The show business in Vegas isn’t easy. One day, you could be on top making millions, and the next, your show is in the gutter. While the market can get oversaturated in Sin City, indie promoter Adam Steck is grossing $10 million plus per year and counting. The founder and CEO of SPI Entertainment has six successful resident shows under his belt, including Human Nature: Jukebox playing at The Venetian Sands Showroom, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth playing at the MGM Grand Brad Garrett Comedy Club and the Boyz II Men residency at The Mirage Hotel and Casino. The crown jewel of the bunch? The wildly popular Thunder from Down Under, an Aussie-themed male revue currently playing at Excalibur Casino and Hotel.
While the male revue is a staple for bachelorette parties, girls’ nights out, 21st birthday parties and more, Steck, co-owner and producer of the show itself, knew he had to put a fresh spin on the typical Vegas trope to attract more fans. It only took two words: no tips.
“The show was created in Australia, which is a non-tipping culture. For years, the stereotypical male review was the dollar bill, the g-string, the kind of guy named Thumper or Bambi or whatever,” he told Amplify. “This was completely changed where it was no tipping. It was more about entertaining and thrilling the girls without having to do the dollar bill thing. We just capitalized on it.”
While Thunder started out playing in major casinos all over the US, SPI is now four-walling many shows in theaters, including a huge run of shows in Florida.
“We’re basically taking the brand back into our own hands and taking the risks ourselves, marketing it the way we know how to market it,” said Steck. “Social media and digital marketing is key for the demographic we’re trying to hit. We’re playing proper theaters, which is great. It’s actually become a legitimate theater touring act, which we could run all year long, which is unbelievable.”
Along with a strong US presence, the show is also breaking into the European market, with a nearly sold-out five-week tour of Holland starting in late October.
Iron Mike Takes to the Stage
Steck’s fresh perspective isn’t only strengthening Thunder’s brand, but it is also hitting home runs with his unique creations in Vegas. Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth was a concept Steck created and produced with Tyson, calling the early production of the show “very serendipitous.”
“It was very very interesting when I had the idea ages ago,” he said. “I approached Mike. He, actually, had been wanting to do a show. Next thing you know, the whole world’s talking about it.”
Written by director Randy Johnson and Kiki Tyson, Undisputed is a stripped-down one-man show where Tyson shares small vignettes of his life while accompanied by a full band.
It’s really Mike Tyson raw, in your face,” Steck said. “We sell about seventy to a hundred [VIP meet & greets] every single night. People really want that intimate contact. They want the picture. They want to meet him. Mike is one of the most iconic human beings on the planet. One of the most famous people in the world. People definitely want that experience.”
The show was so successful that Spike Lee directed his own version for Broadway, which is very uncommon for a typical Vegas show.
“It’s the first show in the history of Las Vegas to ever be produced and conceived in Vegas to go to Broadway. It’s usually the other way around. That’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of. It played Broadway for two weeks. Then, it toured around the country, around the world. Then, it came back to Vegas. It’s like a nice big full circle.”
The Best R&B Group from the 90
Along with Tyson’s intimate show, Steck is also at the helm on the Boyz II Men residency, which started after seeing them play a track show at a local casino called The Orleans.
“I thought they were unbelievable,” Steck said. “I thought to myself, ‘Man, these guys should be on the Vegas Strip. Put a band behind them. Do a whole thing, because they’re unbelievable entertainers.’”
He did just that. After a successful run at The Flamingo during “the worst time of the year” (December and January), it took about a year and a half for the band to get to The Mirage.”
“They’re there for thirty-two weeks a year in one of the most prestigious rooms in town,” said Steck. “I was never a really big R&B fan. I’m more of a rocker. It was unbelievable how I knew about 90% of the songs and I was singing along to them like, ‘Oh, my god. I forgot about that one.’ It really resonates with a lot of people. They’re embedded into American culture.”
Even with all the successes and with the new reign of headliners in Vegas, Steck knows that it can’t last forever.
“The market’s tough. Vegas is very cyclical,” Steck said. “Now, it’s the headliners. It’s making it more challenging for the smaller shows because there’s only so many butts to put in those seats.”
With casinos partnering with larger promoting companies like AEG and Live Nation, Steck takes a “lean and mean” approach to producing shows in-house.
“I’m a promoter by heart. I approach things very scrappy-like. I’m a promoter turned producer. You know what I mean? I don’t have huge overheads,” he said. “If you make a wrong move, we’re talking it could be a million bucks, boom, at the snap of a finger. Over a two week run, if you don’t do the right numbers. That’s how fickle it is.”
With his unique perspective on headliner shows and a scrappy approach to the show-business, this won’t be the last you hear of Steck, who is always looking for what fans want to see.
“Maybe, it’s not a traditional show,” said Steck. “Maybe, it’s an immersive experience. Maybe, they pay a fee and it’s not a normal show, but it’s some sort of a hybrid that appeals to their ADD mentality. They want something more, you know what I mean? That’s what we’re trying to do, give them that experience. What that is right now? Soon to be seen.”
Frankie Victoria co-wrote this article with Dave Brooks