Last winter, Vans Warped tour founder Kevin Lyman attended the Consumer Electronics Show to learn more about setting up backstage wireless Internet connections.
The connections he made, however, were of a different type. Technology companies, eager to tap into the Warped tour’s young, tech-savvy fan base, have jumped on board as tour partners or sponsors. The 10th annual roadshow kicked off June 25 in Houston with a lineup including such bands as Bad Religion, Good Charlotte, NOFX, Thursday, New Found Glory, Simple Plan, The Vandals and Taking Back Sunday.
The tour’s extensive sponsor list includes Memorex, Samsung, Cingular Wireless, Apple Computer, MusicNow, Altnet, TV Desktop, Wraptor, Fuse, AOL and Sony PlayStation2.
“The intent of our partnerships is primarily for education, not commerce,” Lyman says. “It’s going to open a lot of windows for next year.”
The current tour includes a digital media pavilion, where attendees can learn about formats and applications. Lyman says that after a rough introductory week, the pavilion is “functioning well and under control.”
Lyman is particularly enthusiastic about the tour’s Mobile Warped program with title sponsors Cingular and Samsung. Tour-goers can receive text-message alerts detailing the performance schedule, which is finalized the morning of each show.
Samsung also sponsored exclusive ringtone and wallpaper downloads for artists on the tour.
Digital service provider MusicNow created a tour-specific online music store and subscription service, Vans Warped Tour Digital Music Club. The store offers exclusive live tracks from the tour, as well as tracks from bands on past Warped outings.
Greg Rudin, VP of marketing for MusicNow, says the company is creating “the biggest collection of downloadable punk rock in one place, paying the artists for the sale of their work and allowing the bands on the tour to actually create playlists in the store.”
MusicNow also sells $10 Warped download cards at tour venues. They allow the tour’s younger attendees, who often do not have access to credit cards, to download from the Warped online store.
Inside the digital music pavilion, Memorex installed PCs and CD burners that allow tour-goers to sample, mix and burn music from MusicNow’s store. Memorex is also distributing 30,000 blank CDs throughout the tour.
Deborah Hernandez, marketing communications manager for Memorex, says the company sees the Warped tour as a way to reconnect with the 18-34 market by giving them an “immediate experience with the music they’re passionate about.”
Digital download market leader Apple has its own iLife tent on the tour. The tent features iMacs and PowerMac G5s that allow fans to experiment with music and video creation.
Lyman also embraced relationships with companies that promote legal peer-to-peer downloading of music.
Digital content distributor Altnet has provided an infrastructure to sell live performance videos from the tour. Fans can access the videos on the Warped tour Web site or through P2P network Kazaa.
“The independent artists are looking for any way to promote themselves. A lot (of them) aren’t opposed to a certain amount of downloading,” Lyman says. “A lot of our kids have a greater loyalty to the Warped artists, and these P2P relationships allow fans to support the artists and buy their music through legal ways.”
PRODUCT LAUNCH PAD
Lee Jaffe, president of Altnet, worked out licensing parameters with more than a dozen independent labels with acts on the tour – including Epitaph, Vagrant and Artemis. Altnet allows users three free video downloads before it starts charging.
“We’re experimenting, and selling video is the new thing,” Jaffe says. “Every time we reach out to independent record labels to distribute their work, they say, ‘Yes, this is what we want, we want the ability to market to (our) audience.’ It’s important to connect them directly to their fan base.”
Another partner, TV Desktop, is using the Warped tour for its product launch. The software application delivers daily streamed video from the tour, including news updates from the “Pit Reporter,” performance videos and selections from Fuse.
Fuse is covering the tour and broadcasts a weekly segment, “Warped Wednesdays,” which is also available to members of AOL’s teen-targeted service, AOL Red.
Wraptor, the tour’s newest partner, is distributing demo versions of its software, WraptorLab, which allows artists to promote, distribute and sell their music online.
“This is a way of leveling the playing field for indie artists trying to get into digital distribution,” says Benjamin Osgood, president/CEO of Wraptor parent Free Radical Networks. “They can proactively promote themselves rather than wait for an iTunes to get behind them.”