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    SXSW and The Fader Fort by Fiat

    As one of the worlds busiest and most important music events of the year, SXSW has today almost become just as much about brands as of bands. Since starting 25 years ago as an alternative festival in what still considers itself the ‘World Capital of Live Music”, Austin, the conference and festival (which also includes film and interactive), now features +2000 artists, from all over the world, showcases, parties, keynotes and major events taking place in bars, parks, parking lots, hotel pools and basically everywhere throughout the city, during a busy two week period.

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    In addition to that, Austin is flooded by innumerous brands that through official partnerships with SXSW or independent events try to get a share of the crowd of music fans, consumers and tastemakers. One event is The Fader Fort, a concept developed by The Fader Magazine and its parent company Cornerstone. Always featuring the most talked about talent, top of the line event production and lots of free beer, food and products, it has been the most popular and well-produced event at SXSW during the last few years. Basically, it is here you probably will see ‘the next big thing’ before anywhere else.

    Located a few minutes walk from the main SXSW venues the event is open for anyone over 21, who RSVP’s in time. Everyone at The Fader Fort is treated to a range of free products, and bands performing at SXSW are taken care of by special coordinators. As for this year, visitors could grab free hats from New Era, get their music gear tuned in a workshop lounge, play ping pong next to the DJ booth, and enjoy old school movie popcorn and free beer. From a special media lounge, bloggers and journalists helped promote the event to the external world, while Sirius broadcasted live satellite radio from a small booth in the centre. Further down behind the stage, The Fader team hosted interviews and streamed the event online. At the other end in an almost hidden lounge by the exit, VIPs and performing artists could pick up giveaways from Converse and TDK, and jam in a mockup of Converse’s new studio. In short, there were lots of places to hang out, get free swag and have a good time.

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    For the past few years, the setting of the dusty old warehouse on an equally dusty old street has been ideal for the Fort’s regular sponsor, Levi’s. However, after Levi’s surprisingly dropped their commitment at the end of last year, Italian car giant FIAT became the new title sponsor. Sadly, even though there was a potential of doing something new and original given the car company’s great history and widespread popularity for its older car models, it appeared like FIAT had no clue how to approach the event… The bright and shiny cars, which frequently were polished by teams of non-Italian-but-Italian-looking models, appeared like they had been dropped randomly inside the event without any natural connection to the event itself. Added by a number of oddly placed business reps hanging out in the midst of all the relaxed young festival goers, the vibe of car sales offices and bad Italian TV-shows was getting stronger by the minute. To top it off, a brass band was jamming music beside – using old car parts as the instruments. Previous years have also featured local brass bands welcoming guests to the entrance, but then luckily they have been allowed to keep their own instruments. Hopefully they will get to do that next year as well.

    By: Eric Welles Nyström, member of the Heartbeats Movement

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    SXSW Panel: Brands as the New Labels

    In one of the most relevant and interesting panels at this year’s SXSW conference, representatives from Coca-Cola, BlackBerry, pioneering creative agency Cornerstone, advertising agency McCann Erickson, and Songs Music Publishing discussed how and why brands have become the new record labels.
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    Whether it be through massive global campaigns (e.g. Coca-Cola breaking the artist K’naan into +100 markets), interactive live events (e.g. BlackBerry’s concerts with Black Eyed Peas and U2, where the fans have been able to chat live through mobile devices to the artists on stage), TV advertisements that have broken numerous young bands (Songs Music Publishing), or the initiative to start long-term (e.g. Cornerstone’s Green Label Sound sponsored by Mountain Dew) or short-term record labels (e.g. McCann Erickson’s spin-off label from a campaign with Holiday Inn), the music industry, its artists and its fans, has developed in a way during the recent years so that brands can step in to help break and launch artists in a number of ways.

    This is no secret for most people working in music or marketing, but with more and more brands trying to get involved in the music scene, and more artist looking to launch major deals with brands, the speakers listed a few important points in order to make a collaboration successful.

    Key points:

    • Fans have become used to, respect and even appreciate the collaboration between brands and artists, and expect brands to deliver them music and music discovery
    • Brands can function similarly to a record label in many ways, by breaking artists into campaigns, commercials or more complex platforms and projects
    • The content created through brand related events have a longer tail and can live forever online, often leading to high traffic numbers even far past the event is over (e.g. for Coca-Cola on YouTube, traffic related to the music of their World Cup Campaigns surpassed the traffic of videos of the advertisements themselves, 80 mill. vs. 8 mill.)

    Building up to the World Cup in 2010, Coca-Cola took K’naan to 83 gigs around the world, to countries like Mexico, Thailand, China, among others where it’s very difficult to introduce a new artist into new audiences. In the end, he topped the charts in more than 18 countries…

    …However, I don’t think that brands are the savers of the music industry, they aren’t silver bullets. But, they offer a very effective way to enhance the marketing needs you have for your artist. The industry understood that 15 years ago, how efficient it was just to add a song to a commercial. The winds are changing on both sides and people understand the need to collaborate. The fact that 75% of people try to avoid commercials and 80% of people engage in music daily is a sign of that match.“, said Umut Ozaydinli, global music marketing manager of the Coca-Cola Company, during the panel discussion.

    To listen to the whole panel, visit SXSW’s live recording here.

    By: Eric Welles Nyström, member of the Heartbeats Movement and our guy at this year’s SXSW

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