“We were literally four days before we opened the venue; there were still seven semis and construction equipment in our back-of-house,” enthused Brian Crowne, general manager, Operations and Programming at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP). “[It was] Friday before the Saturday soft opening...with a Saturday morning [company] meeting and Blake Shelton that night. We’re literally cleaning the back stage, and they’re painting the hand rails, and the last video monitors are going in, and I’m going, ‘please God, get them up, because we’ve got to test them before tomorrow.’” Fortunately, for Crowne, Walmart executives, and 10,000 ardent music fans, the new video monitors worked beautifully.
With all the monitors tied in together, live events are streamed to the VIP lounge & artist lounges. Crowne is an entertainment industry veteran and former co-owner of the AMP, which had been a temporary, seasonal venue. In 2011 the Walton Art Center purchased the AMP brand, and Crowne signed on as general manager. From the ground-up he built the Walmart AMP into a world-class, state-of-the-art, permanent amphitheater attracting top acts. On Saturday, June 7, 2014, the grand opening Blake Shelton concert was sold out at the 10,000-capacity, Walmart AMP, now the largest outdoor music venue in Arkansas.
8-INCHES TO 25-FEET
“The goal to be as digital as possible was always there,” Crowne said. Being able to leverage Walmart’s long-standing relationship with Samsung gave the AMP team an opportunity to consider the impact of digital signage in every form factor: 8-inch Galaxy Tabs are used by wait and bar staff in the VIP lounge; 40-inch DM Series Smart Signage displays are used for menu boards in the concession areas; stunning 55-inch displays entertain guests in the VIP lounge and green room; and the massive 25-foot high by 14-foot-wide videowalls flank each side of the main stage made up of 36 UD Series ultra-narrow bezel displays.
“For me, as the GM, my expectation was, ‘Hey, I want it to be as simple as when I turn on the TV at the house and I pop in a DVD in,’” Crowne explained. “I knew it wasn’t going to be quite that simple, but once we had everything plugging and playing, and talking to each other, it became really pretty easy.”
AMP’s director of production can take a lot of the credit for the technological success, Crowne added. “He did great job of learning how to operate 36 video monitors as one, and as three.”
“Once you proceed to state-of-the art, there’s a lot of practical applications,” Crown added. “The cool thing about having the digital signage versus a static menu board is the opportunity to change pricing—you can do it on the fly.”
Concession stand displays are managed remotely using Samsung’s MagicInfo content management software. Content runs off the display’s internal Smart Signage Platform media player, without the need for a setback box. “We may tailor our concession menu offerings to a different demographic of a show where we think we’re going to sell more hamburgers or hot dogs, or high-end barbeque, or if we’re hosting a staff event we may want to put some traditional offerings on the menu.”
“To me, the ROI is having the opportunity to be digital versus static; isn’t just being able to do it more quickly,” Crowne opined. “Honestly, the cost of producing quality physical ad mat on static boards mount up as you are doing multiple events throughout the season.”
Tablets were not something the AMP team had originally considered, “but once we started talking with Samsung, we felt like it was another great way to make the operations more streamlined, functional and interactive,” said Crowne. While the initial deployment of the Galaxy Tab was built around the bar and wait staff, more applications became apparent. Crowne adds, “They were also used administratively with our teams in the front-and back-of-house as far as having all of our ops playing, and used in our food and beverage tracking inventory and that type of logistics as well.” Emergency plans and venue policies were also accessible on the tabs, which made it easy, “if a patron had a question they could jump to venue policies and have an answer real quick.”
The Walmart AMP, with its 10,000-seat capacity, is the largest outdoor music venue in Arkansas. A sophisticated digitial signage deployment helps enhance the attendee experience.REAL STAGE PRESENCE
First and foremost, the AMP is an entertainment venue. The massive, 14-foot-wide by 25 feet-tall videowalls were chosen, “because we think we can keep the consistency of the customer, patron experience if we offer smaller, and mid-level acts with the [same] type of production that the biggest tours are traveling with,” Crowne said. In addition, “ensuring that we are delivering high-def imagery of the shows to enhance the show and the ticket-buyer’s experience.”
“The cool thing about the format being portrait as opposed to landscape is that we can use them all as one large video screen or we can actually break them into three video screens,” he explained. Three different types of content can run on each of the video boards at once, offering versatility. “That content is used for lets say you come into a show, you’re going to see sponsor recognition, you’re going to see video of upcoming shows, or use it as a direct marketing opportunity.”
The AMP team and Crowne are particularly proud to have affirmation from some top acts. “A lot of the touring acts,” he said, “were coming through and they’re like, ‘how are we going to use these; they’re standing up and not laying down?’”
Crowne added: “Dierks Bentley, and Miranda and Tim McGraw, travel with their whole show based around center videowalls on the stage. Being able to take their amazing production and bookend it with these amazing video-monitors that we had, I think we found that their production managers and lighting and video directors really enjoyed what it added to their show.”
In addition to concerts, the AMP schedule is kept full with events such as Walmart’s Saturday morning meetings. Crowne explained, “We had an event with a large church that had a service with us, and it was the first time they had all five campuses under one roof.”
WINTER 2015 “TO DO LIST ”
“Getting the venue open was like a dead sprint. All throughout the season I kept thinking I am going to get time to do this [networking the full venue],” Crowne said. “Honestly, I am kind of glad that we got through the season operating three different areas of the venue with the video monitors. I feel better equipped now to say, ‘yeah, this is how we really want to utilize these,’ as opposed to maybe doing a rush job on the front-end.”
There will be several benefits to having the full venue on one network. Crowne explained: “I am excited about moving into next year where I’m going to be able to send whatever I want to all of the monitors in the venue.”
With all the monitors tied in together, the live event will be able to be streamed to the VIP lounge and artist lounges. There is also more flexibility for marketing and rotating sponsor recognition. “Something I want to do next year is incorporate into some of our emergency communication procedures,” he said.
Severe weather situations in an outdoor venue can be a concern, “I am hoping that next year with the flip of a switch, and I’ll be able to take over all of the monitors on the property.” With a successful opening season behind him, Crowne added, “I’m excited about expanding the scope in next season.”