Browsing articles tagged with "SXSW Archives - RethinkPopMusic"
Apr 24, 2013

What I learned at SXSW… I’m too Bro to be a Hipster, yet too Hipster to be a Bro

2013 was my fifth consecutive year attending the music portion of the SXSW conference, however it was the first time that I was less concerned about the music and more focused on experiential marketing and branding. In the madness that was hosting three events for Ninkasi the following observations were first published over at Marketing Fun With Mike, but since SXSW is in the title you lonely music elitists may enjoy.

In the highly evolved digital data mining era, where frighteningly detailed information about any individual is readily available, how does a company fail to reach target consumers? Despite clever messages, multi-platform advertising and unprecedented incentive programs (Axe is offering a trip to space) there may be an emerging demographic slipping through the cracks.

In addition to the mass consumer, marketers need “tastemakers” and “influencers” within each demographic that actually have enough disposable income to purchase their product. The ideal tastemaker has a large social network and willingness to advocate the products they like. And when you look at the marketing campaigns aimed at the educated, unmarried, semi-professional “Man-Boy” demographic you are pretty much relegated to two subsets: The Hipster and The Bro.

Do I really think either of these demographics exist? Would anyone actually self-identify as a Hipster? A Bro? Irrelevant. Do I constantly feel as if advertisers are forcing me to be one or the other? Absolutely!

Though I admit I am of the “Man-Boy” demo, I feel myself, like many others are too Bro to be a Hipster and too Hipster to be a Bro.

Fortunately, I can’t take credit for the Hipster/Bro paradigm and will never have to explain if I’m being serious or ironic. The phrase actually came from a conversation I had with a member of Rare Monk after a performance at a client event in Austin during SXSW.

As legend has it, the phrase was on a sticker in a bathroom of a venue in their hometown of Portland, OR. And while I can’t verify it’s actual existence at this point, they, like myself, begrudgingly self-identified.

Who am I? Well, I take pride in my knowledge of indie music and most things relevant, but I’m not a judgmental “artist” of the trend chasing variety. Additionally, I enjoy competitive sports, but you won’t find me wearing a skull embroidered t-shirt pounding Jager shots while cheering on a UFC fight at Hooters. I’m lucky enough to work in a creative field but it’s not necessarily a lifestyle. I’m an inbetweener who marketers may be trying to reach, but if so, they’re doing it all wrong.

Take this K-Mart commercial for example:

The commercial is genuinely funny and I’ve only seen it advertised on Facebook. However the characters in the commercial are definitely older than the daily Facebook user who would enjoy it most. Not to mention K-Mart’s merchandise is hardly appealing to someone used to paying $25 for an Homage t-shirt.

And what about the random Little Caesar’s commercials?

Once again brilliant, successfully airing on television during sporting events, but people who find humor in the absurd are generally conscious of where their food is sourced. Sorry LC, but imitation cheese on cardboard is hardly edible, let alone organic.

The messages and platforms appear correct, so maybe it’s the products that are wrong.

How do I decide where to shop and eat? As a mass consumer, my decision making process involves a consultation with my socially, politically and environmentally semi-consciousness, although admittedly vainglorious. The actual vetting process is usually by the referral of friends without day jobs… a combination of the bar employed, self-employed and unemployed.

These friends get to stay out late, sleep in late and spend hours each day reading blogs and trolling social networking sites. Unfortunately for me, I’m getting older, spending more time focused on my career and as a result slowly losing touch with said friends. And while I realize that I can no longer keep up, I’m not giving up my Man-Boy status and I’ll be damned if I get duped into eating Little Caesars or shopping at K-Mart.

What’s the remedy? I don’t have a panacea, but I’d start by using the plethora of digital analytic tools to properly get to know both the current and target consumer equally. If you’re going to launch a campaign aimed at the Hipster/Bro demo, focus on what current and target consumers have in common and avoid pitting them against each other. Always start with a new or struggling product line rather than the entire brand. In this age of virality, the creative concept of the campaign itself can overshadow the message or even your entire brand. Not involving your brand will make distancing yourself from the hype machine or a bad decision more seamless. And just like the Hipsters and Bros themselves, stop being too cool for your own good.

