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Amazon Prime Day Concert 2019: How the Retail Giant is Turning Customers Into Fans

The all-woman lineup of Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, SZA and Becky G made all the difference

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Nirmika Singh Jul 12, 2019

Taylor Swift performing at the Amazon Prime Day concert. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

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About 10 minutes into her set, soon after ending “Blank Space” to applause that just won’t stop, Taylor Swift had a rather triumphant moment with her audience at the Amazon Prime Day Concert in New York recently. This relatively intimate show of around 2,000 people at Hammerstein Ballroom was a rare gig for Swift to play —bear in mind her 2018 Reputation Tour was a gargantuan stadium-only series—and it was probably that closeness between the artist and the audience that lent it an unmistakable special vibe. 

“It’s an absolute honor to be on the stage that was just performed on by the absolute bosses, who performed just before I got on here,” declared Swift as she strutted down the stage. Her performance was preceded by three cracking sets by Dua Lipa, Becky G and SZA.

Swift promotes new album

This was Swift’s first public appearance and gig after her Tumblr tirade just a few days ago against music executive Scooter Braun and his acquisition of Big Machine Label Group, which owns the masters of her first six albums. In her lengthy post, Swift had accused Big Machine owner Scott Borchetta of betraying her by not offering her a fair chance to buy back her masters, which she she claims she had been attempting to do for years. 

At the Prime Day Concert, Swift chose not to fan any more flames. However, her fans claim that while performing the sprightly “Shake It Off,” she made her point by emphasizing a particular line from the lyrics: “Just think / while you’ve been getting down about the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world / you could have been getting down / to this sick beat.”

Swift’s nine-song set at the show was a crisp catalogue to her career-spanning hits. She opened the show with “ME!” the lead single from the upcoming album Lover but the night’s clear winner was “You Need To Calm Down,” which she played live for the first time ever at this concert.  Although perhaps still reeling from the emotional mess of the past week that revealed a rare vulnerable side to the pop queen, Swift’s celebratory banter with the audience was a reminder about who the real boss was. At one point, she reminisced about how she started out in country music many, many years ago. “The one thing that has been very wonderfully consistent throughout the entire time while making music is that I write often,” she said to an excitable, roaring crowd. “To write songs — and then they go out into the world, and I’m very lucky that you guys are nice enough to care about them, sing them back to me…” The concert was being broadcast in over 200 countries and Swift also didn’t shy away from promoting Lover several times during the course of the show. 

“You know, I have a new album coming out, I am really excited about it. And I’m so excited to share it with you — it’s called Lover. The album is basically, sort of love letter to love itself. And I think love is such an inspiring thing to write about, especially for us songwriters – love is complexity, love is struggle, love is pain, love is joy, love is hope, love is quality…” she said as she launched into “You Need To Calm Down”

Her mid-set acoustic outing with the 2014 hit “Welcome To New York” was a balmy punctuation to the bangers in the set. Swift closed the show with “Shake It Off,” with the full lineup of the day joining her on stage for some glorious confetti shower moments—surprisingly, SZA was nowhere to be seen in the all-star signoff. 

The programming at the Amazon Prime Day Concert was commendable — not because of Lipa’s bankable star power but thanks to the inclusion of the more diverse, both musically and linguistically, artistries of SZA and Becky G. But Steve Boom, VP, Digital Music at Amazon, says it all came together by accident — the streaming giant didn’t really have a feminist agenda on its mind. “We didn’t set out with the goal of saying we want to create that line up — but we wanted to bring a line that we knew would resonate with our customers.” He adds, “We look at our streaming data we know who’s big who’s growing quickly, and then whenever your arranging for live music there’s a bit of a process because artists are really, really busy so their availability alone shrinks the universe of the potential performers pretty dramatically.”

Becky G performed a five-song setlist at the 2019 Amazon Prime Day Concert in New York city. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Finding listeners in unlikely pockets

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Just in case you’re wondering why a paid subscription service has been hosting a an exclusive concert for its customers (the 2018 debut edition featured Ariana Grande) around the corner of its annual flash sale, the Amazon Prime Day, Boom clarifies that the show is “not about to get people to shop more.” Instead, it is a fun reward for loyalists. “What better entertainment than have a concert. It’s the kind of thing you can do in the moment and really capture the culture.” 

With the Prime Day concert, Amazon has managed to knit together two internal ecosystems that weren’t always overlapping: the 100-million-strong Prime customers and the relatively smaller Amazon Music subscribers, which make up one-third of that figure. He explains, “Unlike other music services, we were able to bring the marketing platform beyond the music listener base. We were actually able to bring it to all of Amazon — hundreds of people who will be coming to Amazon versus just [Amazon Music] subscribers. Obviously, I want to reach to existing music subscribers but to reach to those other people too — that’s exciting.” 

According to a recent research published in the Financial Times, Amazon Music is the fastest growing music streaming service in the world right now with a 70 percent increase in subscriptions in the last one year alone. Its absolute subscription numbers might still lag behind Spotify and Apple, but the rapid rate of growth is a telling example of how catering to an unlike set of captive loyalists might just be the way forward in expanding the listener base.

Dua Lipa’s giant leap

Dua Lipa performing her set at the Amazon Prime Day concert. Photo: Pixie Levinson

Lipa kicked off the show on an explosive note and her five-song showcase (ditto for the other two performers) was testament to why she’s already the next big thing in music. The 23-year-old British pop star, who bagged two Grammys this year, is a natural performer – she owns the stage in an unbelievably casual manner and the magnet pull of her persona is hard to resist. If “Blow Your Kiss” made a good set opener, “One Kiss” ensured the crowd goes a little crazy. With Lipa as the opening star of the concert, it wouldn’t have taken Amazon a lot to get viewers latched to the broadcast. After a frenetic “Electricity” and “IGDAF,” she closed the set with “New Rules.”

Becky was next on the lineup and the 24-year-old breakout bi-lingual artist was a powerhouse from the word go. Like Lipa, Becky played a tight set that showed off her best chops. She also treated her fans to the live debut of a new single — “Dollar” which was due for released the next day. All her recent reggaeton tracks made it to the set – “Mayores,” “La Respuesta’ and “Cuando te Bese”. “Sin Pijama,’ her 2018 earworm with Natti Natasha, made a perfect set closer.

SZA: not for the uninitiated

SZA at the Amazon Prime Day concert. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The thing about multi-artist concerts is that sometimes it can get tricky to maintain a vibe. SZA’s set was one that we were most excited about given her astounding capacity for innovation, but turns out it’s not easy to ease a crowd that’s just feasted on raw reggaeton to warm to the nuances of alternative R&B and neo soul. The audience might have taken a little bit to start swaying their bodies again but SZA held her own superbly. For those in the crowd still uninitiated to her masterful musicianship, the highlight of the set was a cover of Six Pence None The Richer “Kiss Me” that the 28-year-old singer/songwriter performed in her true, soulful style. The three other tracks on the set were “Broken Clocks,” “Normal Girl” and “Love Galore,” her collab with rapper Travis Scott.

 

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