Jamie Cullum performing at a Starwood/Live Nation event in May 2012. (Photo: Ryan Troy/Red Eye Productions)
Bands and hotels used to be synonymous with trashed rooms and debaucherous partying, the kinds of behavior that could get an artist banned from certain establishments. Yet a partnership between Live Nation and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has not only been established by creating artist experiences, but turning its signature hotels like the W, Westin and St. Regis into venues themselves.
The partnership is launching a series of nine acoustic performances by top artists at different Starwood-owned hotels around the world starting May 18 with Sara Bareilles at Element Dallas Fort Worth Airport North.
“On Tour With SPG: Hear the Music, See the World” is the latest program of Live Nation and Starwood’s multiyear partnership, built around Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), a guest-rewards program and exclusive to rewards members.
The expanded Live Nation/Starwood pact is the latest example of how brands are deepening their ties to music by emphasizing their membership rewards programs. Financial service companies like American Express, Citi and MasterCard have been in the business of card-member ticket presales for years, and in recent months have narrowed their focus on creating more intimate, members-only concerts at private venues. Pepsi also recently rebranded its rewards program to Pepsi Experience Points to create unique fan experiences, including a cover-song contest with music app SongBooth that will result in a major-label singles deal later this year.
The SPG event continues June 3 with OneRepublic at the Westin Boston Waterfront. Other confirmed artists include Russian Red, July 20 at Four Points by Sheraton in Barcelona; Gavin DeGraw, July 25 at Sheraton New York Times Square; Imagine Dragons, Aug. 7 at the new Aloft in Cupertino, Calif.; Paloma Faith, Sept. 27 at Hotel Bristol Vienna; and Lila Downs, Oct. 25 at Le Meridien Mexico City. Additional events are planned for W Singapore and the St. Regis Bangkok later this year.
The Live Nation relationship has already hosted exclusive artist events that in 2012 alone featured Jamie Cullum, Ben Folds Five, Natasha Bedingfield, Jason Mraz, Daughtry and Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza as well as pre-parties for concerts with Lady Gaga and Rod Stewart/Stevie Nicks. And because its attendance is limited exclusively to SPG rewards members, who redeem points a la frequent flier miles in order to attend the intimate concerts, it’s helped drive major business for Starwood hotels. “It helps curb attrition, the number of nights guests stay,” Starwood VP of SPG marketing Gretchen Kloke says.
The SPG events are more than just a regular booking, however. This year’s “Hear the Music, See the World” program has a particular focus of matching artists with the core features of Starwood’s nine hotel brands. So Bareilles was paired with Element Dallas Fort Worth, for example, because of Element’s focus on green and sustainability initiatives, causes important to Bareilles, who has incorporated green elements into her tours and a 2010 partnership with Whole Foods. OneRepublic, meanwhile, was paired with the Westin for the chain’s emphasis on health and fitness, both lifestyle activities important to frontman Ryan Tedder. And Imagine Dragons was recruited for the new Aloft in Cupertino for the brand’s focus on tech-forward innovation, which may end up including a closed-circuit viewing party on Apple products. (The hotel is located near Apple headquarters.) “We’ve been lucky enough to play in cities around the world this last year,” Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds says, “but it’s always nice to be back in California.”