Red Bull, Levi’s, Pepsi etc target young urbans via gigs

07 Dec,2011

By Rahul Sachitanand


If the celebrated Woodstock music festival of 1969 was to be held in India today, its billing of “Three Days of Peace and Music” would have to be tweaked to “Three Days of Pepsi and Music.” Live gigs are indeed the flavour with a young nation, and a host of lifestyle and consumer brands from Red Bull to Levi’s and Pepsi are pulling out every trick from the marketing manual to get their attention. The festive season is when live acts crank up the volume. In mid-November the second edition of the Bacardi-led NH7 Weekender in Pune spread over three days and six stages gave audiences a rare dose of multi-genre music, prompting international writers to compare it with the UK’s legendary Glastonbury Festival.


The pace quickens by the year-end when the Sunburn extravaganza gets going on the beaches of south Goa, with brands like Lenovo and Colgate riding on the electronic dance music festival. “Live music is a great way to build our engagement with our customers,” says Bacardi India’s marketing head Arvind Krishnan. “We today have people willing to listen to new sounds and try new formats, helping the growth of live music. We want to ride this change.” Besides leading the NH7 event and bringing top acts such as electronics artiste Prodigy to India, Bacardi has also supported another event called Together Mix, which looks to push live music into the hinterland.


Krishnan says, “Live music allows us to give our consumers a holistic brand experience.” Pepsi, for its part, believes it needs to be in every youth destination – live music is one of them. “We believe in constantly encouraging Youngistaan to follow their passions, live their dreams and change the game,” said Sandeep Singh Arora, EVP – marketing, cola, PepsiCo India in a statement.


Across India, the live music event revolution is gathering steam. NH7 had over 25,000 people attending the festival, double the number a year ago, according to event organisers. There were more bands and larger stages too in keeping with an exponentially larger audience turnout.


At Sunburn Goa the number of artistes is expected to double to 90 this year, while attendance too is expected to go from around 45,000 to around 100,000. In Bangalore, the cult live music event called Strawberry Fields, which focuses on independent and upcoming performers (it charges a minimal charge to bands and has no entry fee for attendees), is adding 500 to 1,000 people to its audience every year. And at the second edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival to be held in February 2012, thousands are expected to turn up in Mumbai to listen to five top international artistes, attend music workshops, eat blues brunches and browse through thematic displays.


The world’s largest denim vendor Levi’s is one of the many brands eager to ride the explosive growth of live music in India. Recently it had indie (independent) folk fusion band Swarathma play for a group of blind children, as part of its “Go Forth” initiative to support meaningful causes.


“We are hoping to raise awareness and support for a diverse range of pioneers around the globe. Swarathma performs free concerts for those who do not have access to live music, using music to raise social consciousness and bring hope to underprivileged people in India,” says a spokesperson for Levi’s in India. Another firm that is allying with live music is energy drink maker Red Bull, which engages with the music scene in two ways.


All events are properties that are developed, planned and executed by in-house teams. For instance, there is the Red Bull Bedroom Jam, a platform for amateur bands to have a video shot by Red Bull and be a part of a live stage tour. The firm also works with festivals such as NH7 and Sunburn to reach out to its consumer base. “Red Bull strongly believes in working in playgrounds where talent needs support,” says a company representative. “India has a huge pool of live acts. Giving these bands platforms like Red Bull Bedroom Jam, Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp allows these artists to truly expand their wings.” Red Bull takes pains to point out that these events are owned and operated by internal teams and are not just sponsored events.


In contrast to the energy of Red Bull, brands are finding new avenues of growth in much more sedate confines. Across the dozens of halls or sabhas that host top Indian (mainly carnatic) music and dance shows during December and January, an increasing number of brands are looking to make their mark. While Chennai-based public sector banks such as Indian Bank and Indian Overseas Bank and the likes of Nallis Silks have been sponsors of events for years, if not decades, newer names such as Axis Bank, Hyundai, Airtel, Aircel and Vodafone have either established their presence-or plan to – during this month long season.


The growth of live (and independent) music has compelled Sony Music to launch a label called Day 1, which hopes to be a broad platform for independent music in India. Under Day 1, there are two sub-brands, Folktronic (music with Indian influences) and Zomba (urban lifestyle music). “Independent music has reached an inflection point in India,” says Sridhar Subramanium, president, India and Middle East, Sony Music. “The internet and social networks have helped build a pool of talent and make it easy to build a community of listeners for them, in the absence of TV channels and radio stations which would traditionally play their music.” This growth in independent, live music has also made it more appealing to a broader section of brands, beyond the traditional staple of liquor and beverage makers these acts traditionally rely on.


V G Jairam, a partner with Oranjuice Entertainment, a live music production house in Mumbai, says there has been a sharp growth in independent live music acts across India. “I think the indie space is booming. There is a sense of pride in the consumer to see homegrown bands and this is adding to the growth,” he explains. With growing awareness of emerging live music, music bands are also able to use the web to popularise their music at low or no cost. For instance, a recent show at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio was almost entirely crowd-sourced. “Music is a powerful tool to connect emotionally with your consumers and get embedded in their minds,” he adds.


Branding expert Harish Bijoor, who runs an eponymous consulting outfit in Bengaluru, says that any event that is youth-centric will have an umbilical connect with brands. While the mobile phones and services are perhaps the most ubiquitous of these items, several other categories including apparel, accessories, consumer goods and even real estate could leverage live music to make this connect, he says. As live music goes mainstream, brands should consider making select long-term and strategic investments in some of these properties, says Joji George, CEO of Percept Sports and Entertainment, organisers of Sunburn. “These associations are no longer a few hoardings and banners; they need to think beyond and invest in building destination events,” he says. George points to marquee events such as the Glastonbury festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Canada as models of live music development.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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