Spice Girls forever: business model that works a treat

Jun 27, 2012

Plans for a theatre adaptation of the famous five's songs and career follow in footsteps of Mamma Mia!

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THE announcement that Viva Forever!, a musical based on the lives and work of the Spice Girls, will open in a West End theatre in December will come as no surprise to music business insiders. As Will Hodgkinson notes in the Times, "In an age of falling album sales, new revenue streams spring up."

And in recent years, ever since the launch of the Abba-based musical Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre in London in 1999, one of the most lucrative revenue streams available has become the 'jukebox' musical.

Mamma Mia!, a tale of young love set on a Greek island and accompanied by Abba's greatest hits, has become an industry sensation.

More than 42m people across the world have paid in excess of $2bn to watch one of the 40 productions of the play, which has been translated into 16 languages. The follow-up 2008 movie version of Mamma Mia!, a hamfest of epic proportions which starred Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan, took a global gross of $600m, and its five-million selling soundtrack album brought more profits still.

It is closely followed by We Will Rock You, a Ben Elton-scripted and Robert De Niro-funded take on the songs of Queen, which opened at the Dominion Theatre in 2002. The slightly risible plot - it is set 300 years in the future in a world where rock 'n' roll has been outlawed – has not hampered its success.

A decade on, the musical and its spin-offs – there is no film yet, though guitarist Brian May told the BBC in 2009 that one was in the pipeline - have brought in hundreds of millions of pounds from 13m tickets sold to the 25 productions, including an eight-year run in Las Vegas.

By following this business model, the Spice Girls – Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell – can expect to add to their already considerable fortunes. They sold more than 75m records, and their reunion tour in 2008 earned each member of the group a reported £10m. The band's manager Simon Fuller is valued at £375m by The Sunday Times Rich List.

The 1999 movie Spice World was a modest commercial success, recouping its $25m budget threefold. But with Judy Craymer, the brains behind Mamma Mia!, overseeing Viva Forever! and with a script by Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders, the musical looks set to make them rich forever.

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