Did you see the Spice Girls' tour? If so, you may have seen the future of pop music.
Not the glitzy show, but rather what was shown on the video screens before the Fab Five Minus One hit the stage and again during intermission.
Ads for such products as cosmetics, the film "Ever After" and sugar--all perfectly targeted to the young, largely female audience--ran on screens flanking the stage and, during the recent Great Western Forum show, on the arena's scoreboard. The presentation, shown under the package name Blink TV, was put together by a British company, KLP, which contracted with the Spice Girls.
This is apparently a first, at least for a U.S. tour, and opinions in the music industry ranged from shock at its arrival to equal shock that ads had never been done before.
No one seems to look down on the Spice Girls for this--the group has been unashamedly opportunistic from the start. The consensus is that showing commercials at concerts was probably inevitable, and who better than Baby, Sporty, Scary and Posh to be the first?
"I don't know how I feel about it," says John Scher, whose Metropolitan Entertainment promoted two East Coast Spice Girls dates. "But the cost of touring has become somewhat obscene. If it allows corporate sponsors to put more money into the entertainment world and allows us to see more shows, it's positive."
Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert trade publication Pollstar, notes that sponsor involvement has increased steadily since the Rolling Stones signed Jovan as the first major rock tour sponsor 20 years ago.
"I'm sure you'll see more of this," he says. "It's a great marketing opportunity, a captive audience there with nothing to do, waiting for the show to start. And in today's world, I don't think they'll be seen as an intrusion."
Observers see it as no coincidence that this tour was brought to America by SFX Entertainment, the company that over the past two years has spent nearly $1 billion systematically purchasing most of the nation's major concert promotion firms. SFX Chairman Robert F.X. Sillerman has been frank about pushing live entertainment as a vehicle for advertising, no different from TV or radio programming.
"That's where the business is going," says Mitch Slater, who, as co-president of the SFX-owned Delsener Slater promotions firm in New York, bought the Spice tour on behalf of the parent company. "Our opportunity is that with all these [SFX-owned] promoters, it becomes one live network. By having all these companies together as one, you can deliver a great opportunity to sponsors to reach an audience."
Paul Tollette, co-owner of L.A. independent promoter Goldenvoice, is troubled by the trend and has long resisted corporate involvement in shows. But that stance, he admits, makes it very hard to compete against companies that do have sponsor underwriting, and today seems anachronistic.
"In the past, putting a company name in an ad for a concert was the sickest thing to a lot of artists," he says. "Today it's like nothing."
HOMELESS: Add L.A.'s Wiltern Theatre to the list of places Marilyn Manson isn't welcome. Manson had hoped to play there as part of a brief fall tour of mid-sized settings more intimate than the larger halls and arenas likely for a later full-scale trek. But Wiltern management rejected the request--though not due to the community concerns about Manson's show content as cited in other locales.
"It wasn't so much him [Manson] as the possibility of [a rowdy] audience," says Wiltern General Manager Rena Wasserman. "It wasn't worth the risk for a building that's a National Historic Landmark. There are lots of things we don't allow, even some conferences."
The most likely alternative facility would be the Pantages Theatre, but that's moot, as it's booked through fall. The smaller Mayan Theatre was also reportedly considered, but it too was booked for the dates Manson wanted to play. Manson manager Tony Ciulla says that other options will be examined, but for now no L.A. date is expected before January.
GABRIEL'S CALL: Peter Gabriel is well underway recording his first studio album since 1992's "Us," with an expected spring release. Tony Berg, the Geffen Records A&R; executive supervising the project, promises it will be well worth the wait, expanding the various musical explorations Gabriel has been known for and furthering the highly personal, emotional content of the last album.
"I only half-kiddingly tried to get him to call the album 'Peter Gabriel Makes Grown Men Cry,' " says Berg, who has been visiting Gabriel's Real World studio complex in England and has even played on some of the tracks. "Some of the songs are devastating. He's been going through 35 songs' worth of material he's written, exploring each song from different angles, with as many as 10 different versions recorded for each."
Berg says no official tour plans have been made yet, but that he expects Gabriel will want to present the new material live.
BEATLES FOR SALE: Thought you'd seen every worthwhile photo of the Beatles that there is? Larry White thought he had too--until during a recent move he discovered film he'd shot in 1965 as a 16-year-old junior member of the press corps when the Mop Tops arrived in San Francisco and performed at the Cow Palace. White got close-up access of the spectacle in his role as photographer for a radio station publication while a student at San Leandro High School.
"I did it basically for free to get into concerts, and suddenly found myself with a pass to shoot the Beatles," White, who currently manages the L.A. band the Muffs, says of his teen dream gig.
But a few years later, he lost the film. Even when it turned up earlier this year, he feared it would have deteriorated badly. But the negatives were still in good shape, and the results--including airport arrival shots, a few backstage scenes and performance pictures--can be examined (and, of course, purchased) via a new Internet site, http://www.beatleslostphotos.com