Live Nation is entering the original webisodic content arena with "The Rider Challenge," a Ford Fiesta-sponsored digital series that premieres Sept. 30 on LiveNation.com. The series will chronicle fans of The Lumineers, Kid Cudi, Fall Out Boy, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Fitz & The Tantrums as they live out their rock-star fantasies on the road by using a Fiesta to locate some of the items from their favorite bands' tour "riders," and also meeting the artists themselves.
Original web series have long been a place of experimentation and potential new revenue streams for major TV networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as music-related content companies like Myspace and Vevo to varying degrees of success, and often with sponsors footing the production budget. Digital advertising marks Live Nation's biggest source of potential growth, especially as CEO Michael Rapino has frequently stated advertising's ability to match and eventually surpass ticketing revenue in future years.
"Three years ago, pre-Ticketmaster merger, we didn't have much of a digital business," Russell Wallach, Live Nation's president of media and sponsorship, told Billboard in a recent interview. "You fast forward and we've got 25 people now on our digital team. We're competing against the biggest music companies and sites in the world from an RFP [request for proposal] standpoint. We're starting to win more than we lose."
The series with Ford, with a media spend valued at $5 million according to the New York Times, allows Live Nation to try and establish LiveNation.com as a hub site for original content. Crystal Worthem, manager of brand content and alliances at Ford, says the automaker will buy video overlay ads on third-party music sites to refer traffic to LiveNation.com, as well as its own network of 100 Fiesta Movement "agents" -- influencers from the online and entertainment communities who help get the word out about the Fiesta in different cities through social media.
"We're thrilled at the collaboration with Live Nation and the level of artists we were able to book," Worthem says. "Our target is a young city dweller, and we've found there's a lot of younger consumers now who are relatively young and just getting out to the work place and really into urban living. And a big part of that is checking out very cool concerts in small venues or large venues."
The series also gave the participating bands a chance to have a little fun with their tour riders and add a few things that might not normally appear on a venue's call sheet. "We got a new coffee machine out of it an espresso maker," says Noelle Scaggs of Fitz & The Tantrums, who taped her episode in Seattle. "Our last one broke so it was perfect timing. A lot of guys in the band are extremely addicted to their coffee. I've also started adding girly things to the list like scented candles. When you're on the third week of touring with a bunch of guys, things tend to get a little funkier."