Google Adweek Billboard presents: Under the Hood

Uploaded by FastForward on 27.09.2010


MATT SCHECKNER: And without further ado, I want to bring
up our dear friend and partner, Bill
Werde, editor of Billboard.
He'll introduce the panel.
Have a great, time, everyone.
We'll see you throughout the week.
BILL WERDE: Hi, everybody.
How are you all doing today?
Everybody good, ready to see some of the best artists
working today talk about their craft?
I've got to tell you something, it's a real
pleasure to be able to present this group of folks.
When you're talking about Spike Lee, when you're talking
about John Legend, and when you're talking about
Questlove, you're talking about three guys that are some
of the most true artists out there, folks that kind of wear
how they feel on their sleeve and they put it into their art
again and again and again.
I don't think there's anything contrived about these folks.
And from the conversation I just had in the green room, I
can assure you that that is the case.
I think that this being Advertising Week, it's worth
noting that American Express has launched, from where I
sit, one of the more interesting music programs of
the year in their own stage series.
They're getting some of the best, most important artists
working today to do a live show.
They're getting some of the top directors in history, when
you look at guys like Terry Gilliam or Spike Lee, to kind
of capture those moments in a very real way.
And they're kind of doing it in a way that makes sense for
their business.
When you're coming at it from Billboard's perspective,
there's a lot that's said and a lot that's written about the
connection between branding and music, and how you can use
music to reach people, and all these different things.
But there's probably 20 times where it doesn't work for
every one time where it really does.
And for my money, this is one where it is working
Just out of curiosity, a show of hands.
How many people actually saw, either through Vivo or
YouTube, or actually at the concert, how many people saw
the John Legend-Roots show, the on-stage
performance the other day?
So a good amount?
Not a good enough amount.
So I want to correct that right now and queue a little
clip, so you can understand, and we can bring it back to
the music, and you can kind of see what these folks are
creating, all of them.

-This song was written by Bill Withers back
in the early 1970s.

BILL WERDE: That was just one moment of a whole series of
amazing moments that night.
And I've got to tell you, as someone who goes to an awful
lot of shows, it's rare to get a show that has those kinds of
moments again and again and again, and it's even more rare
to have a director capture it on film in a way that actually
lets you kind of feel like you're part of it.
I want to bring to the stage Courtney Kelso from American
Express, Joe Killian from Momentum, the agency that
helped put this together, and of course, Spike Lee,
Questlove, and John Legend.
BILL WERDE: People always sit as far away from the
journalist as possible.
Just kidding.
So this being Advertising Week, I want to kind of start
with understanding a little bit about what Unstaged is,
broadly, kind of what are the components of it.
Let's start there.
COURTNEY KELSO: So American Express Unstaged is really the
notion of a curated live streaming concert series.
We bring together some of today's
most relevant musicians.
We pair them with film's greatest directors, frankly,
and we stream them in HD to millions of people across the
world in many, many different countries.
We work to really bridge that divide between the live
concert experience to one that you can enjoy when you're in
your pajamas at home, through pretty interesting digital and
social media innovations.
And frankly, through our partnership both with YouTube
and with Vivo, we're really proud to be the brand that
brings this to the world.
We've had some incredible success.
We started back in December with Alicia Keys, really as a
way to reach millions and millions of music avids and
concert lovers.
And we did a wonderful stream with Alicia Keys back in
December, with a special guest, Jay-Z. And frankly, it
blew us away with the scale and the reach-- we were able
to reach millions of people around the world--
and frankly, with what it did for our brand.
We are really reaching out to a different generation, a
younger generation, trying to be more relevant to that
BILL WERDE: So when you look at a series like this, how do
you judge it?
What are your specific goals, and how are
you measuring that?
How are you measuring your success against these things?
COURTNEY KELSO: Well, we have several different things that
we look at.
We look at, certainly, awareness metrics, so the
reach and the scale, and how can we actually get as many
views and interactions with this incredible product, we
think, with incredible artists.
We look at views.
We look at engagement with the stream, how many minutes they
stay engaged, and the numbers are striking.
We look at clickthrough rates for the media that we've
placed as a very strong indication of the interest in
these musicians and in the film directors.
We look at brand favorability.
We do all kinds of studies to determine net promoter score,
intent to recommend, application intent.
BILL WERDE: How did John do?

