‘The music industry makes the ticket-buying process hard. I’d like to see us focus on the user experience.’

MBW’s Inspiring Women series profiles female executives who have risen through the ranks of the business, highlighting their career journey – from their professional breakthrough to the senior responsibilities they now fulfill. Inspiring Women is supported by Virgin Music Group.

Brooke Kain is AEG Presentsfirst-ever Chief Digital Officer.

In this role at the concert promoter, Kain is responsible for building products that personalize and improve the concert and festival-going experience for fans, while driving revenue growth for the company.

According to Kain, her key areas of focus are looking for the answers to questions such as: “How do we roll out loyalty programs and strengthen our brands?” or, “How do I build a product that allows me to understand every fan that walks through my door, what they used, to what [shows] they bought [tickets for] this year, and what they might want to buy next year?”

Her work so far spans integrating mobile apps, wristbands and scanners at festivals and gathering information into a database in real-time so fans can receive messages that encourage purchases and upgrades.

This tech has been a “big boost” for AEG’s bottom line, Kain says. “It’s driven significant incremental revenue at each festival and it’s been a big win for retention and for driving loyalty to our festival brands.”

The next step is rolling out a similar proposition for venues. That project means Kain is often on the road, stopping at venues and figuring out how to tailor experiences, loyalty and branding for each one.

“If I can figure that out, I can start to scale some of the automation, upgrades, and programs, but I have to understand each specific venue and each specific fan experience first. That’s what my 2024 looks like,” she says.

Kain joined AEG in 2016 after a career that has included stints at Sony Music, Interscope Records, Beats Music and Apple. She grew up in Nashville, and notes that working in either music or healthcare was somewhat inevitable.

“I’ve always been a data and science-driven type of person. So for me, I was either going to be a doctor, like my dad, or I was going to go into music,” she says. “I was always fascinated by the culture of music and the ability to touch that many people via an industry.”

“It’s kind of rare that you look around and you get along with every single person in the room. At AEG, they are such good humans and I knew there’s no way I could be making a bad decision with people like that.”

After majoring in English and French at college, Kain set her sights on being a music writer. She moved to New York City with the dream of getting an internship at Rolling Stone magazine but layoffs meant they weren’t hiring and she ended up as an assistant at Sony Music instead.

There, she joined what was then a newly formed digital department and that’s where Kain found her calling. “It was very clear to me that there was a gap in the industry, that people didn’t know how to reach folks,” she says. “I was 21, spent all my time online when I got home and I could tell that nobody else was trying to figure it out at work.”

In her free time, Kain taught herself to code and build websites, which is what helped her get through the door at Interscope. There, she caught the attention of Jimmy Iovine thanks to her understanding of a then-burgeoning YouTube and online music videos.

“I would sit in a room with everybody and explain to them how to get the videos online and the right time and the right channels to use to notify people that they were there,” she remembers. “That got me on Jimmy’s radar because he knew music videos, at the time, were pretty much the biggest marketing tools we could have.”

Kain was eventually elevated to Head of Digital Marketing. Then, alongside Iovine, she helped launch Beats Music, later moving over to Apple after the company was acquired.

Kain joined AEG for “the people” after a nine-month courting process. “I was never going to leave Apple,” she says.

“It’s kind of rare that you look around and you get along with every single person in the room. At AEG, they are such good humans and I knew there’s no way I could be making a bad decision with people like that.”

Work aside, Kain is a proud mom of three children. She had three in three years (if you know, you know) and delves into balancing parenting with work at the end of this interview.

First up, we chat to her about lessons learned from Iovine, the best career-related advice she’s ever been given, live music audiences, the future of promoters, and more.

You worked closely with Jimmy Iovine. What did you learn from him?

Everything, gosh, I could write a book. He was naturally the best marketer I’ve ever met in my entire life. His instincts trump every piece of data I’ve ever looked at. He always had a feel for content and when to release something. He knew the moments in culture that were going to be impactful. He knew the sequence of when to do it. I learned so much of that from him.

What I taught myself was all the data and all the coding stuff, and I’m quite good and confident at that, but what I learned from him is unquantifiable: when to do something, when’s the right moment, how to build anticipation for something.

