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What Motivates ESPN Music’s Latest Collaboration With DJ Khaled?

As curator for MNF's hit song soundtracks, the star producer continues to help ESPN reach fans through music

Recently, the team behind ESPN Music has executed several music projects like Hype Hits and collaborations with popular artists like Pop Smoke, Marshmello, Juice WRLD, Big Sean, and, most recently, a season-long curation with Grammy-winning artist DJ Khaled.

Kevin Wilson, ESPN Music Director, sees music as a complement to ESPN’s power to reach, inspire and entertain through sports. Front Row asked about the recent collaborations and what’s next for ESPN Music.

He was a fan of the idea, and there you have it! Each time will be different based on a game, song, and creative thoughts on how to rally around the pick. Khaled is a super creative guy, and his team is very fun to work with, so I’m sure it will be fun.
– Kevin Wilson, ESPN Music Director, on working with DJ Khaled on the MNF music curation project

How did DJ Khaled’s music curation for Monday Night Football come together this year? What will his involvement be like each week he makes a selection?
It was a great group decision with our team and the marketing team for the NFL. We all knew we wanted to have another curator this year and get them even more involved. We did some great stuff around the New Orleans-Miami game last year at the end of the season with Khaled and featured music from the “Bad Boys For Life” soundtrack through our Super Bowl coverage, so we thought it would be great to elevate that and have him be our curator.

He was a fan of the idea, and there you have it! Each time will be different based on a game, song, and creative thoughts on how to rally around the pick. Khaled is a super creative guy, and his team is very fun to work with, so I’m sure it will be fun.

What was the reasoning behind selecting Little Richard’s “Rip It Up (Feat. Butcher Brown)” as the new Monday Night Football opener?
We were asked to help find a new song for Monday Night Football from the production team. Our team got together and pitched a number of songs, but “Rip It Up” was a song we had in our back pocket. It’s a song that lyrically is great for sports even without lyric changes, and one that not many folks have covered from Little Richard. It quickly rose to the top of the pitch list, and luckily we were able to get it done. It’s a great anthemic track, remixed with a great new artist Butcher Brown.

How has ESPN’s approach to music evolved over the years?
We evolve with our needs, pop culture, industry trends, and storylines. The good news is that our desire to work with music to enhance our storylines, reach new fans, and entertain our fans continues to grow each year.

Through sports, ESPN has the power to reach, inspire, and entertain by storytelling with music and to music. Artists are also looking for new ways to reach fans, so together, we can energize our shared fan bases and expose each other’s brands to our unique fan bases. – Wilson

How important is it to showcase music on our ESPN platforms since in-person experiences for fans are limited right now?
We are always looking to evolve how we collaborate with artists and our industry partners to help enhance our content and reach fans in new and different ways – hopefully, capture some new fans as well.

Becoming more active on streaming platforms, inspired by music videos, digital EP’s for our events . ..These are all in the works and hopefully more and more to come. Through sports, ESPN has the power to reach, inspire, and entertain by storytelling with music and to music. Artists are also looking for new ways to reach fans, so together, we can energize our shared fan bases and expose each other’s brands to our unique fan bases.

Music producer DJ Khaled is curating music to be used during Monday Night Football this season. (ESPN Marketing)
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