COURTNEY KELSO: You were seeing some footage just off
of the presses.
We know that this is going to be absolutely out of this
world, in terms of what we've seen before, and with the
level of engagement we have through the audience.
BILL WERDE: I'm no hype man, I've got to be honest. That
was one of the better shows I've seen in a couple years.
That was an amazing night of music, so I would imagine that
your brand must be pretty ecstatic to be attached to
something like that.
COURTNEY KELSO: We're very ecstatic to be really bringing
this sort of new and different way to stream music online.
We try and make it the highest quality, only as befitting of
someone like American Express and, frankly, these artists.
And then it's all about them and how amazing they are able
to connect back with their live audiences
and the online audiences.
Frankly, I've been there at all of the shows, but then
have caught the rebroadcast, and it's incredible the ways
that you're able to, as an online
audience, impact the show.
So you can choose from different camera angles,
choose to view it the way you'd like to view it.
You can tweet the band.
You can vote for a song.
You can actually interact and impact the
stream as it's happening.
So we're really trying to bridge that divide and bring
that really special experience home to people in their homes.
And Joe, just a quick question for you.
I mean, from an agency perspective, I'm sure you're
setting up interesting products and
programs all the time.
How does this one fit into context?
What's unique, what's kind of working about this one in a
different sort of way?
JOE KILLIAN: I think what is truly unique
is the stellar artists.
And if you didn't see the show, it's online to see it.
But as Bill said, it was an extraordinary show.
And as I was saying backstage, you go to so many shows, and
they're good shows, sometimes a great show, but rarely are
they filmed, and rarely are they filmed by a great
director who understands music.
And I'm like, as an agency, to be able to select artists and
get the artists engaged to really say, what director
would you like to work with?
And in this case, John was quick to say Spike.
To be able to make that marriage happen is pretty
exciting, pretty rare, because it's very unique content.
And really, it raises the level of the show, the music,
the guests, and truly make it for the brand a one-of-a-kind
experience that can't be duplicated anywhere else.
BILL WERDE: I'm going to come back to the business of this
in a few minutes, but I want to kind of get into the
creative part of this a little bit.

All of this kind of centers around this amazing album
release, this album, "Wake Up," that John and the Roots
have released together.

For those of you that aren't aware of it, you will thank me
later if you go out and check it out.
It's an album of largely--
I think there's one new song on it, but it's mostly an
album of covers.
And it's an album of covers of more or less obscure late
'60s, early '70s songs that kind of are very politically
conscious, very aware.
John and Ahmir, from your perspective, tell me a little
bit about the project and what it came from, and what you
want to do with it.
And then even maybe we can talk a little bit about how
American Express is helping that.
But just from a creative perspective, how did the
project happen?
JOHN LEGEND: Well, the seed of the idea was in 2008.
As people might remember, two years ago, it was kind of
heady times in America.
And I reminisce about that now.
BILL WERDE: Seems like a long time ago, right?
JOHN LEGEND: It seems so long ago.
No, but it was an interesting time.
It was an exciting time.
We were all campaigning.
We were all involved in this historic election.
A lot of young people were voting for the first time.
A lot of people were engaged for the first time.
And musically, it just felt like we should do something to
respond to that.
And so we thought about, well, another period of time where
there were similar amounts of upheaval and frustration and
youth involvement, and it was during the late '60s and early
'70s, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-war
Movement, the Women's Rights.
All these things were happening in this country, and
it was a contentious time, but it was also a hopeful time, an
optimistic time.
And I think that brew of emotions made for some really
exciting and interesting music, music that as a soul
music fan and as a soul music descendant has always been
something that inspired me anyway.
And so we thought we should make some music like that, we
should go back to that moment and try to uncover it and
rediscover it for a new generation.
That's what this album is.
And when we were thinking about doing it, the first
collaboration we thought of was, let's do it with The
Roots, one of the best bands in the world.

