American Express Sponsors Live Concert Series With Vevo and YouTube

American Express is hosting a series of concerts by popular artists including the Arcade Fire and John Legend, and live-streaming them on YouTube channels operated by label-owned music video site Vevo, with which it has a syndication partnership.

A total of five performances will take place over the course of the next twelve months in a series dubbed “Unstaged: An Original Series from American Express.” Tickets for the shows are offered to Amex card members, and all users can watch live on YouTube and on demand after the event. Users will also have the opportunity to select their own camera angles during the shows and in some cases collaborate with artists on-stage.

Speaking with ClickZ News, Courtney Kelso, VP sports and entertainment access strategy at American Express, said the campaign extends a strategy of offering exclusive experiences to card members in the digital channel. “It’s about creating a bridge between our legacy of providing these live in-person experiences, and now creating a unique digital experience,” she said.

According to Kelso, Vevo’s direct relationship with the music industry was key to the campaign, allowing American Express greater creative control of the process and closer integration with artists. Vevo is owned in part by major record labels Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, to which all artists taking part in the series are signed.

“What’s different about this campaign is we’re not just buying an off the shelf sponsorship, we’ve created this from the very beginning. Vevo has such close ties to the industry, and that lets us get much closer to the experience,” she said.

David Kohl, Vevo’s EVP of sales and customer operations, suggested his company essentially brokered the deal with the labels and artists itself. He described the company as a “one stop shop” for advertisers. Adding drastically to that appeal from a marketer’s standpoint is the firm’s content syndication relationship with YouTube, through which Vevo extends its audience reach massively. Sales of ads around that content are handled by Vevo exclusively, with YouTube reimbursed on a revenue share basis.

When it comes to driving awareness of the shows, Kelso said social media will play a key role. Each of the concerts will coincide with the release of new recorded material from the artists, offering fans “new and fresh” content and helping inspire their respective communities. In addition to outreach through blogs and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, American Express is also planning a display campaign to further drive awareness. “American Express has been very active in the social media space… and we plan to use that following to port into this experience,” Kelso said.

Vevo launched at the start of the year, but has already amassed an impressive audience, attracting just shy of 50 million unique users in June, according to comScore. According to Kohl, the platform has already drawn over 150 advertisers, which have seen click-through rates of up to 9 percent on pre-roll ads.

“In terms of overall commercial messaging clutter, ours is far lower than the competitive landscape,” Kohl said, suggesting less might be more when it comes to online video ads. “Even premium online video sites have up to twelve minutes of ads an hour, but we’re in the three to four-minute range.”

Advertisers to date have included MacDonalds, Unilever, and a range of network operators including AT&T and Sprint.

For ad targeting purposes, Vevo offers the standard range of demographic, geographic and contextual methods, but Kohl again emphasized the opportunity for deeper brand integration. For example ads sold by Vevo will also serve into its player on artists’ own sites, helping “bring the brand into the band.” In the case of the American Express campaign, he described how the artists involved would post their own video playlists to the site, giving users deeper insight and further integrating the brand with the artists.

Kohl also revealed that Vevo will launch an iPhone application in the next few weeks, initially sponsored exclusively by AT&T. He added, however, that a range of applications are in the works geared toward various audiences and capabilities, including some for Apple’s iPad device.

The first “Unstaged” concert will take place on August 5th, featuring a performance by the Arcade Fire at Madison Square Garden in NYC.

Corrected: A previous version of this story stated the concerts would be broadcast live on both Vevo and YouTube. This is incorrect; the streams will only be available on YouTube via channels operated by Vevo.

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