For the past two NFL seasons, Amazon Music has utilized the fact Amazon Prime Video hosts the NFL Thursday Night Football game and hosted a post-game live concert. Over the two years the streaming concert series, hosted by 2 Chainz, has featured Ed Sheeran, Kane Brown, A$AP Rocky, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil’ Wayne, Anitta, Peso Pluma and more.
This Thanksgiving weekend season two will wrap up with a show from country icon Garth Brooks, following the first ever “Black Friday” NFL game, featuring the Miami Dolphins battling the New York Jets.
While this will end season two of the concert, Amazon Music GM Ryan Redington assures me this is just the beginning for the company’s streaming of live music concerts and Amazon Music Live. I spoke with him about the relationship between music and football, how the series will expand eventually and what they look for in the artists they book.
Steve Baltin: Do you come down much from Seattle for the LA tapings?
Ryan Redington: I do. It kind of varies. I’m down quite a bit just for work in general. I missed Green Day last week because my son had a baseball tournament that I had to go to. But yeah, I try to get down to as many as possible.
Baltin: That one was pretty spectacular. I’ve known those guys for a million years though. They’re great dudes. And it was a lot of fun. A$AP Rocky’s a good friend, he did it. You had Ed Sheeran, Green Day, Garth Brooks, Latto. It covers all genres. What do you look for in the artists you book?
Redington: That’s right, yeah. Peso Pluma, Feid. You go across the board of the type of artists that we booked. The history, looking back on it, is we really came to this idea a few years ago, probably three years ago. When Prime Video secured the rights to Thursday Night Football exclusively, the music team quickly jumped on the idea of like, “Hey, this could be really interesting to think about a music program coming on directly after Thursday night football.” And for us it was a bit of luck that they secured Thursday night because new music drops on Thursday nights. So, we did the quick timing in our heads, like, “Ah, the game starts around 5:20 or so ends around 8:00 something. There’s a post-game show. You literally accept new music dropping on top of a concert after a Thursday Night Football game.” It’s like, “Who’s really reinvented how music is released and can reach a broad audience recently?” We talked about this could be something that’d be really interesting. So, once we had the idea, we had to wait for Thursday Night Football to come around. It took about a year and in the first season we were really happy with the results. We spent a lot of time working closely with the artist teams around the creative sets. We had a great studio in West Hollywood that we taped out of and they did the live streams from. And when we did the post-mortem, we kind of said, “Hey, you know what? We think this can be bigger. We think we’re onto something here.” You mentioned A$AP. The beauty of it is we had great viewership, but the artist feedback. We had three customer sets we were working with — the artist camps, the record label, but also fans. The artist camps were just thrilled with the production quality and the experience that they had. That was really important to us. So, when we looked at season two, we felt that maybe if we switch up the venues to a slightly more intimate space, level up the production quality even a little bit further, which if you saw Green Day, it’s pretty spectacular what we’re able to do. And then really worked around how do we make sure the promotion, because it’s such a strong event, comes through. So, what we’ve seen this year is it’s really translated into higher viewership numbers and I think season two has built nicely on top of season one. We have a great partnership with our sports team within Prime Video promoting the artists both in the pre-game, the post-game and drop segments kind of during the game, and that’s cultivated strong viewership growth. We’re up over 280 percent viewership growth. In fact, the first three shows we had this year exceeded all of our season one viewership. That’s the type of momentum that we have. Then tying that back to the artists we book, there are a few factors that go into play. One is we want to create diversity, whether it’s hip hop, a Latin artist, regional Mexican, rock or a pop star. We want to ensure that we have diversity in our lineup. That’s important to us. But also, we spend a lot of time working closely with record labels and artist managers around who has new music coming out, who’s interested in working closely with us to develop a great production, develop a great set, and deliver great fan and customer experience. So there’s not one secret formula in the booking process, there are multiple factors that go into it. A lot of it is just the partnerships and the relationships that we’ve established over the years and the conversations that we have around where new music’s coming, the opportunity to market that new music. We have a fantastic team that does the booking and they work really hard to make sure that it is really strong for our fans.
