Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research
1997 Edition

SUMMARIES

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THE RIVERDANCE PHENOMENON


Barra Ó Cinnéide

University of Limerick
Castletroy, Limerick
Ireland

Telephone: 353-61-292889
Fax: 353-61-202588

Principal Topics

"Riverdance" generated a cultural shockwave when first presented as a seven minute interlude during one of Europe's most popular television programmes, the Eurovision Song Contest, in April 1994. As a result, a new theatrical venture was created, "Riverdance The Show" which has been highly acclaimed in Ireland, the UK and the US, breaking box-office records for a musical show of its kind. In the midst of "Riverdance's" runaway stage/video success story, its main performer and choreographer, Michael Flatley was peremptorily dismissed from the cast. Rapidly he put together his own show, "Lord of the Dance". This has led to a series of combative strategies between the two rival companies, literally on the "world stage".

The genesis of "Riverdance" has been researched to provide opportunities for identifying features of Entrepreneurship within the themes of the conceptualisation of arts/culture ''products'' and their development, including the team approach to "enterprise". Participants will be encouraged to see, at play, the ''New Product Development'' process and to develop opinions on long term effects that "Riverdance" may have on Irish culture.

In addition, from media articles and commentaries by key players involved, the storyline is developed on how a response to "Riverdance", in the form of "Lord of the Dance", evolved. It describes attempts by Flatley to form a strong management team and a talented cast of dancers/musicians to compete worldwide with "Riverdance", and his achievement in producing a video and CD in an extraordinarily brief period of time.

Method

The main research methodology used incorporated "literature" searches in traditional sources (journals, newspapers, magazines, etc.) and non-traditional media (TV, radio, audio/video material, Internet, etc.). This included analyses of relevant theatrical performances (as gauged from published critiques) and quantitative indicators of public appeal (as judged by TAM ratings, hit parade rankings, audio/video sales, box office data, etc.). The developmental approach and format adopted relied heavily on the case study method, as the author have been attempting, since 1979, to record, in case form, the successes and vicissitudes of a wide range of Irish "enterprises", now extended to "Arts" ventures.

Major Findings

A feature is that a public sector organisation, RTE, Ireland's state owned broadcasting authority, has developed a 'product' that led, subsequently, to a highly successful follow-through ''enterprise'', i.e. illustrating Intrapreneurship at play involving two generically similar but operationally contrasting entertainment sectors - television and show business.

Background information has been derived to enable readers to interpolate the marketing tactics and international business strategies employed by the two competing management teams. The study provides an interesting, and hopefully "entertaining", basis for discussing the topic of Entrepreneurship within the arts sector. In particular, it affords an opportunity to debate whether Moya Doherty (producer of "Riverdance") and Michael Flatley (originator of "Lord of the Dance") display a flair for venturing and other entrepreneurial qualities, in addition to their personal talents for entertainment production/theatrical performance, respectively.

Implications

The research, based on tracking events in the competitive strategies developed by the two shows, "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance", illustrates the value of constant scanning of print and broadcast media for case study themes.

Michael Flatley's new show (and merchandising spin-off such as its audio and video products) has introduced an interesting competitive component into the world of "dance musicals", inviting comparisons with the strategies developed in brand wars such as "Pepsi" vs. "Coca Cola" or "Avis" vs. "Hertz".

The subject matter of the study, i.e. the theatrical sector has re-enforced the author's belief in the old theatrical show adage, "There's no Business like Show Business"!

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Last Updated 6/8/98