What I learned for media companies from attending an Olivia Rodrigo concert

By: David Arkin
March 7, 2024
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I had the absolute joy of getting to take my 11-year-old daughter to see pop star Olivia Rodrigo play a packed arena this week.

As you could imagine, this has been an event that has been talked about in our house for months with lots of Alexa requests to play Olivia’s music to ensure I would be familiar enough with many of my daughter’s favorite songs.

As I was driving home from the concert — with my daughter zonked out in the backseat after screaming Olivia songs for two hours — I thought back to what I just witnessed and marveled not just in what a performer Olivia was, but how effective several of her onstage — and offstage — tactics were at engaging concert goers.

As I do with most things in my life, I wondered how some of her marketing genius could be replicated by media companies.

So here’s three things I think we could learn from Olivia Rodrigo!

1. She used a QR code brilliantly

After getting your ticket scanned, you received a laminated card with Olivia’s face on the front and a QR code on the back with a promotion that said “scan to unlock exclusive merchandise, music, giveaways and more.”

When you opened the QR code, you could add your email to enter to win a guitar signed by Olivia, buy a bunch of merchandise and were encouraged to use a hashtag to post a photo, which could be featured on Olivia’s site.

The lesson for media: If you’re running an event — or even just have a table at a community festival — how are you using QR codes to drive at email sign ups, sell your products and encourage photo sharing? Why not have a laminated card like I mentioned above that promotes some kind of giveaway or contest as a way to get the email, push your digital subscription right there (or a store if you have one) and ask people to use a hashtag to promote their photos. You can do all of those things (if you had a simple web page to feature all of that).

Here is a photo with my daughter, Harper, before the show.

2. Her fan engagement was amazing

The access Olivia provided fans was very up close and personal and that is challenging to do with an arena full of thousands of people. Hands down, the coolest moment was a moon that she sat in that went around the arena. It would stop in certain places and she sat about 20 feet above the audience and sang to them. In addition, she went into the crowd a few times and high fived fans after her last song.

The lesson for media: Maybe the editor of your daily newspaper doesn’t have the same celebrity as Olivia, but you are a public figure and many in the community would love access to you. Here are a few ideas to think about (some that could be tied to a membership program):

• Create a reader advisory board that meets with you in-person monthly
• Develop a regular newsletter or column that explains how you make decisions and why
• Offer a coffee with the editor, providing a laid back way for community members to engage with you
• Invite readers to take part in your editorial board meetings or daily news budget meetings so they can understand how you make decisions.

3. She understands audience segments

During one point of her show, she had a video camera panning the crowd and asked people who they came with. She started by asking for people to cheer who came with their boyfriend or girlfriend, their dads and then their best friends.

Of course, my favorite part was when the camera zoomed in on a Dad who was there with his tween and Olivia said, “Dads are the best.” The crowd cheered loudest though when Olivia asked who was there with their best friends?

It was a fun moment and made you feel connected to whoever you were there with.

The lesson for media: It’s a simple lesson in segmenting your audience and getting them to connect to a moment. Readers react and engage when they feel an emotion to something. That might be a story, a photograph or a moment in life. If you ask for readers to share something with you, like photos for Mother’s Day, do more than ask for a photo of you and your mom, but a photo or story that showcases what a beautiful or inspirational figure she is in your life. When Olivia said, “dads are the best,” and my daughter gave me a sweet smile, it obviously felt good to me but also created a connection for me with the experience.

It’s not hard to see how all of these tactics Olivia used created a highly-engaged audience. And it’s not difficult to imagine how media companies could do the exact same thing.

I’d love to connect. Email me at david@davidarkinconsulting.com today.


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