Ahmir, this guy right here, being one of the great music
historians and aficionados that I know.
And particularly when you're thinking about
doing a cover album--
QUESTLOVE: I paid him to say that.
JOHN LEGEND: You want someone who has--
BILL WERDE: Actually, I think American Express
paid him to say that.
JOHN LEGEND: --has some real perspective on some
historically great songs that may have been overlooked.
And we were able to put this project together.
And we started out back in 2008 maybe thinking it was
going to be an EP, maybe like a digital thing, just kind of
a viral thing.
But then the more we got into it, we said, let's let this
thing be big, let this be released like a real album
would be released, like any other priority at the label.
And I was fortunate that my label and my management were
very much into the idea, because if you kind of think
about it in the abstract, there are probably a lot of
labels that would have said--
SPIKE LEE: Hell no.
JOHN LEGEND: This is not a good idea.
This is not what's popping in the streets right now.
So we did it anyway, and everybody on my team was
really behind it.
And I think it's a testament to, if you go out there and
try to make something that's really artistically astute,
something that's really necessary and that people want
to hear, then there's a way to get it out there.
It might not be the traditional way, but you can
get it out there and it can sell.
BILL WERDE: That's right.
I mean, it's not--
the song's not blowing out the traditional R&B or hip hop
radio stations at all like that, but it is heading
towards a pretty high debut on the
Billboard charts this week.
So you are getting it out there.
People are responding.
JOHN LEGEND: And I think the word of mouth is great.
And frankly, we've got a great marketing campaign.
We've got a great team.
This AmEx thing helped a lot, but the label's done a lot.
And you just have to think differently when it comes to
marketing this kind of album, and radio is not the end all
be all of how you market an album.
QUESTLOVE: Thinking out of the box is almost very imperative
for a project like this.
BILL WERDE: So in this case, tell me a little bit about
what went on outside the box from your perspective?
QUESTLOVE: I guess we started with the songs first. And I
guess when he approached me with the idea, the first list
that I made was the list of songs that I
didn't want him to do.
BILL WERDE: A do not play list.
QUESTLOVE: You know, because I could have easily led him to
the lion's den to get slaughtered, because of
course, when you talk about covering someone's material
that people hold near and dear, you run the risk of just
instant criticism.
So I thought it was more important to find the song
with the message.
On top of that, because of both of our experiences with
the Obama campaign in 2008, I mean, there were various
emotions in the air.
Some days, it would just be inspiring where you'd want to
cry, and some days you'd just feel like, we
took 12 steps back.
Just on what I saw myself as far as the campaign was
concerned, I saw every spectrum of people's emotions,
a lot of anger, a lot of fear, and a lot of jubilant.
And you know, it was just--
and I wanted to capture that.
I just didn't want him to be like, OK, let's choose a
Stevie Wonder song.
Let's ignore that ring tone.