Baltin: Music and football go so well together. There is a long history of the two tying in with each other, not just at the Super Bowl Halftime show, but throughout the whole season.
Redington: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that the NFL has done a great job over the years of bringing these two together and they’re symbiotic in nature in my opinion. They do feed off each other. I do think the intersection of that oftentimes is culture. You think about the NBA and music and NFL and music and that creates a lot of culture, particularly in the United States. So I do think that those two playing off each other works really well from a viewership perspective. What’s great about it, to your point, is it’s organic to the NFL viewer. So us bringing in an artist to do an interview before a game or after a game ties in well to the viewing experience.
Baltin: You are closing this season with Garth Brooks. Are you already looking ahead to the next season?
Redington: Yeah, we are. Certainly, you mentioned Garth and that’s going to be an amazing finale for us. The first ever NFL Black Friday game, huge Garth Brooks concert from his first ever dive bar for friends, broadcast live. He always goes big, so I think that’s a great finale for us to wrap up season two. Yes, we always have our wish list of what we want. That has to line up with release schedules and obviously tours. There are multiple pieces that fit into the booking of it. But what we’re seeing, which is really interesting, is before we launched this, we’re out pitching, we’re building decks and we’re presenting to management companies and approaching record labels explaining the experience and what we want to build and how we think this could be really impactful for both artists and fans. And after season one, we had great success and we started getting calls inbound to us saying, “Hey, are you guys doing season two? If so, I’d be really interested in having my artists participate.” Then as you think about moving into season three, the inbound calls already start to happen saying, “Hey, for season three I might be thinking like a Q3 Q4 release. Are you guys looking at the booking?” So, I think what we’re seeing is, yes, we have a wish list, but we’ve also created a demand for our team with people starting to feel us out from where we’re at next year and what those bookings can be. So, it’s nice to see the script flip a little bit and have the inbound coming to us.
Baltin: Who’s the dream artist to have on the show?
Redington: (Laughter) That probably depends on the time of year. Garth’s super unique to us. I’m not saying this to be self-serving, but we have an exclusive music relationship with Garth. He’s been a great partner. So that was always at the top of our list, “Can we find a way to have a special moment to really celebrate with Garth?” We’ve got that one checked off. Right now, depending on what’s happening in pop culture you can imagine there’s probably an artist out there that next year could be impactful. So, we start to think about, “What’s happening from a societal perspective and how you can make this big?” But the reality is there’s so many great artists in the hip hop space, in the pop space, in the rock space. We don’t have to just choose one. We can work with multiple artists.
Baltin: Obviously for these types of shows it makes sense to have A-list acts, whether it’s Ed Sheeran and A$AP or Green Day. But are there programs that you are looking at and ways to expand into other areas with newer artists?
Redington: Yeah, there are. We’re just getting started with our second year of doing this. Probably, a lot of the viewing audience didn’t know who Peso Pluma was. So, for us, to find artists that we think are going to be really big and emerging, and giving them the opportunity to be a part of Thursday Night Football with a promotion and have a great Amazon Music Live concert afterwards is a big deal. As we think about our plans moving forward, we’ll sit down after season two and say, “Okay, how do we continue to make this bigger and better?” I do think there’s an opportunity in the future where you can even envision an opening act and then you bring in a bit more of a superstar coming afterwards. Maybe the opening act starts a little bit earlier and it’s Twitch only. And then we would cut over after the post-game show from Twitch into the superstar act. But it allows a developing artist to maybe get some exposure that can be really important. To your point, we work closely with stage shows around streaming festivals. So, we are also in active conversations with festivals around how the Amazon Music Live experience can transfer over to the festival experience, which then of course gives us an opportunity to highlight developing artists in ways that reaches an audience outside of just those in attendance, but can also reach an audience all around the world, which is really impactful.