Michael Jackson’s done it again, surprising all the nay sayers who had written him off as a wash-out and a has-been. He’s sold out 50 dates at the O2 arena and will, assuming everything goes according to plan, play to around a million fans over that period.
Clearly all the web chatter on Twitter and other social networking sites has helped; this has been the venue for the hardcore fans of Jacko to turn the tables on the now-isolated traditional media who had written the newly re-crowned King of Pop off in the wake of court cases, alleged child abuse and years of hiding in unspecified venues around the world.
They have clearly forgotten the sheer number of committed Jackson fans out there, who worship regardless of scandal and who are an affluent global community. The media and Jackson’s record company are quite simply out of touch with the importance of such a huge and motivated fan base – in much the same way, Cliff Richard was written off and yet still sold records and concert tickets.
OK, this residency at the O2 won’t convert new fans to the Jackson cause, but it is proof of two things:
- if anyone underestimates the power of social networking, they are fools – this residency was being tweeted about weeks before any official announcement was made and it was this as much as anything that drove the astonishingly speedy sales of all tickets;
- that there is hope for the economy – people are prepared to spend on feelgood moments such as reliving their youth by seeing Michael Jackson in concert.
Of course, it helps that Jackson – or more likely his people – have cannily kept that starting price for tickets for the concerts low. £50 to £75 is nothing when Madonna was charging well in excess of £100 for a basic ticket recently. This has brought fans from Germany, Italy and France flocking to the O2 Arena, which is surely now the world’s premiere music venue, having played host to Prince, Led Zeppelin, Madonna and a forthcoming 50 date residency from Michael Jackson
Entertainment is a potent economic driver and, if sales for Jacko’s concerts are anything to go by, it may yet help reduce the drag and friction of the recession. But there is no room at the moment to spend big on advertising in the traditional sense; any entertainment, be it rock concerts, theatre, cinema or books, needs to tap in to the word of mouth bonanza that is the social internet.
There’s a long way to run of course – the dates wind to a close early next year and Jackson is a relatively frail man. The pressure of 50 shows could really take it’s toll. But at the moment, the Jacko phenomenon seems unstoppable. I’d say that this is the first hopeful sign for the economy I’ve seen in a while. Now let’s hope everyone learns the lessons it offers.