 505!" staff writer / Ask Darcie Founder Darcie Wicknick, upon
hearing the title for this article

Agreed. Good songwriting and musicianship aside (which Bon Jovi has in spades), when it comes to the business end of the music industry, few artists' business and marketing plans can come close to what Bon Jovi have accomplished over their 23 year history: Over 100 million albums sold, 2500 concerts (many of which were sold out), and over 32 million fans in over 50 different countries. Oh, and while they were at it, Bon Jovi and their team implemented marketing and business strategies that become standard business practices in the music industry and are still used today. Whatever your career aspirations, applying some of the Bon Jovi business philosophy can help you get there.

A few of the ways Bon Jovi changed the music industry: When their first album came out, Bon Jovi's music was still categorized as "metal" (albeit pop metal) As such, Bon Jovi was one of the first metal bands to be marketed to a largely female audience and in doing so, widely increased the female audience for rock music.

Bon Jovi was one of the first artists to offer special fan club tickets for some of the best seats in the house at their shows. Now it's a standard perk offered by many artists' fan clubs.

At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora pared down "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Living on a Prayer" to just two acoustic guitars and themselves. Their performance inspired MTV's "Unplugged" series and sparked a resurgence in unplugged rock music that hadn't been seen since Dylan wannabes played coffee houses.

In 1989, Bon Jovi were the first band officially sanctioned by the Russian government to perform in Russia. Their New Jersey album was the first album ever released on the state-owned record label, Melodiya, by a Western artist. (As further evidence of the band's business acumen, due to the instability of the Ruble at the time, the band were paid in wood, which they then sold to a guitar manufacturer.)

In the early '90's, Jon Bon Jovi became one of the first artists to successfully self-manage his career when he fired longtime manager Doc McGhee and started the band's own management company, Bon Jovi Management (BJM). Bon Jovi was one of the first major rock artists to include women on its management team, paving the way for other artists to do the same.

One of the secrets to Bon Jovi's business success is that unlike many artists, they're never afraid to be the first to try a new technology or marketing method to reach their fans. In fact, they welcome it--which isn't to say due diligence isn't applied; it definitely is. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The point is, Bon Jovi have the guts to be pioneers, while many other artists stand on the sidelines watching to see if it works out. Just some of Bon Jovi's many "firsts" are: Being one of the first artists--if not the first--to enlist fans to help make one of their videos. For their "Bad Medicine" video the band invited fans to the video shoot, handed out additional video cameras for fans to keep, and collected the resulting footage at the end of the night, which was cut into additional footage shot by video director Wayne Isham.

Pioneering the American XS Serialization Program for their Bounce album and tour, in which each CD contained a unique PIN that the consumer could register and use to log on to a special website for exclusive downloads, video, and VIP concert tickets. A lawsuit over the rights to the technology ensued and Bon Jovi were caught in the middle, but fans liked the content nonetheless.

In the early '90's, Bon Jovi was the first artist to sell merchandise on a cable shopping channel. On April 12, 2003 Bon Jovi took it a step further and appeared on QVC for a nationally televised live performance from the sold-out Bounce tour, with a Limited Tour Edition Bounce CD & DVD/VHS package featuring previously unreleased performance footage sold on QVC. Over 30,000 copies were sold during that night, and although reviews on this marketing method were mixed, we at MBADC think it took cajones to try it. Other artists such as Shania Twain and Neil Diamond followed suit and appeared on QVC as well.

On September 18 2002, Bon Jovi's concert at Shepherds Bush Empire in London was the first "live, interactive event across a cinema network." The event was broadcast to 25 venues across Europe via satellite and high-speed cable connections and marked the first time fans at various venues could communicate with each other on the venue screens via text messaging. The Shepherd's Bush Empire webcast had over one million viewers, and 375,000 viewed the event live.

In 1995, Bon Jovi performed the first-ever outdoor street performance on The Late Show with David Letterman. In 2000, Bon Jovi and David Letterman teamed up again for another first when Bon Jovi performed the first rooftop show at The Late Show with David Letterman.

On September 5 2002, Bon Jovi made history by opening the NFL season with a kick-off concert in New York City's Times Square and helicoptering over to Giants Stadium to perform at halftime at the New York Giants-San Francisco 49ers game. It was the NFL's first-ever Thursday kickoff, the Times Square performance drew more than a half million people and the performance was shown in a live half-hour special on VH-1, and Bon Jovi was the first artist ever to perform at Giants stadium during a New York Giants game.

On the Bounce tour, Bon Jovi introduced new technology by being the first artist to use a new type of LED video screen on tour.

On November 21, 2004, Bon Jovi was the first artist to do a live concert on Samsung's INHD/INHD2 High-Definition network channel, paving the way for other High Definition music programming.

On September 19, 2005, Bon Jovi was the first artist to play at the new Nokia Theatre in New York City's Times Square. The event was carried around the world via live webcast, was simulcast to movie theaters across the US and Canada, and employed multiple new technologies. Bon Jovi and their team are especially adept at marketing synergy. In addition to the above-mentioned campaigns, during the course of their career the band has also teamed up with companies such as:

Target (releasing an exclusive CD of previously unreleased material that could be purchased exclusively at Target stores, filming a commercial that showed the band in the studio, and doing the band's first in-store appearance in over a decade)

Duracell (filming a commercial for its Longlife batteries which were used to power the band's wireless mics, and offering coupon savings on the band's Bounce CD)

Volkswagen (who marketed a Bon Jovi edition Golf in the 1990's)

MTV (among other promotions with MTV, when Jon Bon Jovi bought his parents a new home, their old home was sold to MTV to give away in a contest) and VH-1 (among many other events, VH-1 once had a contest to win a backyard BBQ featuring a concert by Jon as the entertainment)

The Arena Football League (as one of the owners of the Philadelphia Soul, Jon Bon Jovi brought a new female audience to the fame and teamed up with MTV's The Real World Philadelphia to build a playground for underprivileged kids as part of the Soul's community service arm) and in their latest partnership, Major League Baseball.

The current Smirkwatch campaign, developed by ad guru Donny Deutsch's company, is synergy at its best, tying in the concept of the album cover art, the "Have a Nice Day" video (in which the smirk appears everywhere including a crop circle) with a page of downloadable, printable smirks fans can plaster everywhere. Taking it a step further, fans can then upload photos of the places where they've left the smirk (who, by the way, is named Joe V), ultimately bringing the concept of the video into reality. The combination of fun and Jersey attitude matches the band's image perfectly.

The synergy continues as Sprint mobile phones are used in the video, and Sprint will provide telecommunications for Bon Jovi's Have a Nice Day tour...including a tour bus fully equipped for wireless communication . When Bon Jovi can't be the first to do something, they're never adverse to being the last. Bon Jovi played the last two shows at the historic Wembley Stadium before it was torn down to make way for a new Wembley stadium, now under construction.

And finally, sometimes Bon Jovi even have it both ways: As the most popular American band ever to have performed at the old Wembley Stadium (5 times during their career), during the forthcoming Have a Nice Day tour Bon Jovi will also have the honor of being the first artist to perform at the new Wembley.