BILL WERDE: I'm sure it's a very important phone call.
SPIKE LEE: On my set, you owe me $50 right now.
Camera's rolling, that's $50 to me.
QUESTLOVE: So I think basically, I wanted to find
songs that could really capture honestly what's going
on in America.
It would have been really easy to do, "A Change is Going to
Come," by Sam Cooke, and a Stevie Wonder song--
BILL WERDE: The Marvin Gaye song.
QUESTLOVE: And even though we chose some artists of that
caliber, we chose a lot of very obscure songs that had
just as strong messages in them, so that way you could
give this project a chance, and not just judge it on, OK,
let me judge it on the song that I've
lived with all my life.
BILL WERDE: Yeah, I mean, you unearthed some gems. People
may not know this, but you have, like, 60,000, 70,000
pieces of vinyl.
I mean, you kind of know what you're talking about when it
comes to finding a song or two.
QUESTLOVE: I'm a music snob, I guess you could say.
I'm proud of that.
BILL WERDE: But you picked some great songs, because it's
not what you would expect.
And frankly, for most people, I think that if you didn't
tell them it was a covers album, because these songs are
generally underexposed--
QUESTLOVE: Oh yeah, 90% of the people that I played it for,
back when I would have litmus tests, I wouldn't even tell
them it's a cover record.
BILL WERDE: One thing I want to ask as a little bit of a
music fan, and then I've got some questions.
I want to get Spike involved--
one of the things I want to ask as a music fan is, John,
you have this almost perfect crooner's voice for a lot of
the stuff that you've done.
And this material, it feels to me like listening to this
album and watching your show, it feels to me like this
material may have pushed you a little bit more.
JOHN LEGEND: Well, it's funny because--
QUESTLOVE: That was my dream for him, to pick the worst
take of all [INAUDIBLE].
JOHN LEGEND: It's funny because it's really just
getting back in touch with how I grew up singing, because I
grew up singing in church.
And it wasn't about being smooth and
crooning and romantic.
It was about catching the spirit and bringing the house
down at church.
So this is really my first singing style.
The way I'm singing on this album is how I grew up
singing, and so it came very naturally to me
to do it this way.
And it was very liberating doing it in the context of
this album.
I think because we came into it knowing, this is not going
to be a radio project.
We're not trying to compete with Usher, or Gaga, or--
SPIKE LEE: I hope not.
JOHN LEGEND: We're not even trying to play on that field.
Let's just make a great album.
And it's very liberating because you don't have to
worry about, am I singing too soulfully
for mainstream radio?
You can just go out there and just give the performance of
your life, and just enjoy it and really be in the moment,
and really live that music to the fullest.
QUESTLOVE: It really started out as a labor of love more
than anything.
And so without all the pretension or even just the
pressure of-- because most of black music that I know of,
it's more a key to survival, like, I must have this hit in
order to keep my record deal, in order to pay my bills.
And that's why you always get all these diminished returns,
at least spiritually from music.
That's why most of the music today doesn't really bring you
to that place where it brought you years ago, simply because
the pop marketplace really doesn't call for any type of
enlightening whatsoever.
It's almost the opposite effect.
If you try and enlighten someone, you're basically just
turning them off.
BILL WERDE: That's really pretty sad and pathetic.
QUESTLOVE: Well, people want to escape their reality.
BILL WERDE: I wasn't being funny, actually.
QUESTLOVE: I mean, I understand why.
If you look at the times that you're in, yeah, maybe a pop
song will take your mind off of what troubles you're going
through for five minutes.
SPIKE LEE: But there's good pop songs and
bad pop songs, too.
QUESTLOVE: Yeah, I mean, they're all sort of

I'm not naming names.
I'm just saying that--
BILL WERDE: You can name names if you want to.
QUESTLOVE: Only because I'm so immersed in the game on both
sides, like, I've kind got to be bipartisan to it,
because as a DJ--

well, I have a lot of computers, but for my music
computers, I have a computer that is my personal, what I
want to hear first thing in the morning when I'm getting
dressed, and then the exact opposite of that is what I
need to DJ at--
BILL WERDE: Fill in the blank club.
QUESTLOVE: --someone's wedding or something like that.
BILL WERDE: You do weddings?
QUESTLOVE: Yeah, you know--
SPIKE LEE: For the right price.
QUESTLOVE: And bar mitzvahs.
BILL WERDE: And that's the music business, folks.
QUESTLOVE: I did Nick Jonas's wedding.
I'm a wedding DJ.
BILL WERDE: I with I knew that in 2004.
It's too late.
JOHN LEGEND: Nick Jonas.
QUESTLOVE: Yeah, I did his wedding.

BILL WERDE: I want to come back to that in just a second,
this notion of what is out there.
But you know, Spike, one of the things--
it was amazing to me watching the shows.
I was up on one of balconies.
And for those of you that haven't seen it-- and this
wasn't part of what you just saw--
the band, John and The Roots and some other folks, they
kind of came in and it was like a full-on, almost like a
second line parade, like New Orleans-style.
You guys came in off the street, in the back of the
club, straight up the middle and took the stage.
And it was like, OK, this is going to be a party.
And then right in the front of this kind of parade of people
was Spike Lee with a camera kind of walking backwards
really fast--
SPIKE LEE: I didn't have the camera, but I was holding the
guy that was holding the camera.
BILL WERDE: I want to say that it really is--
I love concert movies.

