Baseball teams hit home run with post-game concerts

Fri Sep 5, 2008 9:44pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Jessica Simpson probably won't be pitching for the majors anytime soon, but the singer is one of many artists stepping onto the field this year for free post-game concerts at Major League Baseball stadiums around the United States.

Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates have turned to live music as a way to increase fan attendance at home games and bolster ties to corporate sponsors.

MLB teams with "subpar attendance are looking for ways to augment their capacity at events, and (a post-game concert) is a way to do that," said Don Hinchey, vice president of communications at Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports and marketing firm.

Along with Simpson, other acts playing post-game baseball concerts -- which are free with the purchase of a ticket to the game -- include LL Cool J, Trace Adkins, Bret Michaels, Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, Collective Soul, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Lou Gramm, Phil Vassar and Kool & the Gang.

Four days after the September 9 release of her debut country album, "Do You Know," Simpson will perform a post-game show at Phoenix's 48,500-capacity Chase Field, home to the Diamondbacks. VP of communications Shaun Rachau said the team spent $325,000 on artist fees for four concerts in 2008, compared with a $150,000 budget for three concerts last season.

Rachau said a May 17 post-game performance by Adkins sold out, and between 15,000 and 30,000 fans stay for such concerts.

QUICK-CHANGE ACT

To ensure that fans don't leave the stadium before the concerts begin, the Diamondbacks hired sports and entertainment production company Select Artists Associates (SAA) to build a roll-on stage that sits near second base and faces home plate.

"We're ready to go with the concert 10 minutes after the last out," Rachau said. "If it took us a half-hour or an hour, we'd lose a lot of people."

For Simpson's September 13 concert, the Diamondbacks offset artist fees and production costs by landing sponsorship dollars from Pepsi, Aquafina, SoBe Life Water and Fry's Food Stores.

In Tampa Bay, Florida, the Rays will host eight post-game concerts at their 45,000-capacity Tropicana Field before the end of their 2008 season, a jump from two such shows it held the previous season. "Somebody may not be interested in a baseball game, but if they come out and see Trace Adkins and have a great time watching the ballgame, then we can grab them as long-term fans," Rays vice president of marketing and community relations Tom Hoof said.

Post-game performances in 2008 by Adkins, the Commodores, Kool & the Gang, Loverboy, LL Cool J, We the Kings and MC Hammer, among others, drew 10,000 to 15,000 more fans than comparable games in 2007, according to Hoof.

Similarly, the Florida Marlins found success after instituting Super Saturdays in 2007, a program of 13 concerts that follow Saturday night games at Dolphin Stadium. "We've seen an incremental increase (in ticket sales) on Saturday nights of about 50 percent to 60 percent," Marlins VP of marketing Sean Flynn said. Featured acts this year included Michaels, Gramm, the Bangles, KC & the Sunshine Band and a number of Latin acts.

SAA booked five post-game shows into Pittsburgh's 38,000-capacity PNC Park this season for the Pirates, including a September 20 show by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

It's a win-win situation for fans and talent, SAA president Charles Johnston said. "An artist is going to walk in and play to more people than they've played to in any one setting all year long."

Reuters/Billboard