Tag Archives: eddie money

The Pine Knob Branding Lesson

On January 25, 2001, Palace Sports & Entertainment announced that Pine Knob Music Theatre would change its name to DTE Energy Music Theatre. Although I had only been programming radio in Detroit for only a year at that point, it didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t a simple sponsorship name change.

The reaction among my staff was defiant, like someone had told them they’d never get to eat ice cream again. One of my jocks refused to call it by its new name. ”It’s Pine Knob. Period.” That made for some fun conversations. Why would anyone care so deeply about the name change? After all, venues add or change sponsor names all the time, such as loanDepot Park (formerly Marlins Park) in Miami, Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) in Los Angeles, or Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome) in Toronto.

The answer of course (as it so often does) comes down to the brand.

By the time Pine Knob changed its name, it already had 29 years of brand equity. Pine Knob was where Bob Seger would play runs of multiple shows for the hometown. Where J. Geils Band recorded their third live album, Showtime! during a week-long run. Eddie Money opened the Pine Knob concert season every single year from 1992 until his final show before his passing in 2019. These uniquely Detroit milestones didn’t take place at some theatre named after a company you have to begrudgingly pay your utility bill to every month. They happened at the one and only Pine Knob.

Eddie Money opened every season at Pine Knob Music Theatre/DTE Energy Music Theatre from 1992 to 2019

My staff weren’t the only defiant ones. Throughout 20 years of sponsorship under the DTE name, artist after artist made a point of telling the crowd what they thought of the change. Peter Frampton, who recorded his 1999 Live In Detroit album at the venue, said “It’s always been Pine Knob to me. I always call it that from the stage.”

And so, it was welcome news to many last month when it was announced that DTE Energy Music Theatre would return to its roots, becoming Pine Knob Music Theatre once again as the venue celebrates its 50th year. Research helped guide the decision and ultimately the strategic direction. In speaking with Billboard, Howard Handler of 313 Presents, producer of shows at the venue, said “We wondered, ‘OK, with people between the ages of 18-24, is (Pine Knob) something that means anything to them at all?’” “And when we did the research, the answer to that was yes, it did. People knew what it was — maybe from their older siblings or their parents, or from sitting in the audience and Dave Matthews comes on stage and says, ‘Hello Pine Knob!’”

The new classic-inspired Pine Knob logo

You can probably think of other venues that would inspire revolts if the name was changed. Can you imagine if Madison Square Garden became Olive Garden Arena? What if Dodger Stadium was renamed “Microsoft Stadium”? I’d love to see the reaction in Green Bay if anyone dared to rename Lambeau Field. The only reason TD Garden replacing Boston Garden worked was because it was a new and different building. The memories tied to the original made it impossible to change.

This is why having a deep understanding of how your audience and the overall market perceives your brand is so important. When decisions are made with only money or similar factors in mind, the brand can suffer. But when research is utilized to ensure the monetary and strategic goals are aligned with the brand, everyone wins.




Don’t Remember Eddie Money for the Hits

Tuesdays With Coleman

It was a sad weekend for rock music, and a tale of two very different reactions on social media.

On Friday, September the 13th at around 11 AM, we learned that Eddie Money, many of whose hits in the 70s and 80s remain timeless evergreen staples on radio stations across formats, passed away of complications from a heart valve replacement at age 70. Money had revealed his diagnosis of esophageal cancer just one month earlier.

Two days later, on Sunday the 15th at around 8:30 AM, the more surprising news broke that Cars vocalist and guitarist Ric Ocasek was found dead at age 75.

The reverberation of both deaths was felt around the world and certainly on social media.

While one could argue the Cars have a longer and more impressive resume (over 20 million albums sold and last year’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), Eddie Money had an intangible quality.

He was a really nice guy.

As I scanned my social media feeds on Friday, the reaction from radio people was of genuine loss—as if a close friend had died.

“He was SO nice.”

“Eddie Money was a class act.”

“He was so radio friendly.”

“Eddie Money was the goods. He was hilarious and always willing to help.”

Contrast this to the reactions I read of Ocasek’s death, which were also mournful but tended to be more about the music.

“They were one of my most-listened-to bands.”

“Great band.”

“A true original.”

“His influence will always stay with me.”

This isn’t to say there was anything wrong with the reaction to Ocasek’s death, and it’s not to say he wasn’t also a nice guy.

It’s that the reaction to Eddie Money’s death stuck out because it was so emotional.

It’s worth noting because radio’s ties to artists is a powerful point of differentiation from other entertainment options and has been a cog in the machine that has driven its success.

Radio has historically been brilliant at creating unforgettable in-person moments between artist and listener. These moments help create memorable brand depth for well-positioned stations, but as any program director will tell you, artist access is often not exactly easy.

And frankly, sometimes they’re not worth it. Just as a good artist experience provided by a radio station can inspire a listener to share with their friends, the bad ones can have the opposite effect. And you know, if you’ve ever worked at a radio station, there are plenty of bad ones.

Eddie Money was a rare breed—the kind of artist that had such a nice streak, even his negativity could be sugar-coated. Once when I was interviewing him after we had spent quite a bit of time talking about influences and artists he enjoyed listening to, he said, “Jay, I love the Foo Fighters but when are we going to talk about the Money Man?”

When I asked him to play a festival for Y94 in Syracuse in 1994, his band wasn’t available. Instead of saying “no,” he offered to host the entire thing and brought his family.

Eddie Money was known for coming into the lobby to sign everyone’s autographs and pictures after his shows. Money told interviewer Gary James, “People who come to Eddie Money shows are not always the richest people in the world. Sometimes their wives are working or they’re pulling double shifts. It’s hard to get a (baby) sitter. For people to take the time and the energy to get out there and hear some great Rock & Roll, I gotta tell you I love the people who come to my shows. They’re really, really great people.”

Money played countless shows for radio stations, phoned in for interview after interview and appreciated the mutually beneficial relationship.

When your brand is music, it’s always nice to have the ones on the front lines there to help you build that brand—and Eddie Money did his share of that for so many radio stations.

His perspective on life, shared with Rolling Stone in a 2018 interview, is one we can all learn a bit from. “The kids aren’t in jail, they’re not in rehab, nobody’s wrecked the car this week and there’s still milk in the refrigerator. I’m having a good month.”

Right on the money.