I think, like, The Last Waltz, for example--
SPIKE LEE: Martin Scorsese.
BILL WERDE: --not only do you love the movie, but I mean,
there's an hour video somewhere of Martin Scorsese
talking about the difficulties of shooting this concert and
turning it into something bigger than just a record of
the concert, but actually kind of getting
something out of it.
You caught some moments there, and you did it in a way that
pays justice to those moments, which is pretty remarkable and
fortunate for all of us.
Tell me a little bit about the challenges of shooting a
concert show, and tell me a little bit, if you would, even
just about how you came to be involved and what your
thoughts were with what you could do with it.
SPIKE LEE: Well, my man right here called me up,
and I said, I'm in.
So I want to thank you, Joe, American Express, and John and
Ahmir for letting me be part of it.
I'm a big fans of your work from way back.
And so, really, it's my job as a filmmaker to serve the
artist and the materials.
And so I called my ace director of photography, Malik
Sayeed, who shot several films for me and
commercials and stuff.
And so we just wanted to try to provide the cinematic
equivalent to what the music is.
And so we did not have a lot of time, had one rehearsal the
night before, but we were given the tools to do what we
needed to do.
I had done some live stuff before.
I did two live shows with Pavarotti in Italy.
He had this benefit concert he always gave, and I did that.
And I had done John Leguizamo's show, Freak, as a
live thing.
And also, we did the play, Passing Strange.
So I had done some live things.
So it's just a matter of trying to put the camera in
places where you usually can't get a camera, and give the
audiences a different viewpoint.
And so we were very happy with the way it turned out.
It was a monumental show, and it's captured forever, so
we're happy about that.
JOE KILLIAN: You know, Spike, there seemed to be something
about the way you shot it that had a musicality to it,
because some of the songs, you were truly inside the music.
SPIKE LEE: Well, I grew up in a jazz household.
My father was a great jazz bassist. Bill Lee's done a lot
of scores for my films. And early on, he was taking me to
Newport Jazz Festival.
My father played.
At the time, he was a folk bassist of Bob Dylan, Gordon
Lightfoot, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Judy Collins, Odetta,
Josh [? Bibbs, ?]
and when he was [INAUDIBLE]
on the jazz [INAUDIBLE], he was dragging me to the Village
Vanguard and the Bitter End.
So I just grew up in a household of music.

He wanted me to be a musician, but I kind of rebelled, since
I was the eldest. But it still could not curtail my love of
music, so I'm able to use that love of music in my films.
And also, I think a great example, as you mentioned,
Martin Scorsese.
He's probably the best director I know who can really
marry the imagery with music.
So I've learned a lot from him, too.
You know, you talked about initially making this album at
a time in America when sentiment was
maybe in one place.
And now here we are two years later, and in terms of that
sentiment, it feels like maybe it's eight years later, and
that's tough.

Does part of you wish you kind of did get this out as a fast
EP, or do you feel like it's--
JOHN LEGEND: It actually feels more relevant now.
QUESTLOVE: It's even more relevant now.
BILL WERDE: People are not less angry, it turns out.
JOHN LEGEND: Even then, there was a lot of anger.
This whole Tea Party thing, there was a lot of that.
You could see all of that in some of the
McCain and Palin rallies.
A lot of the same rhetoric, a lot of the same nasty imagery,
and some of the signs that you saw, those were all there.
They just happened to be 48% instead of 52%.
That's not a small percentage, though, not that all of the
48% was Tea Party, but they were part of that team.
So there was a lot of that anger then, and there was a
lot of the fights over what it means to be a real American,
which is very, very thinly veiled racism.
That was all part of the conversation back then, about
his religion, about his citizenship, about whether or
not his supporters were real Americans, because real
Americans only come from small towns, et cetera.
These are all things that were said--
BILL WERDE: I shouldn't laugh, because it's not funny.
JOHN LEGEND: They were all things that were said during
the campaign.
And now it's even worse, because the recession's gotten
worse, people are more frustrated,
people are more angry.
And you know, it's real out there.
And we try to make an album, we didn't want the whole album
to be kind of hold hands and "Kumbaya."
QUESTLOVE: Are we the world.
JOHN LEGEND: We are the world.
We wanted it to reflect the frustration and anger, and
people who feel like maybe things might not get better,
or it's going to take some work for it to get better.
QUESTLOVE: So there's a balance in a lot of the
subjects of the song selection.
We were scrutinizing, and just as far as very careful to not
choose songs that said the same thing.
One song, "Wake Up Everybody," pretty much captures in four
verses the education, the health care system,
JOHN LEGEND: The environment.
QUESTLOVE: Yeah, the ecology.
SPIKE LEE: Education.
QUESTLOVE: Yeah, all that in one song.
Whereas a song like "Hang On in There," it took me awhile
to try and find a song that dealt with how black people
felt about not being considered an American,
because a lot of that was going on, like the whole thing
of real Americans.
These are things that we learned on the campaign trail,
like, campaign [INAUDIBLE].
I would call people, and they wouldn't know that I was a
black person, so they would just tell me what their true
feelings were.