“Jimmy Iovine was the best marketer I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

And how you have to craft something different for every artist because consumers are going to regard and receive every single artist or campaign or whatever you’re doing, differently. The way we would market Lady Gaga would obviously be very different to the way we would market Dr. Dre, for example. It was almost like going to marketing graduate school, working for him, because I watched the way his brain thought and the way that he could affect culture and address fans in a different way for each artist and I thought that was fascinating.

Because of my time with him, when people ask me, ‘What’s the one thing that you look for?’ O, ‘the one piece of advice I would give?’ The thing that’s the most impactful is leadership. If you can find someone you believe in, it makes all the difference. I had been stumbling along and blindly working towards something in the music industry but wasn’t exactly sure what that was until I met Jimmy. Then, the inspiration was pretty massive. He helped me understand the importance of leadership and how you can inspire and move people and how they’ll do their best work for you, if you’re a good leader.

How about the best career-related advice you’ve ever been given?

I went to dinner with my mentor in the industry one day when I was a bit younger. I’d been working until three in the morning, burning the candle at both ends and he could see how tired I was. I started listing all the issues, I think this might have been at Apple, and I was like, I know this is the best thing but this person won’t approve it.

I sat there and gave him an hour-long soliloquy on why my idea was so good and why we needed to do it this way and how no one was listening because of the process and went on and on.

He looked at me and said, ‘Brooke, let it break. If things aren’t working, you feel like you’re not able to get headway and the process isn’t working, rather than sitting up until three o’clock in the morning and trying to solve every single problem, let it break so that everybody can see that something’s broken and you can all work together on the solution’. It was the most beautiful piece of advice anyone has ever given me and I still give it to other people.

Who is the mentor who told you that?

Paul Kremen. He’s how I got my interview at Interscope. I knew him from connections in Nashville, he was the Chief Marketing Officer at Geffen. He is one of the most articulate, well-read, and brilliant people I’ve ever met. I always call him with very long-winded problems and he always has one-line answers that change my perspective.

You’ve been at AEG for seven years now. What have you learned about live music audiences during that time?

Personalization works, [fans] want to be seen. I know [fans] want shorter lines. No one likes waiting in line. Everybody has an opinion and a complaint about the ticket purchase process. We could do a lot to make our funnel a better experience for a fan to just purchase a ticket. We can make that smoother, to be honest.

Like I said, [fans] really do respond to personalization. Feeling like the experience is different for them than someone else has had a very big response.

“Personalization works, [fans] want to be seen.”

But consumers can often contradict themselves in their actions. I’ll give you an example: when we have started to roll out things like mobile ordering, folks will still go and stand in the longest line [at the venue].

It’s that old adage about banks: people just go where all the other people are. I’ve had a couple of tests where we roll out mobile ordering, whether it’s a venue or a festival, and the mobile ordering window has zero line — you just order it on your phone and go pick it up. In the normal bar area, there’s a line, and consumers will go to the line every single time.

Consumer education and patience are going to be key to the live experience. I honestly think that our industry has been – some would say unsophisticated – I would just say, unchanged, for so long.

It’s a positive that [fans] love live music that even when we make them stand in line for a T-shirt, they’ll do it. But we can do better than that. It’s going to be work to let them know we can do better than that and to change.

Are there any other improvements you’d like to see in the concert and festival-going experience?

Transparency on fees is probably top of mind for everybody and I don’t think that’s as challenging as it seems. It’s coming and I hope it will de-escalate a lot of the noise and frustration around pricing. Things like waiting rooms, while necessary, could be handled a little more gracefully by all of us.

Communication on wait time, on how to get through, on ticket on-sales, and then the number of screens that you go through to purchase a ticket could be one and not 10. [The industry] makes the experience itself hard (no matter who the ticketing company is). We make it hard for people to do it quickly on their phones.

“Transparency on fees is probably top of mind for everybody and I don’t think that’s as challenging as it seems.”

I hate to make this analogy but if I want to buy anything, I could do it on my way to get into my car with one swipe on Amazon. Yet, the really high-priced tour ticket that people have saved up paychecks to purchase; woken up [for], and set alarms to buy and opened multiple tabs on their computer to get through… that still takes somebody sitting at a computer, which is going to make them late to work, looking at a clock and then trying to do things all at once.

Why is it that hard to buy a ticket and yet everything else I want to purchase [can be done in] one swipe? The user experience is something I’d like to see us focus on.

How do you see promoters evolving in the future?

