Half-a-million tickets in 2018 ‘tribute show is not a dirty word’
Entertainers is a promoter from England, specialising in tribute shows since its foundation by Michael Taylor in 1994. Taylor’s first show was called “A Tribute To The Carpenters” at The Cliffs Pavilion in Southend.
Today, the list of artists that have received a dedicated show invented and realised by Entertainers includes George Michael, Neil Diamond, the Bee Gees, ABBA, Elton John, Dire Straits, Simon&Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Elvis, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.
The exact figure was 497,509, which market year-on-year increase in ticket sales of 76.7 percent – or an increase of 364 percent compared to 2014, when Entertainers began tracking ticket sales.
Pollstar caught up with company director James Taylor, who joined his father’s company around three years ago, and has been instrumental in its rapid growth.
Taylor grew up watching his father performing as a comedian on stage, and thus got enthralled with show business from an early age. He started Djing and modelling at 15, and eventually got into acting and moved away to America. After studying at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, he joined the rat race in Hollywood.
When one of the projects he was most passionate about got binned at the eleventh hour, he decided to quit. That was just over three years ago.
“My dad was like, ‘come and work for me son’,” he remembers. And so Taylor joined his father’s business, which was promoting some 400 shows a year with a staff of six or seven at the time.
After staring at a silent telephone and twiddling his thumbs for a while, Taylor decided to rebuild Entertainers from the ground up, “from marketing to social media, to how and where we booked. Then I started putting together shows,” Taylor recalls.
“Thanks to my mother, I grew up on Freddie Mercury, Wham!, George Michael, Julio Iglesias, all these acts that a 33-year old wouldn’t normally care about. So I put a George Michael show together. I found the best one I could find. I listened to every single George Michael artist out there, and I found Joseph Samson, who had the most amazing vocals.”
Casting for the show, which is called “Fastlove”, took place in January 2017, and the tour launched in September that year. “We never looked back. It went bananas,” Taylor said. The show played 24 dates in the remainder of 2017, and over 120 dates last year. It was the catalyst that elevated the entire business.
Today, Entertainers’ full-time staff of 30 includes three people in artwork, eight in marketing, four in social media, six bookers, an admin and accounting team of three people each. They went from 400 shows a year to 1,200 shows a year in 15 countries, including the UK, Australia, China, India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
Taylor describes the past two-and-a-half years as a “whirlwind”. He went from staring at a silent phone to being on the phone from the minute he’s awake to the minute he goes to bed, speaking to partners from Australia in the morning and the U.S. in the evening.
He says he and his father, who turns 69 this year, have never worked harder, adding that they loved every minute of it.
According to Taylor, “tribute show is not a dirty word. My George Michael show is not a tribute, it’s a full-on show in it’s own right. The production is no different to any concert, video wall, backing singers, dancers, it’s all there.”
Entertainers mainly promotes in theaters, of which there are countless scattered around the UK, in scenic places like Scarborough, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds, Plymouth, Swansea and many more. Most are beautiful historic buildings with capacities ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 seats.
“Fastlove” is going on an “Arena Tour” in March, venues include the Hammersmith Apollo (5,000 capacity) in London, Arena Birmingham (15,800), Leeds Direct Arena (13,500), BIC Arena Bournemouth (4,100) and Liverpool M&S Bank Arena (11,000), which demonstrates how the show has grown.
Outside the UK, “Fastlove” has sold out clubs like the Paard it The Hague (1,100 cap) and the Melkweg (1,500) in Amsterdam, Holland. In Australia, the show currently stands at 5,000 tickets sold for six shows in May. Taylor has shows in Germany and Scandinavia and plans to launch in America and Canada by the end of 2019
He is interested in looking at different angles for taking the show into even bigger venues, proper arenas and potentially stadiums.
But his business doesn’t just revolve around “Fastlove”. “Reach out! – The Magic Of Motown”, which has been going for 12 years, sold 4,000 tickets at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena in 2018. The show also marked Entertainers’ first week-long residency at a theater, when it visited the Theatre Royal in Windsor, Oct. 15–20, grossing some $120,000 at the 633-capacity venue.
“The Magic Of Motown” and “Fastlove” are the flagships, but the smaller shows add up, selling anything from 500 to 1,500 seats in most theaters. “Some week’s we have 31 shows over a weekend,” said Taylor, adding, “We get the odd one that drops down, like everyone does, but generally speaking, we pack a punch now.”
Looking at Entertainers’ 2019 schedule, there are certain days on which eight different shows are on at eight different venues around the UK simultaneously. Even Taylor himself was surprised when he first saw his own company’s Pollstar data last December for the first time.
“We sold 500,000 tickets last year,” Taylor said, realizing that it would have placed Entertainers on number 37 in Pollstar’s year-end Worldwide Ticket Sales Top 100 Promoters.
“For a father and son company doing tribute shows, that’s quite an achievement, I believe,” he said.
Entertainers just took over its first venue, Brentwood Live in Essex, England, where Taylor remembers seeing The Temptations and The Four Tops as a four-year old. A lot has changed since then, and he has invested a lot of money into relaunching the 2,000-capacity theater. Programming starts in February, and the venue is open to content from third-party promoters.
Last but not least, there’s the Entertainer’s app, which combines event calendar, ticket wallet and partner offers, such as meal deals and other discounts. “The theaters get more advertising through our company, their partners get traffic from our theaters coming to them afterwards, and we can cross-promote our shows,” Taylor explained, and concluded: “We do tribute shows, but we do them on a whole other sphere.”