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Amazon’s Prime Day Taylor Swift concert shows it wants to sell you more than just stuff

A marriage of content and commerce could be imminent.

Taylor Swift performs at the (deep breath) Time 100 Gala 2019 Dinner at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019, in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Time

Amazon Prime Day has been billed as a “shopping extravaganza,” a “parade of epic deals,” and “summer’s answer to Black Friday,” but the event goes well beyond discounted Kindles and Instant Pots.

On Thursday, the e-commerce giant announced that it will host a Prime Day Concert on July 10 in the lead-up to the fifth annual shopping holiday (which, despite its name, will run for a full 48 hours this year). Headlining the show will be Taylor Swift, whose recent singles — “ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down” — and their associated controversies have kept her in the news for the better part of the past three months. Fellow pop stars Dua Lipa, SZA, and Becky G. will round out the lineup, while Jane Lynch — a recurring guest star on Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — is set to host.

This isn’t the first time the Jeff Bezos-helmed behemoth has put on a star-studded show to pump up Prime Day: Last year, it tapped Ariana Grande, Alessia Cara, Kelsea Ballerini, and Julia Michaels for its (again, all-female) lineup. But Swift is an even bigger get. Her Reputation Stadium Tour is the highest-grossing US tour on record, bringing in $266.1 million domestically and taking over the title from the Rolling Stones. The video for her LGBTQ equality track “You Need to Calm Down” has racked up nearly 60 million views in 10 days, and she’s ramping up the promotional efforts for her seventh studio album, Lover, due out August 23.

Swift has also already proven her streaming service mettle, debuting a full-length concert documentary on Netflix on New Year’s Eve.

All of which, of course, makes her particularly valuable to Amazon, which is eager not just to retain the loyalty of its existing $119 per year Prime members and sign up new ones, but also to reel us all into its universe. Along with the promise of free one-day shipping (for some customers), scheduled deliveries, exclusive deals, and other perks, a Prime membership includes free TV, movie, and music streaming (and paid tiers for all three).

Amazon has invested heavily in these media offerings, shelling out a reported $250 million for the rights to Lord of the Rings for an upcoming series that’s expected to cost $1 billion to make. In March, it bought a share in the YES Network, the regional sports network that airs Yankees games in New York, a potential preview of what many analysts see as a push into live sports.

As CNBC reported in March, both deals hint at what’s to come from Amazon: a marriage of content and commerce that could sell countless J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novels, Halloween costumes, and sports jerseys — and maybe even tickets to the next game.

“Amazon knows how to run a store,” Fred Seibert, the founder of the production company Frederator Networks, told CNBC. “They’re walking toward how to make media work. If they can marry the two, everyone else in the media business will start to scramble.”

Amazon’s Prime Day concert will be an opportunity for the company to do just that. It’s already using the members-only event to plug its Echo devices, encouraging users to say “Alexa, play the Prime Day Concert playlist” to listen to curated playlists. (After the show, they’ll be able to tell Alexa to stream it on their Fire TV or Echo Show devices.)

It’s also touting teaser trailers for a litany of Amazon original series that will play in between the performances, including Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Carnival Row, Jack Ryan, and Undone. And starting now, Prime members can trial the company’s premium streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited, for $0.99 per month for the first four months (compared with $7.99 per month regularly).

As much as Amazon created a holiday out of thin air with Prime Day, forcing other retailers to compete with warring discounts on a day ostensibly meant to celebrate their rival’s birthday, it’s now encroaching on the turf of Netflix, Apple, Spotify, and traditional media companies. Give it another five years, and the idea of Prime Day as just a “shopping” event might seem practically quaint.

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