Red Bull is targeting a niche group of music aficionados with its Red Bull Music Academy New York takeover.
The annual event sees the brand host a month long festival including music workshops, performances, studio sessions, parties, lectures, films and more throughout May.
Founded in 1998 in Berlin, The Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) is a yearly event, which brings 60 emerging artists – DJs, producers, instrumentalists and vocalists- from around the world to take part in an intensive two-week event.
The idea is to bring budding artists / music makers and established artists together to share wisdom and provide guidance while Red Bull also provides access to state of the art recording technology.
RBMA is hosted in a different city around the world each year. This year Red Bull is running two sessions as part of its New York takeover and has taken over four floors of a building in New York’s Chelsea and transformed it into a “collaborative learning environment”, according to PSFK.
“The innovative space is a departure from the traditional classroom environment and instead embraces a more interactive, free-flowing, interpersonal learning experience. The experimental venue encourages personal interaction and the sharing of new ideas through the use of a variety of design elements including open layouts, large windows that bathe the entire area in natural light and allow unrestricted views of the space, innovative lighting design, and rounded walls.”
The space includes performance areas, recording studios, rehearsal rooms and the RBMA radio station.
But that’s not all. Red Bull has also unleashed a month worth of music events bringing in some of the music industry’s biggest names: Brian Eno, Kim Gordon, Erykah Badu, James Murphy and the DFA label, to name a few, plus a host of well known producers and DJs. The Academy is not just workshops and performances either there’s installations, films, collaborations, and of course parties.
The aim, says RBMA’s Davide Bortot is not about teaching the attendees about the music business rather it’s about providing artists with a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse themselves with other inspiring artists and encourage creativity and collaboration.
“It’s about giving people who we believe are amazing the kind of platform where they can get inspired and inspire each other. We want them to exchange ideas and exchange visions, in an environment where they don’t really have to think about anything else, one that fosters creativity.”
“We try to get people who have a hunger for collaboration and new influences. We’re providing the platform for those people, who typically wouldn’t meet, to have a chance to get together. It could be a singer-songwriter from Brazil hooking up with a techno producer from Iran, or a rapper from Nigeria working with a dubstep producer from Canada.”
As part of the event Red Bull has created streams of content including a series of films, which kicked off with a tribute film celebrating 12 years of iconic New York Record label DFA.
Bortot said the aim of the films, like everything in the festival, was to curate the best of New York both past and present.
“What we tried to do was to take a close look at what was already going on in New York, and then do two things: pay tribute to the city, and try and find things that haven’t been done here before.” says Bortot.
Like all things Red Bull touches you can’t help but get excited by the brilliance of this strategy. This is Red Bull doing what it does best, creating authentic and successful brand experiences.
Red Bull live and breathe branded entertainment and transmedia storytelling and it is evident in every single brand touchpoint.
Time and again Red Bull have opted against the trend to attach the brand to an existing event and instead shown the power of creating its own experiences. This approach continues to reward Red Bull with the double hit of aligning seamlessly with the brand attributes and providing audiences with what they want. (Read more on Red Bull’s strategy here)
Red Bull has spent years and years strategically aligning the brand with adventure, extreme sports, adrenaline and energy. Music is the perfect fit for these attributes, it is the accompaniment to the adventure, it, along with Red Bull, music brings the energy.
The music scene too aligns with Red Bull’s attributes, much like high adrenaline sports and activities need a high energy drink, music makers and music lovers need a high energy drink to help them dance all night and enjoy the beats.
By taking up and coming – in some cases quite established music makers – and giving them an event to collaborate, inspire others and be inspired Red Bull puts its brand at the centre of the action in the emerging music world. Much like it has in extreme sports.
Strategically Red Bull Music Academy is the same as Red Bull X Fighters or Red Bull Flugtag, in that the brand has taken the role of the facilitator to provide the talented artists with the means to do their thing.
Much like its Stratos project, which saw Felix Baumgartner jump from the edge of space, Red Bull is facilitating what others either can’t or won’t do. It’s providing a platform for the artists, the athletes, the dare devils et al, and it’s creating legitimate activities and entertainment that is contributing to society and contemporary culture in a meaningful way.
In this regard Red Bull stopped being an energy drink brand a long time ago and become a media and event empire, that also sells energy drinks.
With Red Bull Music Academy, Red Bull has placed the brand at the very centre of emerging music. As the facilitator of creative collaborations, RBMA is cutting edge, underground and quite frankly very, very cool. Red Bull Music Academy is an established event for those in the know, but it still remains an underground festival targeting hard core music fans.
Until now. The buzz around RBMA’s New York takeover has been significantly louder than usual.
This is largely due to high volume of high profile content that Red Bull has created to promote and support the event. Notably a series of films, which kicked off with a tribute to the iconic record label DFA, and aim to reinforce its music credentials and appeal to a very specific target market - the cool kids. And in targeting the cool kids, Red Bull is looking for the halo affect of all the kids who want to be the cool kids – basically everyone.
This seems to be a deliberate move too. Coming hot off the heels of Red Bull Stratos, which took the brand to a massive mainstream audience it feels like Red Bull’s strategy is to imprint itself into the broader mass market.
Targeting the New York City music scene, whilst uber trendy and underground is also a major play to hitting the mainstream.
Red Bull may be a superstar in the marketing community, but when it comes to consumers it is a niche brand, best known for its extreme sports, motor racing, flug tag and for the Vodka Red Bull cocktail.
Red Bull is not a mainstream brand, particularly in the US. This platform gives Red Bull a direct link to the emerging music scene of New York, which is among the most high profile and trendiest of its kind. The trends that start in New York are replicated and experienced the world over - even if the trends originally began elsewhere, like Berlin or London, it is in NYC that these take off.
Therefore, tapping into this scene with such an authentic and legitimate voice is something masses of brands dream of and very few brands could even begin to achieve, let alone attempt to master. The fact that Red Bull is looking to do this with Red Bull Music Academy is audacious and yet completely acceptable - a position that sums up the Red Bull brand.
And the simple fact is that like all Red Bull’s events, Red Bull Music Academy is wholeheartedly embraced by the community it is targeting. By providing the facility and the event itself rather than attaching its name and brand to an existing venture, Red Bull gains the legitimacy and acceptance of the community and therefore the respect and kudos.
Hands down the savviest marketers in the playground. Red Bull are the masters of branded entertainment, transmedia storytelling, brand experiences – you name it.