Conan O’Brien wasn’t nearly as popular two years ago as he is now. If he was, the Tonight Show debacle might never have happened. What Conan discovered in that debacle, though, was a whole new way to have, find, and interact with fans. Forbes details how CoCo was born, including one remarkable moment that proved how powerful this new thing might be:
O’Brien’s next step was to give himself a job, hosting a traveling show he called the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour.” He did it to support his staff, especially his show’s eight-piece band, which had not received a severance package from NBC; to try to keep himself relevant; and to accommodate his wife, who wanted him out of the house.
Ross and the rest of the team booked a 30-city tour. They had a website built for ticket orders, acquired a sponsor (American Express), and began to talk about the advertising budget for the tour. That’s when Ross, six years older than Conan and up to then just as mired in old media, matter-of-factly said, “Let’s hold off on taking any ads and just tweet it out.” Now it’s Ross’s turn to shake his head. “People looked at me like I was crazy. But I was like, ‘What’s the risk? If it doesn’t work in two days, we can advertise.’ And it turned out to be a good idea.”
Actually, it turned out to be an amazing idea.
Hey Internet: I’m headed to your town on a half-assed comedy & music tour. Go to http://TeamCoco. com for tix. I repeat: it’s half-assed.
In a matter of hours, both New York shows at Radio City Music Hall had sold out. Then, across the country, one show after another sold out. And then the site crashed. “The first day we sold, like, 120,000 tickets,” Ross recalls. “We spent no money on advertising.” The tour sold out in a couple of days. Once again, Conan had typed fewer than 140 characters, only this time he had changed the concert promotion business forever. O’Brien was definitely keeping himself relevant.