Over the weekend, Barcelona played host to its annual indie rock festival, Primavera Sound. Three days of live music featuring everything from the most obscure of Spanish rock bands to big names like The Pixies, Pavement, and Broken Social Scene. So it’s not a celebration of independent music exactly, but there’s no shortage of indie rock on tap, along with a fat slice of Euro bands that you’d never see at Coachella or Bonnaroo.
And this year, there was a new addition to the scene – the Adidas Originals stage – a venue dedicated to showcasing independent acts, hand-picked by the almost surely good people of Adidas, and rarin’ to break into the European market.
The bands on offer – like any indie showcase, really – were a mixed bag of hits and misses. Predictably, the most memorable presence was that of Adidas. They didn’t just sponsor a stage, they took over an entire quadrant of the festival grounds, handing out pins and fans, taking Polaroid shots of festival goers, and trying to create buzz around live graffiti art installations – the usual slightly off-point grab-bag of pop culture offerings generated by corporations in an effort to connect with their demographic.
This Music Brought To You By…
It’s not far into 2010, but one of the predictions made in our New Year’s roundup of what to expect from indie music over the next decade is already coming true: brands are stepping into the role of music labels like never before, scouting under-hyped and under-funded talent and giving them a chance to perform and record in exchange for a promotional boost.
Just a few of the campaigns on the go right now include:
Levi’s Pioneer Sessions
Modestly tagged as “a new and innovative campaign that champions musical artists who embody the pioneering spirit of the Levi’s brand.” The Pioneer Sessions enlisted the talent of some of America’s cutest bands to record covers of their favorite old songs. Levi’s is releasing the songs for free all throughout the month of June.
A celebration of the impact of great music across generations, the Levi’s Pioneer Sessions message is simple: These songs are still cool, especially when re-imagined by the new kids in town, which, interestingly, is just like how our jeans are still cool. Buy our jeans!
FreeCreditScore.com Band Search
A massive promotional campaign involving MTV, the MBA All-Star Game, and Gibson, this scheme is all about finding the next band to feature in a FreeCreditScore.com commercial. Experian.com (the mega-money behind this whole plan) had big success with their FreeCreditReport.com commercials featuring an unknown indie band, so now the search for the next breakout group is being positioned as a major, nation-wide competition. Live auditions are being held across the country, and indie bands can also submit videos directly to the website. Winning bands get money, instruments, studio time, and exposure on national television, all just for lending their rocker cred to a distinctly not-rockin’ brand.
The Red Bull Music Academy
One of the godfathers of brand music, Red Bull has been supporting artists through its music academy for over a decade. Any musical act can apply to take part in the academy, which runs two terms a year in different musical “meccas” around the world. Red Bull chooses artists who “represent a wide range of cultures, musical backgrounds and set of skills” and who, the brand hopes, will “create open socio-dynamics” at the academy.
Originally started as a means to cross-promote Red Bull via underground dance culture, the Red Bull Music Academy now welcomes musicians from all genres, who have a unique opportunity to learn from and work with industry pros. Red Bull also sponsors a variety of live events and musical performances throughout the year, all funded and fueled by the brands deep and abiding connection with music. Y’know.
Do You Buy It?
All of these lovely examples of brand-fueled music beg the question: is this the future? If you had the opportunity to achieve success as a musician by promoting a brand, would you take it? Do the above examples sound like the kind of projects you’d want to be involved in? And perhaps most importantly – are these brands in it to promote their love of great music, or are bands trapped in a miasma of restrictions and regulations as soon as they sign on the dotted line?
Musicians! Let us know what you think – is this a brave new wave, or just another black hole for the musical soul?