BILL WERDE: It's even uglier than what
you see in the press.
So I mean, that was what I was getting from--
BILL WERDE: You were kind of under cover.
QUESTLOVE: That was my wake up call for where
we were as a country.
And I'm kind of glad.
I knew that he wanted to come out in 2008.
And I'm really glad we did sort of delay it a little bit,
only because I knew--

well, Obama called this, too.
But we kind of knew that the honeymoon would be over after
a while, and then the numbers would go down in popularity.
So that's why I didn't want to set him up, oh, the victory
lap, the album by John Legend.
JOHN LEGEND: That's the new title, "The Victory Lap."
SPIKE LEE: And I think one of the most important things that
hopefully could come out from this album that is apropos
with the title, "Wake Up." And so this is not just
necessarily for the audience or the record listeners, but
maybe to artists, because if you look, Stevie Wonder, Nina
Simone, Marvin Gaye, there's many others, these were
artists who did not feel that they were going to risk their
career, and they spoke about things that were
happening in the world.
And a lot of artists today who are not going to even touch
this subject matter with a 10-foot pole for fear that
they'll lose their career.
QUESTLOVE: I always bring up the Natalie Maines Dixie
Chicks situation.
They spoke their minds, and then America spoke back and
told them how they felt about their opinions.
And I think a lot of artists took cues from that.
BILL WERDE: This is something I wanted to
actually arrive at.
And it's actually interesting, because from a brand
perspective, there's some risks around this, too, a
little bit, or some opportunities.
JOHN LEGEND: It's kind of risky for AmEx, frankly.
BILL WERDE: That's what I was going to say.

