AOL Music Sessions
AOL Music launched the ‘Sessions’ series in 2002 and it quickly became a pillar of the programming agenda. These intimate performance videos were popular, not only with AOL’s subscription customer base; they were gaining in popularity across the open web. Each was planned with a current recording artist and was uniquely staged, staffed and produced at studios mainly in NYC or LA. We produced approximately 40-50 per year.
In 2006, we were given a budget directive, cut the number of Sessions shoots by 15 per year. In response, I conducted a thorough review of Sessions and identified foundational issues that could be addressed to avoid a deep cut in our critical franchise:
- Brand recognition was inconsistent. There was no true identity for Sessions. Outside of AOL walls, viewers wouldn’t easily the source of the performance. There was no consistent look or feel in the studios that could bleed into the entire Sessions experience.
- Costs per shoot were increasingly eating up budget. Prices of studio rental, temporary crews, set design, travel etc. were rising forcing us to reduce the bookings by 15 per year to stay within our financial plan.
- The process of bringing a Sessions shoot to market was complex and time consuming.
- Established a “home studio” in a largely unused space in our Beverly Hills office.
- Began an expense sharing agreement with other AOL Entertainment groups, including Moviefone and AOL TV. This allowed us to use existing expert production staff, the filming and sound equipment.
- Designed a “standard” Sessions online look and set design which allowed quicker “ramp up” time and flexibility from artist to artist.
- Launched new “Sessions” features for our new genre blogs, which spotlighted bands doing covers, new artists, and classic artists, thereby expanding our available talent pool. This was positively received by record labels and other industry partners. More bookings, larger audience spread, no additional cost.
- More bookings, more audience, within budget. Rather than cutting the number of “Sessions” in the year, we produced 20 more than our original plan.
- Sessions top sponsor, Chevrolet, agreed to an exclusive long term contract to support not only the regular tapings but also special live productions.