John Hayes, chief marketing officer of American Express, has access to more data on the average concertgoer than perhaps any other company. Not only does Hayes know that 40% of AmEx’s 102 million cardmembers spend money on music every year, and that AmEx concert pre-sales and exclusive events help sell 4 million tickets a year – he also knows how those music fans spend their time and money around a show.
Speaking with Billboard editorial director Bill Werde in an onstage Q&A at MIDEM’s Visionary Monday, Hayes said, “We don’t just know the absolute numbers [of concertgoers]…we know whether you went to dinner beforehand or afterwards, and there’s a lot of commerce opportunities around that. We know if they like going to dinner in a certain place in a certain city – we can facilitate our partners and restaurants with that. We’re not talking about perceptual information, we’re talking about real behaviors.”
AmEx has become something of a show promoter itself in recent years with the concert series “Unstaged,” a partnership with Vevo that pairs A-list bands with A-list filmmakers (Arcade Fire and Terry Gilliam; John Legend and Spike Lee, to name two) for one-of-a-kind concerts tied to album releases or touring cycles, streaming the content to many more people than just AmEx cardmembers. The program received 22 million views in 2012 alone, with an average viewing time of 25 minutes per person. “For us Unstaged is about prospects – we let non-cardmembers see it so we can say, ‘What does it feel like to get access to these great entertainment opportunities?'” he said.
“Unstaged” has also begun to link its concert pages to the iTunes store where fans can buy the particular album being promoted – the first three concerts to include this feature have produced about 10,000 iTunes downloads, Hayes said.
Hayes is also a big fan of social media platforms like Twitter, where AmEx recently conducted an experiment to see whether it could sell out a show by promoting it with a single tweet. The experiment was a success within a matter of hours. “We weren’t necessarily skeptical, we just didn’t know [what would happen],” Hayes said. “We’ve been using Twitter ever since.”
And should you have an idea or a project to pitch to Hayes, he’s all ears – one of the main reasons he came to MIDEM was to share an update on AmericanExpress.com/Proposal, a URL relaunching in mid-February where anyone can discuss a potential project. “I keep hearing from a lot of folks who said, ‘You guys are tough to deal with.’ We would love to have a dialogue with you. I want to work with more of you in this industry, it’s important to us.”
But here’s a tip – think about long-term, mutually beneficial ideas. “I’m not really interested in just a tactic. If you have an idea of how we can better make the ‘Unstaged’ program work, you should have an agenda, a reason why you want it to work better,” he said. “We want to know what’s in it for you so we can deliver what you need, and then we’ll be just as forthright with what we expect out of the relationship. If we can enter that dialogue then we’ll build something.”