If there’s one common sight at South By Southwest it’s brands.
Doritos to Samsung and everything in between. And some criticize the festival, saying it’s become more about the brands, when it used to be about – the bands.
But there’s at least one brand, a big one, that says they’re using their name to search out and develop undiscovered musical talent.
When Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner made the world’s highest altitude jump from a balloon in the Earth’s stratosphere back in 2012, the event was watched around the world over a live stream. Sponsored- by Red Bull.
The Austrian Energy Drink has their hand in many pots. There’s the annual human power flying competition, Red Bull Flugtag, racing sponsorships, sports endorsements and more. But it’s not just about giving you wings anymore.
Davis Elkin and Aidan Kennedy are from Houston, Texas. And they are, Bagheera. Bagheera is that black panther in The Jungle Book. It’s also a Elkin and Kenney’s band that specializes in the electronic sounds of Chill Wave, House, Disco with a lot of funk thrown in. The two met in high school.
“We were in a couple of classes” Kennedy says. “And we just found out we both played music and we liked it, so we formed out first highschool rock band and remained musically intertwined over the past few years. And then we started this project about a year and a half ago.”
It sounds like how many bands get started. But it’s not every day that your band gets endorsed by, Red Bull. Kennedy explains how Red Bull got involved. “I was part of a DJ competition that they put on called Red Bull Freestyle,” he says. it was the college version so it was Red Bull Freestyle U and that kind of opened the door for us.
Enter the Red Bull Sound Select program. Each month in 11 cities across the US, Red Bull puts on shows curated by local music influencers and features local acts with big name headliner. And they’ve brought it to Austin for a stay at South by Southwest. Red Bull says the program helps develop artists and bring them closer to fans. In the case of Bagheera that meant working with top tier indie act, Twin Shadow, and not just sharing a stage.
“It’s more of him mentoring and kind of giving his advice,” Elkin says. “As well as actually writing and working together. He provided that leadership experience, or whatever and helped us.”
Mentorship programs. Highlighting local music. Events with large production costs. What does Red Bull get out of this? The shows don’t seem to make a lot of money. Tickets are either free or cost very little. Is all the time and effort just for brand recognition?
Red Bull couldn’t be reached for this story. But Bagheera’s David Elkin, who’s also a UT Austin student, has his own thoughts on the matter.
They seem to actually have a have a vested interest in these other fields that they’re doing,” he says. “And I think the energy drink is giving them access to it, because they have a product to sell and it allows them to kind of explore these other area they may not have initially been interested in, but definitely want to get involved with.
The Red Bull show was Bagheera’s only South by Southwest show. But, now they are headed out on the music festival circuit. But the Sound Select series has one more night to go.