Red Bull Stages Takeover of New York Music Scene

Red Bull aims to be solely associated with the largest of any scale. Its logo was everywhere as Felix Baumgartner broke the speed of sound, jumping down to earth from the stratosphere last year. Its ads jokingly equate the effects of their beverage with the euphoria of flight.

And during May, Red Bull is launching a takeover of New York’s music scene.

Through the Red Bull Music Academy, the company is putting its brand in the same breath as the likes of Brian Eno, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Afrika Bambaataa, James Murphy, Kim Gordon, and Erykah Badu. All known and revered for their producer and artist credits on classic recordings, they are only a sampling of the mass of talent that Red Bull has put together to keep the city up and dancing all night.

This targets a specific core of the music loving community — those who are proud to know as much as possible about how the hits are actually made.

Eno, who played the synthesizer in Roxy Music, and has worked in the studio with the likes of David Bowie, The Talking Heads, U2, and Devo, is giving an illustrated talk at Cooper Union, but for those who can’t attend, his self-generating audio/visual installation “77 Million Paintings” will be on display from May to June 2. Dance rock aficionados will file into at NYU’s Skirball Center to drink in the knowledge from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who will also be performing on the turntables at the RBMA hosted 12th Anniversary Party for his DFA record label.

“A long-term music initiative, committed to fostering creative exchange amongst those who have made and continue to make a difference in the world of sound.”

Legendary producer Giorgio Moroder, whose resume includes Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” and has just been announced as a featured collaborator on Daft Punk’s upcoming album, will be performing his first DJ gig on US soil. These are just a few of the names that Red Bull will be declaring it’s association with — every event the Academy is putting on speaks to a different facet of an amazingly diverse community.

By hitting the highest marks of quality and possibility, Red Bull is working to place itself in the ranks of the elite brands of the country. The drink may not have the association with Americana that a Coca-Cola has, or the athleticism of a Gatorade, but it can build a different platform, one more focused specifically on the cutting edges of culture, targeting both the valued youth and high income demographics.

“Part of being a great brand is conveying what you stand for in an authentic manner so consumers find it believable,” says Nirmalya Kumar, a professor of marketing at the London Business School who has studied the company, in a New York Times interview. “The music academy and the air show have given Red Bull a lot of that.”

The RBMA bills itself as “not a sponsored event, but a long-term music initiative, committed to fostering creative exchange amongst those who have made and continue to make a difference in the world of sound,” placing its goal on a more long-term, macro, scale (not surprising for a company planning a whole month of events).

“The Red Bull Music Academy is probably the most progressive entity of music education.”

The other half of the Academy consists of collaborative lessons, taking place behind doors between established artists and those who have applied to get into this session. The results of those sessions belong entirely to the artists, with no footprint from the company (unlike when Smirnoff or Mountain Dew sponsor musicians, and their logo winds up all over the album art).

Treating the artist in such a way produces tight bonds within the community. Questlove of The Roots, the soon-to-be bandleader for Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show run, says, “The Red Bull Music Academy is probably the most progressive entity of music education.”

The focus is constantly on the content, letting the brand — which is bringing the audience once-in-a-lifetime events — give the audience space to enjoy the music, and be seen as respectful of the community.

The Red Bull Music Academy events run from April 30 through June 2.

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