Behind the Scenes on The Rolling Stones Tour and Sponsorship with the Alliance for Lifetime Income

The Rolling Stones have embarked on another tour. Along with a dwindling number of artists from the original era of rock and roll, the Stones are still touring and selling out venues. They have evolved into a well-oiled machine. Fans will see the results when the band hits the stage, but behind the scenes there are many fascinating aspects. One such element is the tour’s sponsorship by The Alliance for Lifetime Income. Before the tour kicked off I had a chance to chat with two people closely involved with the sponsorship. 

Dale “Opie” Skjerseth is the Rolling Stones Production Director and Jean Statler is the CEO of the Alliance for Lifetime Income.

Jean explained that the sponsorship is a good alignment for the fans. We both chuckled that Mick Jagger had once been a student at London School of Economics, but after bumping into Keith Richards on a train platform and only after getting a record deal did Jagger leave LSE. He certainly did not forget fundamental lessons from his early studies. Indeed, it is generally recognized that the first large scale tour sponsorship was when Jovan sponsored the Stones’ 1972 tour. Received wisdom is that the band earned more from the sponsorship than from ticket sales. At that point, I used the Zoom camera to share with Jean and Opie how much I spent that year to see another English band.

Tickets in 1972 were much cheaper; I think I paid about the same amount that year to see The Rolling Stones Tour, sponsored by Jovan.

“The message is consumer education,” explained Jean. Opie quickly echoed the sentiment, “there is an epidemic of not saving, and I am constantly preaching that to my staff.” Opie quickly had an affinity for the Alliance, “I jumped onboard, full feet in. I really admire what the Alliance is doing. The age group does not matter.”

Opie now oversees a staff of 250, a crew that is critical to what the fan sees when the lights go down and the music roars to life. I asked how Opie got his start in the music business. After reading about Led Zeppelin’s crew, Opie began working with local bands as a teenager.

He started his career with a blessing from his Dad, and a promise he would save money from moving equipment for a local band. Opie became a roadie, “and lived on vending machines.” He heeded his Dad’s advice to go to every birthday party, wedding and funeral. Opie moved to LA, met more people, one thing led to another and he now oversees tours by the Stones, Guns ‘n Roses, AC/DC and others…often overlapping.

I asked Jean how the fan will encounter the Alliance on the current tour, in other words how the sponsorship is activated.

“Our URL is on the ticket, and we have an exhibit near the merch table,” Statler explained. “Fans often have hours to kill before the show. We have games like a spinning wheel for Rolling Stones trivia, to draw people in. We have co-branded merch. We have advisors available, but we are not selling annuities, we are selling education. We were acutely concerned about interrupting the experience, but it went the other way. The audience is the perfect demo, as they are interested. We don’t ask that people do anything at the show, but we encourage them to go to the site when ready. More people are turning 65 than ever before, it is the 401k generation. The point is more people these days are not retiring…like the Stones!” 

Opie is also clearly pleased about the sponsorship. I could not help but ask about how the band was sounding in rehearsal without Charlie Watts on the drum stool. “With [replacement drummer] Steve Jordan, everything is now a bit faster, at album speed!”  

As we concluded our chat, Opie shed some intriguing light on the original drummer’s role: “The sound check was over when Charlie left the stool.”

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.