Apr 23, 2012

RethinkPopMusic SXSW 2012 Recap Video and Photos

Huge thanks to Bob Tulipan, author of Rockin’ in the New World and Ninkasi Brewery for making SXSW 2012 our most successful to date.

Sep 14, 2011

These United States continue to believe in Rock ‘N’ Roll

While last Thursday night may have meant the bright lights and free drinks of Fashion Night Out to many spending their evening in lower Manhattan, a sparse but fortunate crowd thirsting for a grittier scene was well rewarded at the Mercury Lounge. The warm glow of the historic rock club welcomes patrons through the intimate, if narrow, wood-clad bar to a dark, bare-bones venue that lets the music color the scene. We last met up with These United States when they came to see The Yes Way in Lexington and again at SXSW, but now it was the DC and Kentucky natives turn to paint our town with tremendous conviction.

These United States have proven to be a workhorse act since emerging in 2008, having released four studio albums in that time. Front-man Jesse Elliot sets the tone with grainy, off-cadence vocals that capture the soul of the Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett and play well against the band’s twangy, garage sound in the same spirit as the Black Lips. Also deserving praise are the invaluable contributions of drummer Robby Cosenza. The band may indeed be at their best when Cosenza’s aggressive thumping drives their sound, as could be heard on the opening break-up anthem “I Want You to Keep Everything.” Cosenza even lent his talents to the harmonica for the southern-fuzed working man’s blues “The Business” — another highlight of the evening.

Though no new musical barriers will collapse, nor shall any daring creative endeavors be tested at the hands of These United States, they deliver fun, authentic, Rock ‘N’ Roll and appear to have a good time doing so… visible as Elliot cut loose and embraced the lawlessness of “Honor Amongst Thieves.” While the show did lull a bit during its third quarter, one had little time to mingle at the bar or head outside for a smoke before the band exploded into a tremendous two song finale that included a rocked-out “The Important Thing” and funk-fueled “When You’re Traveling at the Speed of Light.”

The impressive energy continued into an inspired encore performance of debut-album favorite “First Sight.” This final song of the night seemed to embody the simple philosophy of the band itself, as the audience was left with the words “we believe in Rock N Roll” echoing in their heads. My belief was affirmed as These United States offered some very compelling evidence.

Aug 17, 2011

Courtesy Tier… refusing to believe the hype

Last night I had the privilege to see Courtesy Tier at Cameo Gallery with Hollis Brown and Governor. I have actually spent extended periods of time on the road with all three of these bands and while I consider them all “friends” I consider myself a fan with random bits of nonsensical self-indulgent critique like a confusing authority figure with the offensive kind of tourette’s. I guess you can think of a Middle School janitor, you don’t necessarily HAVE to listen to him, but you can’t tell him to fuck off without some sort of repercussion either.

Hollis Brown just finished recording their new album that beams with brilliance and honesty that could find itself in the homes/cars/radios of everyone with a soft spot for the lost art of southern blues… or be another gem lost in the oversaturated Brooklyn music monopoly dominated by electro-pop and trust funds. Nevertheless, someone somewhere WILL care and that’s why they will forever trudge along with shit eating grins as if they know the joke is inevitably on YOU. Once ALBERT sends me some initial mixes I will have MUCH more to say…

Governor would be Cameo’s very own “house band” if they were to still exist from the Bowery era fallout. A throw-back or quantum leap to legitimate guitar dominated rock AND roll, they will forever be swimming against the current, current. A shirtless frontman whose only instrument is the microphone, one guitar and rock star swagger sans cheesy hair and makeup (I HATE those bands) they smartly refrain from power chord addiction and over indulgent solos. Governor have suddenly found a confidence, possibly via their new beast of a drummer, but most likely through a finalized lineup, growing fan base and residency supported by some of the most talented bands in recent years. I seriously look forward to seeing them develop further.