Something that rings true to me, because of my background with Jimmy, is us standing behind our brands, like Goldenvoice and Bowery.

How do we stand behind our brand and build loyalty? How do we create venues that you want to go to, regardless of who’s playing?

I’d like us to focus on experience and brand building so that rather than having to promote 18,000 shows at a time, we can go to the artist and say, ‘We have such a great brand and such a great venue that they’re going to come, don’t worry’. If we can do that, we can continue to focus on promoting our brands and experiences so that we’re providing something to artists that other people aren’t.

If you could go back to the beginning of your career and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?

‘Calm down’ and, ‘It’s a lot easier to do things with friends’. In my younger career, I was such a bull in a china shop. I wasn’t as graceful as I am today. Today, I think about every single person I’m working with and everybody I’m talking to and try to make sure that we’re all aligned and if we’re not all aligned, at least know.

“Life is short, the industry is small and it’s easier to do things with friends.”

When I was younger, it was just ‘go, go, go, go, go’ and if you need to roll over somebody, roll over them. I would remind myself that life is short, the industry is small and it’s easier to do things with friends, and to be a little more mindful of that.

How about your future plans and ambitions?

Rolling out the products I’ve been working on that drive personalization, a better fan experience and incremental revenue for the company, at festivals and venues, at scale, takes up the next three to five years.

But ultimately, I would like to build the most sophisticated, automated customer experience platform that spans all of my promoter brands, into our ticketing company and beyond, and allows folks to, through one or two touches, see who’s playing, see which friends are going, buy the ticket and then be offered an even better ticket. I want to build something that automates all of that at scale so that everybody is constantly having the absolute best experience. That’s taking the micro of the 2024 challenge I’m in the middle of and spanning across all of our companies at a macro level.

“I would like to build the most sophisticated, automated customer experience platform that spans all of my promoter brands.”

I’d also like to mention that I’m a mom of three babies, five and under. I actually had three kids in three years and I’m really proud of that! When you talk about future hopes and ambitions, I do want to be the kind of leader that people, especially women, look at and go, ‘Okay, so we can do it all’. I really do do it all and I’m not up until four in the morning. I want people to feel like they can have babies in this industry and they can be moms and they don’t have to sacrifice. All working moms have those days, of course, and you have to sacrifice something sometimes. I don’t mean to paint it all rosy.

But when I was coming up, I didn’t see a lot of working moms. I didn’t see a lot of mothers leaving the boardroom to go nurse and that’s something I’m really proud of. My whole life, I’ve been a very private person but I’ve had to embrace that everyone knows I’m a mom. I speak openly about it and I speak openly about the challenges. I hope to help people understand that you can do it and to help them figure out that balance. I’d like to be the person people can look at and realize that it’s possible.

How do you balance it?

It’s a day-to-day thing. I build boundaries, whether it is having an executive assistant who knows what to block and tackle. I have an incredible staff. There are some days where I block out until 11 am because I have preschool things that I want to do with the kids and I don’t want to be the mom that doesn’t get to take them to the pumpkin patch. That means work gets a little bit less of me that day but the next day, I’m at work early. Some days, being a mom takes up more time and then some days, work wins. But at the end of the week, it’s kind of all balanced out and I don’t miss anything.

“If you lead that way and you’re vocal about it, it becomes normalized in our society.”

That means I might not be able to make a nine o’clock call. I had an 8 am meeting before our interview today and I said I can’t do that because I need to FaceTime my children when they wake up. I’m traveling at the moment and I want them to see me every morning so I had somebody cover for me. I keep tabs on a day-to-day basis of where I’m in and out of balance.

People are scared to talk about it. A lot of working moms say, ‘Oh, I have a meeting or I need to leave the office early’. I’ll be like, ‘It’s Halloween, that’s huge to children under five and I’m going to leave the office at 3.30 because I want to help them put their costumes on’. I will be really honest and block it out on my calendar. It’s not always popular but it’s respected. If you lead that way and you’re vocal about it, it becomes normalized in our society. What I’ve tried to do is normalize all of this and the work really doesn’t suffer. You can always get back online at night or block out time the next day.

MBW’s Inspiring Women series is supported by Virgin Music Group, which partners with independent music companies and artists who require a standalone team with global infrastructure and local expertise in every major music market around the world.Music Business Worldwide

Related Posts