Music streaming tech companies like Spotify and Deezer have left many musicians out of pocket if you listen to a word that Taylor Swift has to say. But another group of tech companies are propping up these artists in others ways.
The Silicon Valley megacorporations are offering big sums to some of the world’s most famous acts on the condition that they turn up and play anything from a few songs to an entire set to some their customers as well as the analysts and journalists that follow them. They’re providing bands and artists with the money they need to live their rock star lives on private jets, at Michelin-star restaurants and in luxury hotel suites.
Possibly one of the most extravagant examples of a tech company splashing the cash on entertainment takes place this week in San Francisco.
Salesforce, a tech behemoth offering enterprise customer relationship software (CRM) that’s difficult for the average person to get too excited about, has pulled in the Foo Fighters, The Killers, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Gary Clark Jr for its Dreamforce conference. Some acts play in between keynotes while others play are playing at a dedicated Dreamfest party at the end of the conference on Thursday evening.
The Dreamfest party - taking place at Pier 70 in San Francisco - will be attended by tens of thousands of people that use Salesforce’s cloud software platform, which helps businesses of all sizes to sell their products more effectively.
Salesforce has a reputation for pulling in big acts (and now big cruise ships) for Dreamforce but it also brings them in for more intimate occasions.
Andy Lawson, Salesforce’s UK managing director, told Techworld this week that he saw Metallica play at a Salesforce managers meeting not too long ago.
The world-famous heavy metal band also played for Salesforce customers in 2011. Before doing so, the band stipulated that several hundred members of its fan club be allowed to attend free. Following the concert, one fan wrote on a forum: "Everyone is just pretty much standing there motionless with their cameras out."
The enterprise software giants bring in these acts in the hope that they’ll provide their customers with a night to remember so the customers look back on the company after the conference and think: “Oh, they had x,y,z, play…they’re cool.”
This is particularly important to many of the enterprise tech companies as the product they offer isn’t always all that “sexy” at the end of the day. There’s no denying that the likes of ERP (enterprise resource platform) and CRM are crucial in the business world but any normal person would be hard pushed to get too excited about these technologies.
Fortunately, Dreamfest isn’t just about trying to make Salesforce look cool. It’s also about raising money for worthy causes. Salesforce expects to raise $10 million for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals at Dreamfest this year. It’s understood that the majority of this figure is coming from Dreamforce sponsor companies that want to have their logos splashed around on boards and screens at the gig. Sponsors include the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Deloitte,Tata Consultancy Services and Sage.
Salesforce happens to pride itself on being one of the most generous companies in the world with its 1:1:1 model that was pioneered by CEO and cofounder Marc Benioff. The model means that Salesforce gives up one percent of its profits, one percent of its time and one percent of its technology to what it considers to be worthy causes.
Salesforce isn't alone
Salesforce is certainly not the only tech company pulling in big artists for its conferences.
Oracle, for example, has managed to get Elton John and Beck to play at the end of its Open World conference on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay next month.
In the last couple of years years, countless other bands have agreed to play for technology companies. Imagine Dragons, Lenny Kravitz, One Republic, Aerosmith, Greenday, Bruno Mars, Ok Go, Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy, to name just a few.
Having attended a number of these gigs, it’s fair to say that, while they’re often good fun, the atmosphere rarely gets close to the experience you’ll get at one of the band’s own gigs.
Yet the rockstars of the world still seem happy to show up and play to crowds that are largely made up of middle-aged, white, male IT professionals and sales managers.
Putting a price on Dave Grohl & co.
Money is clearly the main driver in all this. So how much money does it take to get rock bands of Foo Fighters scale to play for Silicon Valley enterprise giants? The question has been on my mind for several weeks now and I’ve put it to several friends to see if I’m on the same page as everyone else.
Lead singer Dave Grohl is thought to have net worth of over $250 million so I assumed the bill for the entire Foo Fighters band would be somewhere in the region of $1 million for the evening. My friends seemed to think it would be slightly less, maybe somewhere in the region of $500,000 to $700,000.
Salesforce declined to comment. However, Celebrity Talent International, a company that helps corporations and individuals to book acts for private parties, told Techworld that Foo Fighters cost around $1.25 million to hire for an evening. It’s fairly safe to assume that The Killers will be charging a similar amount. Gary Clark Jr and Stevie Wonder won’t come cheap either.
In total, we’re talking several million dollars. But at the end of the day that’s peanuts to a multibillion dollar corporation like Salesforce, particularly when it’s charging around $1,000 for every Dreamforce ticket - of which, 170,000 were sold this year.