With increased options in the city and a growing population of 20-somethings, Las Vegas show business is only getting tougher.
Traditionally ticketed shows such as “Divas Las Vegas” or “Jersey Boys” are up against not only one another, but are competing against an increasing number of dayclubs, nightclubs and celebrity-owned restaurants for visitors’ entertainment dollars. In some demographics they may be fighting a losing battle.
The Millennial generation in particular tends to traverse dayclubs when the sun’s out, then they’ll have dinner at a celebrity-owned restaurant and head to a nightclub, leaving no room for a show experience.
“The only anomaly I have is ‘Thunder From Down Under,’ ” Adam Steck, CEO of SPI Entertainment, said.
With a 94 percent capacity, the male revue is always popular.
Some of his other shows, though, are hurting because nightclubs are slicing away his business.
“They’re taking business away from traditionally ticketed shows,” Steck said. “As a producer, you need to be a bit more scrappy in selling your shows.”
Mike Newcomb, executive director of the Thomas & Mack Center, agreed with Steck.
“The economy here in Las Vegas is doing pretty well, but everybody is fighting for that entertainment dollar.”
Nevertheless, ticket sales are up at the Thomas & Mack Center, “probably in the 10 percent range” from a year earlier, and Newcomb said part of that is spurred on by major events that people will attend regardless of their financial situation, such as the National Finals Rodeo.
Other shows, too, continue to attract strong audiences.
“ ‘Absinthe’ is sold out every night, it doesn’t matter,” Scott Zeiger, co-founder of Base Entertainment, said.
Other shows have their popular seasons, such as “Jersey Boys” and “Million Dollar Quartet,” which tend to do better when the business travelers are out and about in the fall.
Zeiger said Las Vegas demographics change with the season. In the summer, younger tourists choose to hang at the pool. In the fall, business travelers come back, and typically buy show tickets.
Steck said there are two particularly strong demographics right now: female bachelorette parties and baby boomers. But the nightclub demographic, people ages 21 to 35, continues to throw a wrench in the system.
“It’s a tougher environment to produce shows than it’s ever been,” Steck said.
Also, he said people seem to be more interested in seeing a celebrity than watching a full-on production.
The economy, too, has had its effects.
“What we’re seeing the last few years is people in the city are very value conscious,” Newcomb said.
They’re picking events carefully and looking for coupons and specials, including using ticket brokers’ services.
Zeiger called ticket brokers “another sales channel,” and Steck said ticket brokers seem to be the trend, as he uses them for most of his shows with the exception of “Thunder From Down Under” and “Human Nature.”
“We just have to be clever to figure out what discounts to give, to not cheapen the show and give value for the dollar,” Steck said.
He called the local ticket system as it stands “bastardized” and said it’s getting more and more difficult to sell tickets and make money because of all the fees that can be applied to a price.
“It’s not good for the consumer, which is why we have to discount tickets,” Steck said.
Zeiger, meanwhile, said for the industry to self-regulate, it must be cognizant of value-minded tourists while keeping entertainment quality high.
“If we can provide top-quality entertainment with an equal measure of value, we can survive forever,” Zeiger said.
If there’s no value, it gets troubling for companies, he said, because producers only have one revenue stream: the box office.
“It’s an industry that needs careful attention, almost daily, to the marketing effort and the pricing effort,” Zeiger said. “I’m hopeful that it doesn’t become just a place for club kids to go wild, but that the equilibrium of what Vegas has to offer stays in check.”
Steck said he’s still happy about his chosen profession.
“At the end of the day we can all bitch and moan, but I feel very grateful to do what I do,” he said. “I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I don’t take it for granted at all.”
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at email@example.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.