Two years ago, Rod Stewart smashed previous figures at HSN with his exclusive debut of “Fly Me to the Moon… The Great American Songbook: Volume V,” moving more than 25,000 units during his hour-long performance and sales pitch, according to HSN. The singer remains the largest-selling music artist on the TV shopping channel.
Stewart aims to at least match that plateau on Oct. 26 when he returns to HSN for a live performance of his first holiday album, Billboard has learned exclusively. “Merry Christmas, Baby” which will be officially released Oct. 30, also marks the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s first project under his new contract with Verve Music Group, a division of Universal Music Group.
The singer’s upcoming appearance is part of the shopping channel’s “HSN Live” concert series, a branded effort that began March 16 with Lionel Richie’s country-slanted CD, Tuskegee. Noting the success of past live concerts through the years by Stewart, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Mary J. Blige and others, HSN executives developed an ongoing album series around these exclusive live performances, airing at least once each quarter.
According to HSN sales figures, Tuskegee sold 20,000 units, making it the second-most successful music launch in HSN history behind Stewart. Since debuting on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 199,000 (according to Nielsen SoundScan), Tuskegee crossed the million-sales threshold and, thus far, is the third-biggest-selling CD of 2012.
“This is one of the few platforms where artists can showcase their music, tell their story and connect with their fan base in a much more personal way than at a big concert,” says Andy Sheldon, HSN executive VP of TV, live events and creative.
As with Richie, Stewart will be featured during an hour-long broadcast starting at 8 p.m. EST. Joining the Grammy Award winner will be David Foster, who produced and arranged Merry Christmas, Baby and also serves as chairman of Verve. Bookending the concert will be a private preshow event streaming live on HSN’s Facebook page, as well as a post-concert Facebook-only segment with an exclusive live chat and encore.
“Reaching consumers is a challenge on any record,” says Mike Rittberg, Verve VP of artist development and promotion. “HSN has made a strong push with interactive social campaigns on Facebook with streaming content.”
Appealing primarily to females ages 35-55 with an average income of $65,000, HSN reaches 96 million homes and has jumped to more than 510,000 Facebook followers, up from 300,000 in March. According to Sheldon, the channel boasts a customer base of 5 million within the past 12 months.
TV ads for Stewart’s “HSN Live” show begin in two weeks, using footage taped in July in Palm Beach, Fla. Several numbers, including the title track, will be integrated into the on-air campaign. HSN is currently offering preorders of an exclusive two-disc bundle for $14.95 that packages the new album with a best-of CD containing several Stewart favorites, including “Maggie May,” “Reason to Believe” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.”
In addition to the title track, a duet with Cee Lo Green, Merry Christmas, Baby pairs Stewart with Michael Buble on “Winter Wonderland,” with Mary J. Blige on “We Three Kings” and with Verve legend Ella Fitzgerald on a “virtual duet” of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Rounding out the set are such holiday perennials as “Silent Night” and “White Christmas,” plus the original track “Red-Suited Super Man.” The latter tune features Trombone Shorty, while other guest musicians on the album include Dave Koz and Chris Botti.
“HSN has a devoted, responsive viewership that it knows very well,” Stewart’s longtime manager Arnold Stiefel says. “The last time, Rod broke the [HSN] record in an hour and, with the sell-through, got into the 30,000s. What could be one of the better fits than HSN’s viewership with this quintessential family album? This will be one of Rod’s biggest albums.”