The first ever "Concert in the Sky" at 39,000 ft on a Boeing 777 with Sheryl Crow to launch the United-Sony music partnership.
After I became a VP at Sony, my first assignment was to find a launch partner for the new Sony Connect division. Sony Connect was Sony’s first commercial digital download enterprise.
Utilizing our relationship with Visa, we negotiated a unique partnership with United's frequent flyer program to redeem miles for music downloads.
To launch the "Mileage Plus Music" campaign we combined our efforts with the inaugural launch of the Sony Connect service.
I negotiated with United's CMO to provide a Boeing 777 for the first in-flight concert. We utilized our relationship with Interscope Records to recruit Sheryl Crow to perform on a charter flight from Chicago to Los Angeles with 100 VIP’s and press.
We recorded all the 7 songs she performed for an exclusive digital download EP that we sold via Sony Connect, in addition to a 7 camera video shoot of the event. We edited an EPK during the flight and rushed it to satellite distribution after we landed to make all the network evening news.
We produced a 30 sec TV spot from the footage and ran the spot on all the United flights for 6 weeks after event.
United’s press team ran a media evaluation of all the print, online and TV exposure we generated and estimated we communicated to over 60 million folks worldwide.
Here's a short video of this historic event:
Crow's show at 39,000 feet makes skies friendlier for musicians, fans
May 5, 2004 by Bill Zwecker Chicago Sun Times
"Well, this gives new meaning to the mile-high club," quipped Sheryl Crow Tuesday at O'Hare Airport, just before embarking on her first-ever in-flight concert on United Airlines Flight No. 9907.
The Grammy winner teamed up with the Chicago-based carrier and Sony Music for the Chicago-to-L.A. flight to promote a new partnership that lets frequent fliers download songs via Sony's new Connect online music store.
Crow said the unusual marketing pitch appealed to her as "a longtime strong advocate of the protection of intellectual property rights. I think this is an exciting moment in the music business, a great alternative to make kids discover how not to steal from artists' creativity. Piracy has become such a terrible problem."
Crow laughed when asked how she felt when first approached about performing an acoustic, 40-minute set at 39,000 feet.
"First off, I wondered about the engine noise. How are we going to drown that out? What about plane vibrations? Where do we put the speakers? What if there's a lot of turbulence?"
Martin White, the airline's senior vice president of marketing, was beaming nearby. The unusual promotion had been his idea, a pitch to his corporate bosses that wasn't necessarily easy "but clearly will be well worth it," White said.
When asked why Crow seemed the natural choice as the first in-flight performer, White winked. "Well, first of all, I'm a huge fan," he said. "But when we looked over the list of artists Sony suggested, we were most impressed with her record as an anti-piracy advocate. She's truly a leader among her peers in the business."
By 11 a.m., a group of specially invited United and Sony guests and members of the press (including this columnist) were on board. According to White, this was only the second time the brand new Boeing 777 had "welcomed a celebrity into the friendly skies -- the first time was back in February when we welcomed Oscar."
The Chicago-made Academy Awards were transported on the same plane to the 76th annual Oscar presentation in Hollywood.
A special welcome from the plane's captain indicated, "While we've carefully plotted our routing today, it will be as the crow flies" -- a line that understandably drew loud but good-natured groans from the passengers.
Shortly after lunch was served, the entire passenger list switched seats, moving from the first-class, business and economy-plus sections to the rear of the plane, where Crow launched into her 40-minute gig.
"This is probably the first time being in the back of coach is the coolest place to be," quipped one Sony executive.About two hours into the flight, a very relaxed Crow schmoozed with the crowd and played some of her favorites, plus one new song.
"This is one of the craziest things I've ever done," she said. "I'm flying over so many states, I hope I don't have to pay taxes in any of them."
Added the singer, "I usually do this with pyro and dancers, but United wouldn't bite."Among the songs she and guitarist Tim Smith played during the 40-minute set were "A Change Will Do You Good," Cat Stevens' "First Cut Is the Deepest," "If It Makes You Happy" and "My Favorite Mistake" -- "a song that's really about somebody, but I can't tell you who," Crow cracked.
Her new selection: "Light in Your Eyes," which Crow said was "a brand new song inspired by George Harrison and all he went through at the end of his life, plus all the things he stood for at this time when we're again at war."
Shortly after the airborne Crow caper, everyone returned to their assigned seats and Flight 9907 set down at Los Angeles International Airport.
But the festivities did not end there. It was on to the Sony Music "campus" in Santa Monica, where Crow performed an entirely new program of her biggest hits.