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Working for Guns N’ Roses: 3 Lessons I Learned Touring India With the Band

This month marks one year since the Guns N’ Roses tour and looking back I realise that not only do I continue to feel humbled to have been chosen to handle the Tour’s social media but that I am truly thankful for the experience because it changed me. I was privileged to take in private backstage moments and saw literally every facet of the ‘sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’ lifestyle played out during the tour … but it was the lessons I learned online from the fans that have forever changed the way I work.

Like most marketing executives, social media became tied to my objectives back in 2008. It has been a part of my daily professional life for a little over five years now and I’ll admit that I probably love and hate it at times with equal passion. It’s both fun and frustrating as hell. There are indeed best practices that help us all keep our sanity but then … no one can predict the next ‘Gangnam Style‘ or ‘Stuff on Scout’s Head‘! Social media marketing isn’t rocket science, especially when you start using video in marketing too, but there were a few important lessons I hadn’t embraced until Guns N’ Roses came into my life!

The band was signed for their first-ever India tour, brought over from the U.S. by promoter Mooz Entertainment. Mooz had previously cut ties with their social media agency so with only 7 weeks until the first show, zero online marketing or communication had commenced. Time was short and I was brought in to do my part to help ensure a solid ROI for the promoter and to help achieve these objectives:

  • Drive awareness of the tour
  • Create viral buzz to keep advertising costs down
  • Engage fans through social media
  • Run an email marketing campaign
  • Encourage online ticket sales
  • Ensure sold out shows at each of the three concerts

The first step was drafting a Social Media Marketing plan that included everything that you would expect like contests, promotions, a ‘social influencer’ strategy, co-branded partner activities and sample content that would be used for the daily posts. The instant it was approved, we kicked off!

Each week 1.2 million fans were reached on Facebook!

Each week 1.2 million fans were reached on Facebook!

Because of the nature of the project, Facebook was going to be the most important platform to help spread the word to fans. However, less than $3,000 was given for Facebook advertising, which meant it was vital to keep the ads highly targeted within the concert cities and the two other areas famous for their music lovers in India. Happily the budget turned out to be enough! Within a month of creating the Facebook Page it grew to 40,000 followers with only $2,700 spent in advertising and the viral buzz of the page averaged 1.2 million ‘reached’ during the peak weeks.


Guns N’ Roses is legendary and it was easy to build excitement for them because the band evokes an emotional response from just about anyone from 13 to 75. I remember calling my Mom in the U.S. to tell her about it and she was almost as excited as my 17 year old daughter who immediately made me promise to give her and her mates passes! To connect with people on an emotional level it meant that there would be no ‘hard selling’ across social media. Instead we’d feed the hearts of the fans hoping to spend one night with Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed (keyboards), DJ Ashba (guitar), Tommy Stinson (bass), Richard Fortus (guitar), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (guitar), Chris Pitman (keyboards) and Frank Ferrer (drums). In the end, Mooz almost sold out the three venues, with 15,000 – 25,000 happy fans at each show.


Taken around 4:30am at Bangalore International Airport, here with the very talented Chris Pitman. The guys were tired following a long journey to India but they were generous with their time and wanted to share their excitement with the fans.

Taken around 4:30am at Bangalore International Airport, here with the very talented Chris Pitman. The guys were tired following a long journey to India but they were generous with their time and wanted to share their excitement with the fans.

#1 – People LOVE To Go Behind-the-Scenes!

The pressure was on! The day before the first show ticket sales were well below break-even and the client and their partners urged for a strategy change … less posts for the fans and more on buying tickets. Instead of that, I brought a photographer and met the band at 4am in the arrivals terminal at BLR for a quick interview and paparazzi-style photo shoot. By 5am there was a quickie blog post with personal messages from the band to the fans, as well as edited and watermarked behind-the-scenes photos to seed all around social media. It went viral almost instantly! That afternoon I shot a ton of backstage photos and a candid video of the sound check with my personal video cam, complete with roadies setting up the stage around this private GN’R practice session. The video and backstage photos were just what we needed to build up the excitement levels to help sell the remaining tickets!

How it applies to everyday social media marketing:

  • Whether you have a B2B or B2C company, your target customers will appreciate seeing life behind the marketing messages of your brand.
  • Sharing the fun human side to a company engenders the brand to people on an emotional level. That’s why people love them … because they are 100% original and REAL (not sanitised by the marketing team or an ad agency)!
  • It absolutely does work! There is this one photo of my head of content at Stratagem Labs caught off guard by India’s monsoon while she was working on a PPT at a café before a big meeting. The photo was taken candidly on an iPhone by another team member, showing her using a scarf to keep the rain off of her laptop as she edited one last slide. With the caption ‘We love the dedication of our team…not even rain stops our head of content from putting the finishing touches on a presentation!’ and it’s our 2nd most popular post.

