Who Needs America's Got Talent, When We Have Lyft

Courtesy of Lyft: Demi Lovato with Lyft driver and bassist Jermaine Walden at Gibson Guitar in Miami, FL.

One of the many ways that Lyft fights Uber for drivers as well as for public image is in how they constantly provide bonuses for their drivers. One such bonus is a national initiative that is helping musicians that drive for a living to reach the top and to show off their capabilities.

Driving for Lyft is a self-employed occupation that allows the driver to schedule their own work hours. For musicians, this is the best gig they could have next to actually performing. In lieu of Lyfts recent public press release that their drivers have reached $500 million in tips. Lyft set up a special bonus program where four lucky Lyft drivers will be able to perform with singer Demi Lovato at Miami based Studio 26 recording studios, and the lucky drivers will also get free VIP tickets to Lovato's show on Mar. 30 at the American Airlines Arena.

This special gig started a month ago when the Miami Music Week started. Lyft sent out a message to all its musician drivers asking them to send a short video as an introduction to audition for an on-camera commercial being recorded at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Miami. Lyft received a lot of such video's and eventually whittled it down to four successful winners.

Among the winners stands out:

  • Ja'rae Womak, who is Bobby Womak's (60's and 70's top 100 billboard performer (niece and Sam Cooke's (King of Soul) great granddaughter. Ja'rae was trying to succeed in the hard showbiz environment but didn't manage to get an album out. She started to drive for Lyft to make ends meet. Ja'rae stated in her video that "I've moved back [to Miami] from Atlanta, to give my music one more shot!" Womack wrote in her submission to Lyft's call-to-action, provided exclusively to Billboard. "Lyft is helping me provide for my son! I am a single mother who will not give up on her dreams! God's plan."

The other winners include:

  • Jermaine Walden, Bassist who started to drive for Lyft to help supplement income for his wedding.
  • Conrad Clyde, musician, and filmmaker, who started driving for Lyft to help save up for better equipment.
  • Eric Monterossa, Producer, Songwriter and Musician that stated: "Lyft helps me make financial ends meet and maintain a versatile schedule, so as not to miss out on any opportunities."

Lovato has paired up with Lyft before, and during the summer of 2016, she took part in a special Lyft campaign "Undercover Lyft" where she drove around Denver, Co. disguised as a Lovato fan named "Sam." Lovato told the press that "I was inspired by these four amazing Lyft drivers, and am so lucky to have had the chance to get to know their personal journeys and make it that much easier for them to pursue their love of music. It's always been important for me to use my platform to help and inspire others and giving these talented Lyft drivers the opportunity to continue to make music and encourage them to follow their dreams meant the world to me."

Just as this is not Lovato's first time with Lyft, it is not Lyft's first time helping musicians. In Dec. 2017, Lyft set up the first Austin Musician Rideshare Program. Lyft partnered with local venues in Austin including Empire Control Room, Stubb's, Antone's, Mohawk, Barracuda and Cheer Up Charlies to help hand out Lyft ride-credit codes to local musicians before their gigs.

I think Lyft took a page out of Uber's handbook when they employed Bozoma Saint John to lead their branding image. Lyft took on Becca Lawson as VP of Brand Marketing and Melissa Waters as VP Marketing, and these two powerhouses of activity have been working hard to promote Lyft in every market niche available.

Lawson told the media that "There is absolute magic that happens in a Lyft every time a rider shares a ride with a driver. Our drivers prefer Lyft passengers, who prefer Lyft drivers. It's all about the connection and community that happens in that car."

Lyft President John Zimmer stated that music and rideshare are slowly merging into one symbiotic service, he believes that in the near future they might launch their own music platform for subscription in rides, and said "Eventually, the majority of miles traveled in the United States will be on a network like Lyft. You'll be subscribing to a Lyft transportation plan similar to how you have a music program, maybe Spotify, or a minute's plan like you have on AT&T or Verizon."

Austin Schumacher, head of Entertainment at Lyft said "Our goal in working with artists is to enhance the fan experience and offer artists a unique platform to share their music – whether that's providing safe rides to and from shows, creating a custom artist-themed in-app experience, or producing entertaining content that can help promote an album, single, or tour. We want to give our passengers and drivers memorable experiences, and we have a sizable network to help share an artist's message."

This comes after the successful pilot Lyft performed in Sept. 2017, where they promoted in NYC a collaborative effort with CardiB to riders. The rider could enter the code "BardiGang" and receive the artists face and design for a skin on the Lyft app. 13,000 New Yorkers signed up and for Lyft that was a great customer relations success.

Schumacher added that "Lyft's values have always been at the heart of the company, which is clear in how we treat our passengers, drivers, and people who come in contact with our brand – artists and their teams recognize that. We always want to make sure we're providing real value to the artist. It's not one-sided; it's about finding the balance between our brand and the artist and finding ways to create meaningful experiences for their fans."

My Take: Lyft is following Uber, again. Its all good, both the driver and the rider enjoy these competitive initiatives. Its just a shame that Lyft is always following Uber and not generating enough unique ideas by itself. The only real original initiative they have had is to introduce subscription services, but even that is daft, since it sits entrenched in the bad business model of subsidized rides, and does not lead Lyft to become a profitable company.