Rich Lehrfeld: The 2014 Billboard Power 100
NO. 71

Rich Lehrfeld

VP of global sponsorship, marketing and access, American Express

Partnership has its privileges, including driving chart-toppers for Vampire Weekend, Kings of Leon and Janelle Monáe

As an important mover of top-dollar presale and card member-exclusive concert tickets, Rich Lehrfeld has long understood the importance of maintaining relationships with promoters, venues and agents. But 2013 was the year AmEx embraced the “whole value chain,” he says, which begins increasingly with artists and their management.

“Artists are taking more and more control of their future and destiny,” Lehrfeld says. “So it’s about being able to talk to them in new ways to understand what they’re trying to do, and have them listen to our goals. Then you can take those conversations to managers, agents, promoters, venues and ticketing [companies] to deliver the best service and value for customers at the highest level. If any of those pieces are broken, it’s hard to deliver the quality, given the size of magnitude of what we do.”

A common thread for AmEx in 2013 was merging its existing sponsorships with music for first-of-its-kind opportunities. At the Tribeca Film Festival in April, it teamed with the National for the premiere of the band’s documentary “Mistaken for Strangers” as well as Vampire Weekend for AmEx’s long-running “Unstaged” concert series. The latter band didn’t just score its second No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, "Modern Vampires of the City"—it also sold a career-best 134,000 in the first week, 10,000 more than the group’s previous album.

Other 2013 highlights included a pair of exclusive concerts with the Bowery Presents featuring the Lumineers and Soundgarden, the latter of which was the first to feature AmEx’s Sync technology to sell tickets; a special performance from Janelle Monáe during New York Fashion Week in September; and exclusive presales for hot tours from P!nk, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, George Strait and One Direction, as well as venues like New York’s Barclays Center.

In total, AmEx sold a record 1.8 million-plus tickets to card members, including seven of the year’s top 20 highest-grossing tours, and sellouts of allotments as high as 270,000 tickets per tour.

Next, Lehrfeld wants AmEx to take a deeper dive into predictive analytics. “We’re starting to take a look at data from companies like Next Big Sound that tells you which artists are going to take off, new platforms and ways to reach new artists,” he says.