#2 – Everyone Wants to Be a Rock Star!

After the notable benefits of the quickie sound check video, the idea was pitched to Mooz to create a ‘best of Bangalore’ video from the first concert to help sell out the next two cities. Again, this was going to be shot raw and from my personal cam so I arrived to the venue long before the doors opened. I shot footage backstage, of the fans queuing to enter, the die-hards running to claim a place in the front row, fans enjoying the show (even back in the cheap seats!), sponsor branding and of course of GN’R. I met my video editors at 1am following the concert and in 6 hours they quickly created a video that showcased the sponsors, the band and most importantly… the fans! Thousands and thousands of fans! Within hours of launching it we had 1000s of Bangalore fans tagging themselves and enthusiastically sharing the video on their wall and with friends… and the Mumbai and Delhi fans loved the preview, so ticket sales increased!

How it applies to everyday social media marketing:

  • Customers, partners and the key players in your industry are no different to GN’R fans – they enjoy being noticed and appreciated, too.
  • Content goes viral quickly because the people showcased will share it and tag themselves (or the company), extending brand awareness for you.
  • Sharing a customer testimonial with a photo, your CSR activities, a case study featuring a top partner or customer, or even the user-generated content from contests will always be a big hit.
  • Peers and competitors will always sneak a look to see what’s going on and trending with you!
  • Tip for increasing event ROI: Be sure that at your next event to take photos and videos but never make it all about you. Capture the ‘scene’ and the other booths and speakers … this ensures your content stays ‘social’ and it will definitely be shared more than content you post that is all about ‘me, me, me’!

#3 – Even When Sales Are Down, Don’t Be Overly Salesy On Social Media!

Finding original ideas and creating ‘social’ campaigns to build excitement and warm hearts translated into more sales than pushing a bombarding stream of ‘don’t miss out, buy your tickets today’ posts every few hours. The behind-the-scenes content helped to sell out Bangalore, then the videos of Bangalore and Mumbai did the same for the Mumbai and Delhi shows. The man-hours it took to create it were nothing compared to the benefits it generated for the promoter. The fans felt connected to the band members, they were genuinely engaged, and they shared, commented and expressed their excitement all over social media … resulting in ticket sales!

How it applies to everyday social media marketing:

  • People connect on social media to engage, to play voyeur or to be entertained. Give them the fun stuff, exclusive discount promotions, exciting news, or useful tricks of the trade from a thought leader within your organisation!
  • Brands have the unique opportunity to let their personalities shine on social media and it generally takes just as long to post something of true interest to followers as it does to post 100% salesy marketing messages.
  • Almost no one appreciates a brand or company that constantly posts ‘we sell this, we sell that’ or ‘we are located here or there’ or ‘hey look at our regurgitated marketing and web content again’! Everyone already knows where to find a company’s products and services or locations, that’s not why they connect to a brand on social media.
  • The same goes for your email newsletter! Running the email newsletter as part of this marketing campaign was not always easy but it was definitely an effective way to reach large numbers of people. If you are new to email marketing, I would recommend checking out some of the fantastic email marketing software out there. Nowadays, there have never been so many different types of integrated marketing software so it is definitely worth taking a look at some of the big names like MailerLite and MailChimp. You can learn more about these types of email marketing software by checking out this guide to mailerlite vs mailchimp. When done correctly, email marketing software can totally revolutionize your digital marketing efforts.

One thing is certain, every company can be a rock star on social media! Whether you have a software or financial services company, a marketing agency, retail business or a yoga studio, the same principles of social media used for GN’R apply to you. It just takes consistency, a little tweaking of the platforms and some original content to find the perfect mix for your business!

Angela Carson

© Angela Carson and Angela’s Bangalore blog and photos

I started Angela's Bangalore from my hotel room on the very first day I moved to India in 2011, while struck with jet lag! It was my very first blog, the country's very 1st luxury travel blog. Now I'm rocking YouTube as @WanderwithAngela, hope you'll subscribe.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Pingback: ABU DHABI GUNS N ROSES 2014

  2. Rhonald Moses

    I find “Behind the scenes” strategy a great one. People love to see what these stars do behind the scene and that’s best way to publicize.

    Also “leaking” information helps a lot, especially just days before the concert/events and if they are very popular.

    I attend the Jazz festivals here in Dubai. They are amazing – sipping coffee (I don’t drink the other stuff and so am restricted to coffee), listening to nice jazz live music. WOW. Oh yeah, it’s starting from Feb 13 – 2014 till Feb 20th.

    Back to the comment 🙂 Nice reading, always enjoyed your blogs

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