Tony Thomas: “It doesn’t get any bigger than this”

NOVA Entertainment has secured one of the biggest artists in the world, Taylor Swift for their biggest Nova Red Room ever, with Hamilton Island as the backdrop.

Nova’s Red Room has produced over 90 events featuring international and local artists including Madonna, Usher and Bruno Mars. Following the success of the first Nova’s Red Room Global Tour in 2014, in July this year the second global tour saw listeners travel to Dublin, London, Dubai and Sydney to see headline artist Ed Sheeran and six huge international artists.

We caught up with NOVA Entertainment Chief Marketing & Digital Officer Tony Thomas for a chat about the Red Room, what goes into creating it and how NE is redefining both the listener and client space with the Red Room brand.


Blair:  You were one of the guys behind the creation of the Nova Red Room brand?

Tony:  Yes, that’s correct.

Blair:  Was the idea yours or was it a collaboration?

Tony:  Look the idea of building a live music brand, it was a group of us, Paul Jackson and myself.  Obviously the branding of the Red Room brand etc. was in my area so look, as usual with development projects in here it’s a collaboration so I can’t take singular responsibility for things but I suppose why the Red Room brand has become so consistent and strong and credible in the eyes of promotors and labels is because we’ve built it in such a consistent way.  So our high quality, every event has to deliver a certain type of experience.  But we’ve done it so it can be agile, so we can respond to opportunities quickly, we can take it to different locations, we can travel around the world.  We can have huge Red Room events, small Red Room events, club style events and more subdued events.  We built it with the ability to stretch it and build on it and challenge ourselves on how big the idea can be and I suppose this is an instance of how big an idea can get.

Blair:  The biggest one so far would probably be the Red Room World Tour, is that about right?

Tony:  That was the biggest in terms of logistics I’d say.  You know we’ve had Ed Sheeran twice now in the Red Room, once at Bucket list in Bondi a couple of years ago, and then again in Dublin on the world tour, so look that would certainly have been eight Red Rooms in the course of ten days in four cities.  It was a logistical challenge that came off actually seamlessly, so I would say that would probably, in my experience of all the ninety-plus Red Rooms that we’ve held certainly was I’d say the proudest moment I’ve had where our listeners have literally had the most incredible experience of their lives.  And you know to be honest, if we were to say what the original objective was when we created the Red Room brand was to give people an experience they would never forget around an artist that they love, and that has been very consistent through and through.

Blair:  Now money can’t buy events or experiences, it’s a competitive space these days.  You’ve got every group doing it, what’s Nova Entertainment doing that’s different to the rest?

Tony:  We’ve really been building our credentials over the last three years, our relationships in market based off the quality of the experience and I suppose the listener experience that we’ve created has meant that we have the opportunity to start challenging ourselves on what we do with it.  So whilst it’s a competitive space now, we continually push out to new areas and really evolve the Red Room platform itself.  And this is an example of that and I suppose the Red Room Global Tour is also an example of that where we feel like whilst it’s ultimately a music experience it’s got to be for us an experience that can push into travel and the way we see the Red Room evolving is continuing to deliver really big ideas that sit over and above the kind of foundation of the Red Rooms that we run throughout the year.  And three years now into this we would never be complacent, in fact the intensity that we have and the challenge that we have on creating new and interesting ideas has even been greater.

Blair:  Clearly it is going beyond a listener experience, it’s got to tie into the Nova brand, how do you approach it with clients? What are some of the drivers for them?

Tony:   The commercial demand around the Red Room commercial brand is very high and we have built the commercial opportunities very carefully. The music artists and the current music cycle, the music and the passion point is incredibly powerful for brands and so therefore the demand for a live music brand like Red Room has never been greater. So the way we approach it is that the partners on board also need to add to the experience. It has got to feel right and feel logical for the listener or consumer. So if you look at the Global Tour, it was Optus, Qantas and Dubai Tourism and we showcased Dubai in a stopover. This one is Hamilton Island, to create a really iconic Australian location, Qantas as airline partner plus as overall sponsor who had such a great experience over the last two Global Red Room tours and obviously not forgetting Frontier Touring. Michael Gudinski has been so incredible in bringing opportunities like this to us.

All our partners have a role to play in that experience.

Blair: So Taylor Swift announced today… what kind of groundwork has gone in securing one like this?

Tony: We start with a thought or idea and ask do you think we can make this happen?  Between us and Frontier and our incredible music marketing team with Claire Marshall. She over the last three or four months has been working on one, securing a location that really showcased Australia and provided a really interesting stopover  for Taylor and her crew. And then two, looking at bringing on the partners to make sure we can deliver the production values for an event like this.

I think we are getting really good at challenging ourselves at how a big an idea can be and what it will take to make it happen. It obviously doesn’t happen without a really amazing team and really solid relationships in the market.

Blair: How will it rollout from here?

Tony:  We will promo all this week and then we will have big ticket giveaways every day from the 2ndof November onwards and this event will be in early December.

It is a really important time for radio and we lead into end of Survey 8. There a lot of different facets to this. One is the opportunity for listeners to only win tickets through us which is an important driver of listening. But for us it also about how we drive and engage people on our digital and social assets.

Back to one of your early questions, what we set out to do is we want to create an experience that people will never forget in physical attendance but we also want to create the opportunity to capture and share experience with their friends

For every Red Room the social amplification and the social buzz we get around it is incredibly powerful.

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