Amazon Music's Tami Hurwitz on Brandi Carlile, Madonna and Amazon's Covid Playlists
Tami Hurwitz is global head of marketing and growth for Amazon Music, overseeing all aspects of the brand, including advertising, customer acquisition, engagement, and business development, as well as marketing technology and subscriptions.
Since joining in 2017, Tami has led Amazon Music's biggest marketing initiatives to date, continuing to expand its global advertising campaign "A Voice Is All You Need" with new work across TV, radio, and out-of-home with artists including Chance the Rapper, Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift.
With the launch of Amazon Music HD, Hurwitz guided all marketing and education efforts to introduce the new tier, including development of a new ad campaign featuring Garth Brooks, Brittany Howard, Halsey and Chris Stapleton discussing their music and the intricate sonic nuances that can now be heard in HD.
Prior to Amazon, Tami served in a variety of marketing leadership roles at Procter & Gamble and Microsoft. She lives in Kirkland, Washington.
We caught up with Hurwitz for our regular Liner Notes Q&A series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.
Tami, tell us...
Your earliest musical memory.
What I remember most vividly is seeing Patti LuPone star as Evita in the original theatrical production in Los Angeles when I was 7 years old. My mom started taking me to musicals at a very young age, and I remain hooked to this day. I'll never forget the star power and amazing voices of that original Evita cast with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.
Your first concert.
I recall my parents taking me regularly to the Hollywood Bowl for L.A. Philharmonic performances. But what really stands out for me were the first concerts I went to alone as a teenager, which were Oingo Boingo concerts at the Universal Amphitheatre. Their energy was amazing, and I became a lifelong fan of '80s new wave music. Especially Duran Duran and Depeche Mode.
Your favorite bands/musicians.
My musical tastes are pretty diverse these days! Right now, my favorite artist is Brandi Carlile. "The Joke" is my go-to anthem, and she is just so talented as a songwriter, singer and producer. She also lives in the Seattle area, where I am based. I was so fortunate to see her in concert with the Seattle Symphony on Feb. 21, which was the last concert I was able to see before Covid-19 shut down live performances. Hearing her amazing voice backed by a full symphony was a life-changing experience, especially when she sang "Hallelujah."
How you get your music these days.
Well, this is an easy one. Amazon Music HD! We launched our HD streaming tier last fall—it offers the highest quality streaming audio, and the sound quality is amazing! Also, I've been enjoying watching all the livestreamed concerts available since Covid, usually on Twitch or those broadcast on network TV/Prime Video. Recently, Amazon sponsored the "All In Washington" concert for Covid-19 relief, featuring local Seattle-based artists, which was a lot of fun!
Your favorite place to see a concert.
I especially enjoy cool outdoor venues, like Riverbend on the Ohio River when I used to live in Cincinnati, working for Procter & Gamble. I also really like stadium shows, especially at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, where the Seahawks play. I've seen some amazing concerts there—Beyoncé/Jay-Z, Coldplay, U2. This past weekend I was supposed to see Taylor Swift opening the new SoFi stadium in L.A., but unfortunately it was canceled.
Your favorite music video.
I have a soft spot for '80s and early '90s music videos, as I used to be glued to MTV! If I had to rank them, my favorite would have to be Madonna's "Vogue." I recently showed it to my 9- and 11-year-old kids and they loved it!
Your favorite music-focused TV show or podcast.
It's not necessarily a music-focused show, but I love the soundtrack from Big Little Lies.
A recent project you're proud of.
In March, we recognized that our customers' lives had changed dramatically due to Covid-19 and we needed to be relevant to their needs. We quickly pivoted our music programming and marketing to feature new playlists and experiences while many people were stuck at home. We created bespoke programming that would help them throughout the day, like "Home Gym Workout," "Staying In" and "Work From Home" to reflect their needs.
Cooking playlists, and mood-based playlists like our "Feel Good" and "Mellow Gold" series, also saw an increase in listening. We also increased our number of kids' playlists as well. We worked with artists like Justin Bieber, Halsey and Marshmello to create personal playlists showing what they were listening to at home. It was great to see the team come together super quickly to pivot to these needs, and we saw tremendous response from our customers!
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I recently discovered Outschool, a website/app that connects teachers with students. I think it's been around for a few years but has really flourished during the past few months with kids at home. I have been so impressed with the ease of signup and use of their platform, the quality of their programming, courses and teachers, and their customer engagement. My 9-year-old daughter now goes to Outschool herself to sign up for classes!
How musicians should approach working with brands.
Musicians are business people, too, and should approach working with brands that will respect their art, while also helping them connect with the audiences they want to reach. A great partnership is when both parties have shared objectives and can help each other be successful. For example, every year during the holidays, Amazon Music partners with artists to feature a broad range of Amazon Original holiday tracks. We are the leader in holiday music—our customers love the holidays, so in working with us, artists can reach an even bigger audience with holiday music. Another example is how we're able to partner with artists and connect them to multiple teams across Amazon, including Music, Prime Video, and through unique artist merchandising sold on Amazon.com. We've had several successful partnerships with artists like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, the Jonas Brothers, J Balvin and many others which spanned our music service, video and merchandising.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
Brands can work with musicians in so many creative ways, from helping them develop strategies to release new music, to developing engaging campaigns for their fans, to featuring music in marketing opportunities, and by creating unique social media opportunities together. We are constantly looking for new ways to innovate with artists. A really special example was Amazon Music's recent partnership with Alicia Keys and her organization, "She Is the Music," to generate donations for the MusiCares Covid-19 Relief Fund through engagement in social media. Another fun area are experiences where we integrate artists with Amazon's Alexa, using artists' voices to surprise and delight our customers with new release announcements. I would encourage all brands to think out of the box with regard to how they can creatively partner with musicians.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Music has the unique ability to connect with people on a deep, emotional level. It can complement a mood, or change a mood. It can trigger memories, or create new ones. It brings people together, or can soothe when alone. Music is core to the human experience.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
So I've actually only been in the music world for three years. At my core, I'm a brand marketer and I've worked across a number of industries, from consumer products like Folgers coffee to productivity software (Microsoft Office 365). Combining my love of marketing with music has been an absolute joy, as it's so inspiring to work on a service that is so important to people's lives and where there is so much customer love and passion. The opportunity to work with artists and creators is very special as well. I think it would be very hard to top this role, but if I were to leave the music industry, I think I would try to stay within entertainment—like movies/TV/video streaming or potentially sports.