SPIKE LEE: I know there was some discussions.
BILL WERDE: I think, given the struggles in the music
business that are pretty well-documented, there is an
extent to which we're kind of moving towards almost like a
patron society in music, where the brands really become the
power that enables some of these things to happen.
With that, of course, comes, if a brand decides, you know
what, I don't really want to dip my toe in that water,
there can be--
now, in this case, clearly, A, American Express had the
courage and the fortitude or saw the
opportunity to do that.
Tell me a little bit about that from the brand
Is it something that you consider?
COURTNEY KELSO: Absolutely, we have to do.
We're a 160-year-old brand, really, with a heritage and a
legacy of service and serving communities, and serving our
card members.
And frankly, I have to be careful not to put anything
out there that's going to offend lots of people.
Other than that, it's about the craft, it's about the
music, it's about providing experiences to our card
members and to music enthusiasts.
And we're just a conduit for that to get out there.
We're careful in the ways that we have to be, but we are
absolutely not here to censor anything in any way, and we're
very proud to be working with all of these
gentlemen on stage.
BILL WERDE: Very cool.
JOE KILLIAN: You know, Bill, the other thing I'd say that
we haven't touched on is, every one of the streams that
we've done to date have had a charitable element.
In this case, John's Show Me campaign is
part of Members Project.
With Arcade Fire, it was the Partners in Health in Haiti.
With Alicia, it was her charity, Keep a Child Alive,
helping out in Africa.
With the National, it was Red Hot.
So we look for great art, we look for great directors, but
we also look for artists who have a charity, a give-back
philosophy, if you will.
And that's a key component of these.
COURTNEY KELSO: I'd say that we would almost be remiss--
if we're able to touch millions of people all over
the world, we have to bring some of these charities to the
forefront, and frankly, work with the artist, too, to make
a difference.
And so that's a key part of each one of
these that we're doing.
It's an important part of it.
BILL WERDE: Courtney and Joe, you guys have been working
with the music industry for a long time.
How has the last few years with the sales part of the
music business on a little bit of a slide, how has the last
few years changed the dynamic of the conversations that
brands can have with music?
How has it changed for you guys, or broadly?
COURTNEY KELSO: I think there's a--
Joe, I'll let you jump in here, as well.
I think there's certainly a lot more
parties to speak with.
We work with artists, we work with management, we work with
live touring companies, because the product that
people are really paying for is to see their favorite
artists live and in concert.
Frankly, for us, we really believe in the craft and the
music, so the closer we can work with the artist to
achieve their objectives, frankly, is pretty
important to us.
And that's why one of the key pieces of this program is to
time any of these streams with the release of an album so
that we are working together to get the music out.
BILL WERDE: I should ask you, and I mean
this in broad terms--
I'm not asking you to disclose any kind of NDA-level insight.
But what is the relationship, what is the financial
relationship, between American Express and then the bands
that are at the center of these things?
COURTNEY KELSO: Again, we don't like to disclose a lot.
But frankly, if I can be--
BILL WERDE: It's just you, me and our best friends.
COURTNEY KELSO: It's a partnership.
It really is a partnership.
A lot of brands come to the table, they pay a lot of money
to slap their logo on something and really, they're
an advertiser at that point.
It works for some people.
We come together with artists, with management, with all of
the people involved, and we like to actually contribute
what we can.
And what we really contribute financially is that which
makes it that much better.
It's production and it's all of the elements that make it
so high quality.
JOE KILLIAN: Yeah, I'd say, especially as the record
business has changed, we're there to provide a marketing
tool and a set of assets that really market the artist, the
show, the director--
BILL WERDE: Because maybe the labels don't have the budgets
so much anymore for marketing the way they should,
especially on a project like this that needs some kind of
different marketing.
JOHN LEGEND: They're the replacement for the label in a
lot of ways now, these partnerships.
They replace the label, because the marketing spend
just isn't there anymore.
This is the marketing spend.
And I would have to say, not to be kissing ass, but this
was very well done by AmEx, and the partnership was very
respectful of the art.
It was very well executed on every level.
It was like textbook.
If you want to have a relationship between a brand
and a musical entity that preserves and enhances the
integrity of the musical entity and also is a homer on
the marketing side, this was a textbook example to me.
BILL WERDE: I think we're going to be running out of
time in just a few minutes.
Is there a way--
I don't know if anyone in the audience have some questions?
And is there a way?
I don't know if we have mics?
We got a mic floating around?
OK, so we've got a question right here in the middle.
AUDIENCE: I'm good.
I'm kind of loud.
BILL WERDE: Question from a loud person.
How many people actually knew about the live stream?
BILL WERDE: How many people knew about the live stream was
the question.
AUDIENCE: How many people actually watched it again?

