Catching a Flight, and a Show
By BEN SISARIO
Published: October 20, 2010
When Taylor Swift sweeps through New York next week to promote her new album, “Speak Now” (Big Machine), her stops will include “Today,” “Late Show With David Letterman” and “Live! With Regis and Kelly”: all high-profile,
major-media events that will be seen by millions of people. Enlarge This Image
Doug Mills/The New York Times
Taylor Swift is to play JetBlue at Kennedy Airport next week.
; Arts & Leisure Preview: Taylor Swift Is Angry, Darn It (October 24, 2010)
; Times Topic: Taylor Swift
The latest on the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia extravaganzas and much more.
Join the discussion.
; More Arts News
On Wednesday, two days after the album is released, she is to make a more unusual appearance, for a much smaller group. She will play five songs on a temporary stage inside the JetBlue terminal at Kennedy International Airport, for
30 or so contest winners and any JetBlue passengers who happen to be passing
through on their way to Gate 14. (Sadly for Ms. Swift‟s fans, there is no Gate 13, her lucky number.)
Ms. Swift‟s show at JetBlue‟s new Terminal 5 — which is linked to the historic
TWA building designed by Eero Saarinen — is part of a promotional sweepstakes
that includes a chartered flight to Los Angeles with another performance for fans at 30,000 feet. But for JetBlue the brief concert also represents a legitimization for its little known “Live From T5” concert series, and a big leap forward in its musical branding efforts.
Neither JetBlue nor Mr. Swift‟s representatives would say whether she was being paid for the appearance, which they said was not an endorsement deal. Instead it is something of a trade: Ms. Swift‟s popularity will draw attention to JetBlue, and the airline will promote Ms. Swift‟s album for at least two months on its in-flight
entertainment network. That means that any fans not lucky enough to have a JetBlue boarding pass on Wednesday will still be able to see videos of the show on board other flights, and even uninterested passengers can expect to see a lot of Ms. Swift‟s face. Among other placements, she will be featured in a brief
commercial that runs — and cannot be turned off — after takeoff.
JetBlue‟s “Live From T5” program, which began last summer with low-profile
artists but in recent months has included notables like Sarah McLachlan, is
operated by Superfly, a well-connected concert promoter that is one of the forces behind festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Outside Lands in San Francisco.
Fiona Morrison, JetBlue‟s director of brand management and advertising, said that the concerts were a way for the company to show off its terminal, in operation since 2008, and extend the on-board entertainment options that are a central part of its pitch to customers.
“In today‟s world you spend a lot more time in an airport than you used to,” Ms. Morrison said. “This is an opportunity for us to bring things to people that they totally don‟t expect.”
Ashley Heron, the director of strategic marketing for Big Machine, Ms. Swift‟s
record label, described the airport appearance as a worthwhile part of a bigger campaign. “From my perspective it‟s another great fan experience,” he said.
Airlines make abundant use of music in their advertising; United, for example,
has been using Gershwin‟s “Rhapsody in Blue” for decades. But live performances like JetBlue‟s are rare, if only because of security and logistical concerns — if not
acoustical ones, since airport terminals are hardly ideal concert spaces.
Ryan Schinman, the chief executive of Platinum Rye Entertainment, which matches performers to corporations for advertising, said the promotion‟s unusual nature might help it get noticed.
“There are very few airlines that could get away with it,” said Mr. Schinman, who was not involved in the JetBlue deal. “JetBlue probably has the ability to pull it off because they position themselves as a younger, hipper brand.” He added that even though Ms. Swift would be getting lots of promotion, the airline was the big winner by being associated with a blue-chip star. “It does a lot more for them
than it does for her,” he said.
But for an artist as media-savvy as Ms. Swift, who interacts extensively with her fans on MySpace and Twitter, the novelty of an airport show, and the related
in-flight promotion across an entire airline fleet, might be a big benefit as well. “Everybody‟s done Regis and Letterman and „The View,‟ ” said Chad Issaq of
Superfly, the promoter. “But performing at an airport terminal, there‟s a lot of buzz around it because it‟s so unique. And it‟s so random.”