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Last Thursday at the Belasco Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, Ford and Billboard partnered to present the first installment of the Front Row music series. The free event will hit four cities across the country (LA, Miami, Atlanta, and New York) this summer and will feature live performances from a variety of popular artists. The two brands aim to bring fans closer to the music through these events and the LA stop featured  BJ the Chicago Kid and Tinashe.

It’s an interesting partnership between a music publication and an automotive brand, as there’s a number of opportunities to create engaging customer experiences. Music and driving go hand in and hand, as the ability to listen to your favorite tunes is the only way to stay sane in the miserable LA traffic.  At Front Row, would guests get to test drive the Ford Fusion or Mustang while listening to Tinashe’s long delayed, yet appropriately named, sophomore album Joyride? Would lucky fans get to ride around DTLA with BJ the Chicago Kid after the show? Now, that’s getting pretty close to the music.

In actuality, Front Row was just another run of the mill free concert/ brand activation. It wasn’t a unique experience as touted on the event website and the closest you get to the artists was the same distance you would at a real concert. There was only one Ford Mustang on display and nothing else that allowed you to engage with Ford. In my opinion, a concert is the easiest activation and cop out a brand could do, and the LA stop was just that.

Front Row

The performances, however, were solid. BJ the Chicago Kid is underrated as an artist. He’s not a household name, but he’s very talented, being able to sing well and play the percussions at the same time.

Front Row

But it was evident that a majority of the crowd was there to see Tinashe, another artist who’s also trying to break into the mainstream. She’s in a weird limbo with her career, as she’s not a superstar, yet not an irrelevant memory. She announced her second solo album Joyride back in September 2015, but almost two years later, the album still doesn’t have a release date. Tinashe has put out a number of singles since the announcement, but none have become real hits. This creates little leverage for her with her label RCA to invest in the release of an album that has no hype.

Front Row

Drama aside, Tinashe put on an energetic and sultry show, performing her big hits like “2 On” while performing impressive, choreographed routines with her dancers. I kinda feel bad for her. She’s trying so hard, especially adopting a really sexy personality to sell, but nothing is quite working. She’s still bae status though.

By the end of Front Row was I dying to test drive a Ford? No, and I”m sure most people felt the same way. Most people probably all took Ubers home anyways.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.