Following a renewed push into Hollywood, HSN made a big move into music Wednesday (April 13). The shop-at-home retailer announced a partnership with Nashville-based Big Machine Label Group, home of Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Maddie & Tae, Reba McEntire, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Nettles, Cheap Trick and many others.
The deal calls for a series of one-hour televised Big Machine Rocks concert specials to air live from Nashville on HSN, as well as on HSN.com and mobile platforms.
McBride kicks things off on Sunday April 17 at 11 p.m. EST, promoting her latest release, Reckless. Next, Nettles performs on April 26, previewing tracks from her forthcoming set, Playing With Fire. Both releases contain five bonus tracks apiece exclusive to HSN. Several more live specials are planned for 2016 but no word yet on which Big Machine artists will perform.
“HSN can reach people we can’t always get to,” said Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of Big Machine Label Group. “They know their consumers, they know how to target the right people at the right time.”
The partnership is a considerable one. HSN Inc. is a $4 billion per year interactive retailer known for home and fashion items, as well as juggernaut products such as top-seller the Huggable Hanger that has had 750 million units sold to date. The cable operation is live 364 days a year, in a potential 95 million households. Meanwhile, in Swift alone, Big Machine has the music industry’s top touring artist of 2015 with $217.4 million in ticket sales and more than 40 million albums sold over her career. The label’s latest signees include new American Idol champ Trent Harmon and runner-up La’Porsha Renae.
The HSN concerts will air live from a recording space near Music Row, featuring an “eight-to-10-camera” set-up says Borchetta and studio audience of about 50. The concerts will receive encore plays on sister channel HSN2. No word yet if fans can phone in to chat directly with artists as in traditional HSN shopping segments.
But fan-artist engagement will be “critical,” Borchetta says. “The opportunity to engage with the artist directly is something we will definitely build in.”
Mary J. Blige, Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, have all appeared on HSN in recent years. The shopping channel also has an ongoing relationship with Keith Urban, who has a line of custom guitars. In addition to her album, Nettles will also be selling a new line of decorative candles. In 2012 HSN sold 30,000 copies of Stewart’s Merry Christmas Baby in just under an hour.
The union with Big Machine is the company’s first long-term partnership with a record label.
HSN president Bill Brand says the hope is that music superstars “will attract new viewers who have never thought of shopping with us. It goes back to exciting and delighting our customers with experiences they can’t get anywhere else.
“Not everyone who watches will buy the CD,” says Brand, acknowledging the obvious — that CD sales are in decline. “The heart of our business is the sale of physical things. Some may download it. The label is looking to us as a marketing channel as well as a sales channel.”
Brand — who was vp, programming and production at MTV and VH1 from 1996-2001 (and later went on to Lifetime) — began HSN’s push into entertainment partnerships in 2008, which he says create an “editorially-driven commerce experience.”
“No one knows storytelling better than Hollywood. No one knows music better than the labels,” he said.
HSN’s recent partnerships with the Disney films Maleficent and Cinderella, fashion icons such as Iman and stars such as Melissa McCarthy, have been a hit. McCarthy will be back on HSN in June to sell the latest creations from her Seven7 clothing line. There’s cross-promo at work in the other direction too: On screen in the Universal Pictures hit The Boss, McCarthy’s character appears on HSN selling brownies. In Julia Roberts’ upcoming release Mother’s Day, from Open Road Films, her character is an HSN personality.
The Big Machine-HSN deal took shape about six months ago after Borchetta and HSN, Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman met while serving on the advisory board of The Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “They just immediately got it,” said Borchetta. “For such a big company they’re so nimble, so creative.”
Once the CEOs knew they were on common ground, it was simple. Borchetta recalled saying, “Well, I don’t have to check with anybody, do you have to check with anybody? Let’s just do this.”