It’s not every day that a business software firm and a Celtic punk band team up, but tough times call for unusual measures.
Pegasystems and the Dropkick Murphys have forged a business partnership that started with the accidental success of the band’s St. Patrick’s Day show, broadcast live on Facebook to about 10 million viewers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pega executives and Dropkicks frontman Ken Casey took this partnership one step further last Friday, by livestreaming a two-hour-plus show from Fenway Park (with special guest Bruce Springsteen joining remotely), an event with an estimated 9 million viewers that raised more than $700,000 for COVID relief. (Pega kicked in $151,000 of that total.)
After sponsoring both events, the Cambridge software firm has agreed to financially back all of the band’s in-person shows in Boston as well as a St. Patrick’s Day livestream for the next three years. Band manager Jeff Castelaz said the six-figure partnership includes an up-front payment to support the band’s 10-person road crew, to help make up for the sudden loss of the crew’s income with the end of live touring.
It all started with a corporate gig: Pegasystems was bringing its annual PegaWorld conference back to Boston after many years away, and chief executive Alan Trefler wanted the right band to herald its homecoming. The band agreed to do the show for the company conference when it was to be held on June 2 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
But then COVID-19 suddenly canceled all sorts of in-person plans, including PegaWorld and the Dropkicks’ annual concert series around St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. In place of the live conference, the band agreed to record a three-song set that would later air at PegaWorld, which still took place, but in virtual form. Meanwhile, the Dropkicks decided it was a good time to finally livestream one of these St. Patrick’s shows for fans. Pega sponsored the now-legendary St. Patrick’s Day livestream, which took place the same day and at the same studio where the PegaWorld set was filmed.
“The scale of it was surprising,” Trefler said. “It really brought a sense of celebration at a time when we all could use it.”
Michael Brenner, vice president of brand and client experience, still sounds humbled about how his company’s annual trade show turned into last week’s global charity concert.
“Even in these tough times, maybe especially in these tough times, you’ve got to be nimble and think out of the box,” Brenner said.
For the Dropkicks, the Fenway show will go down as one of the band’s proudest moments. Casey said the only revenue for the band came from online merchandise sales. The future remains uncertain for rock bands like his, particularly without a COVID-19 vaccine widely available. Casey said he doesn’t necessarily see the financial sense in touring for crowds at venues that can only be half full, after they finally do reopen.
Still, Casey’s mind started to wander: Maybe if the band can play a night show at Fenway, with lights, if the city relaxes its curfew, and more crew members can enter the ballpark — and the Red Sox still can’t play ball there.
Casey said the partnership with Pega has already been mutually beneficial, with the company and its brand getting far more name recognition than they first envisioned. “Good things happen when people do good things,” Casey said. “When there’s a win-win situation, why not do it again?”