Nevertheless the apple of mines eye is Courtesy Tier. A small in stature duo that create a sound so massive and intense its hard to imagine their isn’t a bassist AND guitarist hiding somewhere in the venue. I have often described Omer’s ability to play the guitar like a madman foaming at the mouth: “You gotta see this guy! It’s like the nerves in his hand are separated right down the middle and information is feeding to them from two different parts of his brain!” Whether or not that’s true, I do watch him play and think of a freak show Lobster Boy or the Penguin. He plays the guitar as if it were a grand piano… a choppy lead fingered progression on the high and a rhythmic bass strum on the low, simultaneous yet individual.

It was mind blowing the first time I saw them at Spike Hill, by chance and through actual tragedy, they had replaced a very ill fated and talented band on a lineup a band I represent was also on. And like any tall tale it all begins with speculation and a feeling that the universe works in its own cynical deviant way. I immediately booked them for one of my shows and without really knowing each other we decided to team up on a tour down to Austin for SXSW. Quickly, the awkwardness of professionalism was replaced by the bro-code of the road and their enthusiasm for all aspects of being an independent musician shined.

For those not in the know, Courtesy Tier have received some of the grandest accolades Brooklyn bands so desperately strive for, that they hire every recent Wesleyan graduate with a “business” to obtain. Yet, Courtesy Tier are navigating the unforgiving music industry like Lewis and Clarke… no manager, publicist or handlers of any kind, just the occasional guide that most likely leads them down the wrong path in the end. They have been pursued by numerous “industry experts” but see past the bullshit of the talking heads and connivers. Rather, they trek endlessly but not aimlessly, just with a subtle wisdom and confidence that success takes time if it ever comes to fruition. Their is no hesitation to play the same songs night after night for two years, because they KNOW that it is the fan and not their own egos that dictate the set list.

I have learned quite a bit from Layton and Omer over the past year. They have set the standard for any band I will ever work with and have recently advised me “not to believe the hype.” Sound advise from a band who just so happens to live every moment according to just that.

Jun 3, 2011

Introducing: Lucius

This may be one of the best “discovery” stories I can personally attest to. This year at SXSW The Yes Way and I were grabbing some breakfast burritos from a truck on the other side of the tracks away from 6th Street. As we were eating there were these two beautiful voices coming from the empty lot behind the truck. Obviously I got up and was pleasantly surprised to see a little crowd gathered around a keg of beer bobbing their heads as Lucius stood atop what seemed like a milk crate stage.

Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig are dual threat singer songwriters at the vocal helm of Lucius. Describing their voices is as delicate of a task as the songs themselves. Unlike other much more famous bands that utilize the multiple female vocals, Wolfe and Leassig never seem to be trying to one up each other. There are limited “ooohs and aahs” and zero squawking animal noises. Their voices actually seem to intertwine into one soft sonic element that if it wasn’t layered between the two of them it might not even be audible. Even more admirable is the songwriting and arrangements themselves. Very simple instrumentation allows the lyrics to cut you down to size especially with “Comatose” as they describe “a girl looking down the wrong end of the telescope… she’s gone comatose waiting for this thing to grow*.”

**Lyrics are solely the assumption of the author who asked for yet to be released tracks from the band because he’s selfish **

And with another yet to be released “Dolly” where they claim “I’m your Dolly, stuffed with extra baggage, lay me down to shut my eyes” before belting out “I DONT NEED YOU ANYWAY, GO HOME.” It can only be explained as a beautiful rage as the acoustic guitar, sparse percussion and occasional accapella bursts tear at the heartstrings.

I feel bad for writing about songs that you can’t quite hear yet, unless the band lets me post something… Lucius? Fortunately RethinkPopMusic has booked them for our FREE Northside Festival showcase 06/16 at Spike Hill and you can hear them in person for yourself.

And in the meantime enjoy their video for Shenandoah from their debut album Songs From The Bromley House.

Lucius Shenandoah from Jessica wolfe on Vimeo.


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