Keith Sheldon, President of Entertainment

"At Hard Rock, we understand the importance of evolving our brand while staying true to our roots"

Keith Sheldon, President of Entertainment at Hard Rock
Reading time 4:46 min

As summer nears its end, Hard Rock International's hotels and casinos across the US played host to some of the world's major acts during the season, from alternative rock icons Paramore to classic performers like Diana Ross and Santana. Behind the task of securing these shows and curating the brand's expansive entertainment lineup is one man: Keith Sheldon, President of Entertainment for Hard Rock International.

"Maintaining a diverse mix of entertainment is now of utmost importance to us," Sheldon says. In an exclusive interview with Yogonet, Hard Rock's entertainment boss discusses the brand's approach to booking world-class talent, entertainment in the casino space, and the company's partnership with Formula One ahead of the inaugural Las Vegas race in November.

Throughout the summer season, Hard Rock hosted several high-profile events at its venues across the country, featuring acts such as Paramore, Diana Ross and Santana. What are your main takeaways from Hard Rock’s summer program?

Working with our team of talent buyers throughout the country, we wanted to continue to be aggressive in taking advantage of the active touring and festival business happening globally. As always, we carefully curated the summer lineup to appeal to a wide variety of demographics – mixing rock, soul, R&B, hip hop, country, pop and Latin sounds.

Hard Rock Tampa Casino and Hotel will host shows by Nas and Wu-Tang Clan in September, with 2023 marking a special year as the music world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop. What does Hard Rock take into account when booking its shows?

Not only are we thrilled to be hosting Wu-Tang Clan and Nas at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, but this show is a great example of our cross-booking strategy paying dividends as we are also set for plays in Hollywood FL and Atlantic City.  

It’s really incredible to see how far we have come as a brand in that we’ve evolved into a worldwide leader across every genre of music by recognizing the significance of various music cultures. Hip-hop has long been a global phenomenon, and we are committed to showcasing its influence and impact on the music industry.  

By hosting iconic artists like Wu-Tang Clan and Nas, we honor the rich history of hip-hop while demonstrating our mission to providing unforgettable and exceptional experiences for our fans.

While often associated with rock, the Hard Rock brand has now expanded to encompass other genres and entertainment, as exemplified by the cited shows. How does Hard Rock approach the need of evolving its brand while still remaining the same Hard Rock people know and love? 

At Hard Rock, we understand the importance of evolving our brand while staying true to our roots. While we have a rich legacy of music rooted in the 1970’s, we recognize that the music and culture landscape is constantly changing, and it's crucial for us to adapt to the evolving tastes of our audience – just as today’s artists have built on top of the foundations that the artists of yesterday have established.  

We continue to take a “something for everyone” approach to music programming by diversifying our entertainment offerings, which ultimately allows us to reach a broader audience. Beyond hosting shows like Wu-Tang and Nas as referenced earlier, having Hard Rock Live Hollywood honored by the Academy of Country Music for the Venue of the Year Award in the casino category further exemplifies our brand’s evolution to more than just rock. 

Maintaining a diverse mix of entertainment is now of utmost importance to us. It ensures that our guests can have a varied and captivating experience every time they visit our Hard Rock Live venues. Whether someone is a country enthusiast, a hip-hop aficionado, or a fan of any other genre, we want them to find something they love at Hard Rock.

Through strategic curation and continuous innovation, we ensure that our brand remains dynamic and relevant while preserving the spirit of Hard Rock that people have come to know and love. One of our goals is to create an inclusive and welcoming environment where music enthusiasts of all backgrounds can come together to celebrate the power of music.

In Las Vegas, all eyes are on the inaugural Formula One race in November. Hard Rock, no stranger to F1, with partnerships with the Miami Grand Prix race, has joined the list of presenting partners. What can you tell us about the opportunity to extend the brand from Florida to Las Vegas and Hard Rock’s involvement in the sport?

We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to extend the Hard Rock brand to Las Vegas through our involvement in the inaugural Formula One race. As a company that has already established successful partnerships with Oracle Red Bull Racing and the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix race, it was a natural progression for us to be part of this highly anticipated event in Las Vegas.

From paddock club seats to our own “Mirage Zone” seating section on the strip in front of the Hard Rock-operated Mirage Casino, our involvement in Formula One goes beyond just branding; it's about creating memorable moments for fans and guests.

Throughout the race weekend, we'll be hosting exclusive events and activations, where fans can enjoy the electrifying atmosphere that only Hard Rock can provide.
This partnership represents our commitment to diversifying our entertainment portfolio. Formula One blesses us with the platform to engage with motorsport enthusiasts and showcase the versatility of the Hard Rock experience. 

A solid entertainment offering can be just the right complement for a casino, with many of Hard Rock’s major venues located within them. Can you provide us some insights on the opportunities entertainment is opening for Hard Rock in the casino and resort space?

Absolutely! Entertainment plays a pivotal role in enhancing the overall guest experience at our casinos. By offering a diverse and compelling entertainment lineup, we create an immersive and dynamic atmosphere that keeps guests engaged and coming back for more. Gaming and entertainment go hand in hand.

One of the significant opportunities entertainment opens for Hard Rock in the casino and resort space is attracting a broader audience. While some visitors come primarily for the gaming experience, others are drawn in by the prospect of witnessing their favorite artists perform live or enjoying world-class shows. This diversity in our entertainment offerings allows us to appeal to a wide range of guests, ensuring that there's something for everyone.

Entertainment serves as a catalyst for extending guests' stays and encouraging repeat visits. When visitors have the chance to experience top-notch performances and events during their stay, it leaves a lasting impression and motivates them to return to our venues in the future.

Additionally, entertainment contributes to creating a vibrant and energetic atmosphere throughout the casino and resort, both on and off the gaming floor. It adds an element of excitement and buzz, amplifying the overall appeal of our properties. As a result, we foster a sense of community and entertainment culture that sets Hard Rock apart from other casino and resort experiences.

For Hard Rock, entertainment is of even more critical importance than most, given the fact that music is in our DNA. 

Rodrigo Capeans
by Rodrigo Capeans
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