For our 95th episode of Earned, Conor sits down with Samantha Sichel, the Head of Social Product and Digital Innovation at leading live entertainment company Live Nation.
To start the show, we dive into Samantha’s nearly two-decade career at Live Nation, and she shares how the company and industry have evolved during the rise of digital media. We unpack Live Nation’s rapid growth via vertical integration, and hear how CEO Michael Rapino is a “visionary” in discovering successful artists and investing in their growth, while still allowing them to remain autonomous. We learn why live entertainment attracts a highly influential audience, and Samantha explains how Live Nation leverages this engaged community of “fanfluencers” to help market shows and events.
Next, we dive into the success of Live Nation’s Last2Leave creator house, and Samantha shares why the company’s secret sauce lies in its unique ability to give creators “the best night of your life every single week.” Conor and Samantha then reflect back on the pandemic, and we hear how Live Nation creatively connected fans to artists in a time without in-person events. To close the show, Samantha, a mother of three, shares her advice for excelling in your career as a working mom.
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
“Live entertainment attracts a very influential audience”: How Live Nation has Tapped Into the Creator Economy
Conor Begley: One of the spaces that we obviously spend a lot of time in is this idea of individuals as media entities, individuals as creators. Whether that's somebody who has a really large audience, like an artist, or that's an individual who just attends a concert and takes a photo and posts it on TikTok. How have you seen that evolution within Live Nation, and how do you leverage that? What are some of the ways you interact with fans and creators that you think are unique and interesting?
Samantha Sichel: Very early on, we started realizing that live entertainment attracts a very influential audience. I believe our audiences are something like 85% more influential than the general online population—more likely to influence other people through their posts or even just conversationally, and they're more active. It makes sense, so it's a very exciting audience to play with.
So then early on, we started using social listening. We know this is an influential audience. Who are these people? And this is the first iteration of us really working with influencers. It was nearly a decade ago now. So we actually trademarked this term and this product called the Fanfluencer Tool, turning these fans into influencers in real time.
We would use social listening, geofence a location, and say, “this person has 10,000 followers. We had no idea they were going to be on site.” And then we would direct message them, tweet at them publicly, or whatever it might be, comment on a picture they posted from a venue, and invite them in that moment to market for us. We would say, “meet us at this activation area. We have a free camera for you. Meet us backstage.” They market the next show date. They market a brand associated with the show.
So there is a lot of power in our audience, and figuring out exactly what to do with that influence is a really fun and exciting part of what I do.
“You have the best night of your life every single week”: Samantha Sichel on Why Live Nation’s Last2Leave Creator House is Successful
Conor Begley: One thing that I think is an interesting activation type that Live Nation played around with is this Creator House concept with Last2Leave. How would you rate the success of that? Would you recommend it to other people? What were your learnings from it?
Samantha Sichel: Yeah, so I think this ties back to the unique offering Live Nation has in this space. I know there have been instances where creator houses have not been successful, but we can place these creators in these unbelievable, money-can't-buy live event experiences. And not just one time only, but once a week. So it's like you have the best night of your life every single week, of course they're going to want to do this, right? So that's the secret sauce. And then really smart brands are coming along for the ride.
Coca-Cola, for example, is integrated into the house. Every creator really enjoys drinking the products, and you see them drinking Coca-Cola reliving what happened the night before. It's authentic in a really special way.
So has it been successful for us? Yes, because the creators truly love live entertainment. We've done a lot of research to make sure that these are the right people who would truly value an experience like this. So we provide room and board, access, festival trips. [Last month,] most of the creators in the Last2Leave house went to Lollapalooza, and they got Coinbase, so they collected NFTs and got access to this side-stage viewing platform, and highlighted the fact that that's available to fans. So they were this amplification tool for the brand, but they were also just having fun and seeing Sabrina Carpenter side stage.
So it's just putting them in natural situations and having them share their moments. That's why their fans connect with them—they're authentic in their content. Lauren Gibson in the house, she's a really fantastic dancer, and so she's dancing with her product and it makes sense. They're just doing what they naturally do, and it works really well for us.
Conor Begley: I think that's where it actually has an impact on consumer behavior as well. It's like you see people who are like, “I'm in the gym. I'm working out. I'm drinking this while I'm working out.” And then [people who see that are like], “Oh, interesting. Maybe I should try that too.” So I think having that natural integration is critical to actual impact for the brands as well.
Samantha Sichel: Another fun one, which is bringing in multiple types of influential creators in the space, is Hip-Hop 50. Hip-Hop 50 is a music festival at Yankee Stadium in August. [Many] Yankees fans are hip hop fans. Many of [the players] use hip hop music from performers of the festival as their walkup music. The Last2Leave creator house loves hip hop music. So we worked with the New York marketing team, and we brought the Last2Leave house on the field of Yankee Stadium to interact with the Yankee players and collaborate on content to promote this hip hop festival. So now you get the Yankees, you get sports fans, you get the Gen Z followers, and everyone connects to really amplify this festival.
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