November 2006 saw the introduction of Live Sets, or what’s officially called Nissan Live Sets on Yahoo! Music.  These twice-monthly concerts are sponsored by Nissan, performed for studio audiences full of fans, and aired on the Yahoo! website.  Artists such as Christina Aguilera, Nas, Carlos Santana, and Tony Bennett both sing and participate in Q&As with eager audiences. 

With lots of top talent and free original content, it’s no surprise that within a year, Live Sets had some 10 million views.  The series seems to be Yahoo!’s answer to AOL Sessions.  It has similar features and even some of the same artists, yet contrasts AOL’s empty studio space with live concerts as well as greater interactive options.  The program also expanded its reach when MTV’s hi-def channel MHD TV debuted a series of half-hour highlights from previous concerts.

The concerts resemble MTV Unplugged, but with bigger sound.  They’re filmed in a studio with some 200 fans all having great seats and adding to the energy of the performances.  After  each show, the site provides footage of the songs and Q&A, all of which can be played as separate tracks.  Each show has an official fan blogger who describes things like watching the rehearsal, meeting the artist, and, of course, the concert.  Sometimes the blogger will delve more into the the technical side of the set or make slight criticisms, but usually it’s more ordinary fan fare (like writing that despite Common‘s success and “those pesky Gap ads, this dude is a real MC who is ready to knock heads off with two turntables and a microphone”).

The Live Sets home page links to lots of other things, from music videos by the featured artists to an archive of all the previous concerts.  You can click to Y! Música, the Spanish-language version of Live Sets.  Yahoo! also provides a section called “Fans’ Eye View,” which includes amateur photos and a multiple-choice quiz.  If you like Velvet Revolver, for example, do you know which Michael Jackson song had Slash playing guitar?  If you answer “Black or White,” you may be rated a “super fan.”  If not, maybe you’re a mere “poser.”  Either way, you can email the same quiz to your friends and see how they do. 

When you click around on Live Sets, be ready for the Nissan ads.  The more clicks, the more ads, like when the slideshows insert one after every five photos.  You may find this intrusive, or just a small price to pay for all this great material.

Tony Bennett singing an old Hank Williams classic?  Melissa Etheridge describing how struggling with cancer shaped her music?  Iggy Pop prancing shirtless and looking better than most guys half his age?  Rock on Yahoo!

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