JOE KILLIAN: How many people are going to go and watch it
on demand right after this?
Yeah, I like that.
BILL WERDE: How many people are going to come to the
advertising opening night party that Billboard's
throwing tonight, where you can actually hear the music?
BILL WERDE: Billboard and Vivo are partnering on a night
tonight, and we got--
SPIKE LEE: That was actually pretty good, because I find a
lot of times with branded entertainment in general
across the board, with advertisers, they like to be a
part of these things, to say that they've done it, but they
don't really give it to the consumer.
It's just something to build them up and say,
well, we did this.
But it doesn't really serve its purpose.
So that was actually--
AUDIENCE: This wasn't the case, though.
BILL WERDE: I'll let the panel speak to that.
That ultimately doesn't behoove the brand or anyone
else involved.
AUDIENCE: It was a very good job.
So with that being said, what were the specifics as far as
your distribution model, whether that be social,
mobile-- you kind of said it in a roundabout way, but what
were some of the specific things that you got into to
make this work?
COURTNEY KELSO: So we did everything from centered
online advertising, online media buys.
We did a lot of sort of outreach to the music
industry, and we actually got quite a lot of impressions
just from earned media from a PR standpoint.
We did a lot with our Twitter followers, and frankly, with
your Twitter followers as well.
These guys were true partners in that sense, in that they
really helped get the word out through our Twitter
followings, our Facebook followings.
We leveraged everything that we have sort of in our stable.
This means a lot to us, and the more people we're able to
touch, the better.
Preliminary results are back.
We reached many, many, many people, millions of
people the night of.
And there's still 30 more days of having this really
high-quality content available, and so we think
that that media campaign is going to continue to extend.
But frankly, a lot of it is word of mouth.
I feel like there's a groundswell towards this
platform, Unstaged, and we hope that it will continue.
Frankly, we also get a lot of artists have called us wanting
to be a part of this.
So I think that people recognize and the music
industry recognizes when, hopefully, we come at it very
And we want to be a good partner to the creative
element, to the craft itself.
And I think we're hoping the groundswell is
really going to build.
BILL WERDE: I'm sorry, I'm going to actually-- because we
are running out of time, so I'm going to get to a couple
of other folks.
Let me take one question from up here.
John, what do you think is the most important marketing
outlet for you in terms of what you've seen work with
hitting people, social media, mobile, that kind of thing?
What platforms are working for you?
JOHN LEGEND: Most important.
Well, for this album, I would say, generally
speaking, radio is still--
I think if you have a hit on the radio, you're probably
going to sell a certain amount of records, and if you don't,
it's harder to sell that much.
So I think radio is still, in general in the music business,
the gatekeeper.
If you have a number-one radio record, then you're likely to
sell a lot of downloads of that record, you're likely to
sell more copies of your album than you would if you didn't.
And that's true.
But I would say that, for this kind of album, which certainly
wasn't leaning on radio, you have to convince people--
well, first of all, make sure people know that it's out
there, and then convince people that it's something
worth buying into.
And I think we've used a lot of social media, a lot of
digital releases of things.
So one thing we did which I thought was really important
was we made, basically, kind of music videos of us
performing live in the studio of almost
every song on the album.
And we kind of, every week, did a release of one of the
songs from the album just to get people excited about the
And you sell your strengths.
And I think anyone who knows me and knows The Roots knows
that, as much as we're good at making records, we're very
good at doing live shows.
So we've really emphasized the performance element.
And so other artists aren't going to be that good at
performing live, but we knew we were good at it, and part
of the selling point for this album would be how good we
were at performing it live.
And so we have provided a lot of ways for people to access
that material, get them excited about the project.
BILL WERDE: Very cool.
Maybe time for one more question from the audience.
Hand right here.
AUDIENCE: My two-year-old son loves the Yo Gabba Gabba!
show that The Roots are involved with.
BILL WERDE: He said his two-year-old son loves the Yo
Gabba Gabba! show that The Roots are involved with.
AUDIENCE: And Pharrell just scored the Despicable Me
movie, and a lot of artists are doing original music for
What do you think about the aspect of now, today, it's
cool to do that, to where years ago, it would be seen as
selling out, it's more like selling in?
QUESTLOVE: I mean, the Yo Gabba thing was so unique,
being as though I'm a big kid myself.
And really, Yo Gabba, even though it's presented as a
kids' show, I mean, after doing so many concerts, it's
really more for the parents than the kids.
I mean, I grew up on PBS and Electric Company, and all that
Sid and Marty Krofft stuff, and it looks like one giant
acid trip for kids, really.

So when they approached me, it was basically just them
approaching my inner nine-year-old that wanted to
watch The Electric Company and be a part of that.
SPIKE LEE: Remember H. R. Pufnstuf?
QUESTLOVE: Yeah, exactly.
All that stuff was like acid trips.
BILL WERDE: All right, sadly, we are out of time.
So hopefully, I'll see a bunch of you tonight at the
Billboard and Vivo party with John Legend and The Roots.
I want to thank the panelists for an amazing discussion and
some great art.
Thank you all very much.