A slot on NBC's "Today" is one of the biggest promotional opportunities for an artist, providing a big sales boost for many acts, not to mention a valuable launching pad for new releases.
The morning show ratings leader's key music platform is its annual summer concert series. The 2010 series is sponsored by Toyota and will be held, as always, on Fridays outside the "Today" studio at Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan.
"Today" senior producer Melissa Lonner provides behind-the-scenes insight into this year's star-studded lineup.
Sting, May 14: Sting kicks off the concert series with a four-song, half-hour set. "Sting is doing a tour for Live Nation and he's only going to play the hits," Lonner says. "He gives me a list of what he's interested in performing, and then from that list I'll say, 'These are my choices.' "
The Script, May 21: "We love the Script," Lonner says. "We've had them on four times already. They're like family."
"American Idol" winner/runner-up, June 3: In a Thursday slot, the yet-to-be-determined final two will perform the morning after the show's scheduled finale on Fox.
Justin Bieber, June 4: The tween heartthrob makes a return visit to the plaza. "Last year when we had him on, kids were sleeping outside," Lonner says.
Christina Aguilera, June 8: Aguilera is another artist who's performed on the show repeatedly, and her Tuesday "Today" appearance coincides with the release date of new album "Bionic" (RCA).
Rascal Flatts, June 11: "Acts like Rascal Flatts and John Mayer, I have been talking to them since last November and got their dates before the year's end, because I wanted their date on the plaza to be scheduled into their tour schedule," Lonner says.
James Taylor/Carole King, June 18: "James Taylor and Carole King may not have a song on the charts, but they're touring and they're selling out Madison Square Garden. Every time we have them on, our studio is always packed," Lonner says.
Maxwell, June 25: Another goal of Lonner's is genre diversity, from R&B stars like Maxwell to dance artists like Ke$ha. "What we aim for is to have a little bit of something for everyone," she says.
Maroon 5, July 2: A hint for rockers going on "Today": Don't worry about sleeping through that 5 a.m. sound check. "We prepare them months in advance," Lonner says with a laugh. "Kings of Leon slept in the green room between rehearsals and the live [performance]."
Lady Gaga, July 9: "There are those like Lady Gaga that I go after, knowing that she's the biggest artist in the world right now," Lonner says. "I wasn't sure if she would do 'Today' or any TV show now that's she's been touring and gotten so big. But she remembers us from two years ago when we put her on when she was a nobody, so she's coming back."
Enrique Iglesias, July 16: Latin stars are a consistent draw for crowds to 30 Rock, Lonner says-among the largest crowds ever was for Ricky Martin.
John Mayer, July 23: Mayer's "Today" appearance comes right in the middle of shows in Wantagh, N.Y., and Scranton, Pa., as part of his Battle Studies tour.
Carrie Underwood, July 30: Once an artist appears on "Today," Lonner starts getting calls from other NBC Universal entities trying to make a connection. "A lot of people look at our lineup and say, 'Hey, do you think that person would be available for such-and-such?' " she says.
Train, Aug. 6: "I go through Billboard magazine and see who is at the top of the charts and that helps me in deciding who we're going to go after," Lonner says. Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" is No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 after 28 weeks on the chart.
Ke$ha, Aug. 13: Newcomers to the show get a helping hand from Lonner. "With certain artists like Ke$ha where they're basically on their first album, we'll tell them what to play," she says.
Keith Urban, Aug. 20: When it comes to song choices for veteran performers, "every artist that comes on the show has to open with their biggest hit," Lonner says. "The second song is the artist's choice, so it's usually the current single, and the third song is another hit."
Katy Perry, Aug. 27: Perry expects to release a new album this summer and timed her "Today" performance accordingly. "They made sure that we had a slot for them," she says.