As the festival season has kicked in, every brand wants to soak up a fair share of visibility. Music is the strongest form of magic and when it comes to music festivals, the creativity that liquor brand activations have displayed over time, is hard to match. Following in the footsteps of other major alcohol brands, Bira 91 is taking the plunge by associating with Magnetic Fields Festival in their fifth edition (From 15-17 December 2017). Music Plus caught up with Rohit Pillai, Head of Event and Partnership at Bira 91 in a ‘free-flowing’ chat to know more about the brands approach towards the music industry, what it would take for music creators to associate themselves with the brand and more.
Explain Bira 91’s approach towards the music industry.
As far as the music industry is concerned, we are in it for the long haul. We see music, specifically Hip-Hop, as a core pillar our consumer messaging will be pegged to. We’re achieving this through consumer-focused on-ground experiences and organically integrating the brand into the consumer’s digital lifestyle.
On-ground, we have entered a strategic partnership with Magnetic Fields, christening the South Stage as the Bira 91 south Stage. Magnetic Fields has built a reputation for strong programming and a fully immersive consumer experience, this is essentially what we look for. We are also introducing a first of its kind Free Flow Beer Garden with hip-hop programming.
Online, we have partnered with Saavn, to launch the Bira 91 Hip-Hop Channel. The channel hosts a number of playlists curated by the Bira 91 editorial team, Saavn and some of the artists we are doing gigs and tours with. Again, we believe Saavn is the right partner to build a Hip-Hip culture. In both the cases, we are considering to partner with entities that have built a strong reputation with the consumers already.
Tell us more about your association with Magnetic Fields.
We were well aware that one of the stages was the RBMA Stage, leaving the South Stage open for rechristening, and we did it as the Bira 91 South Stage.
That’s the extent of our association there, and then we have our stage with all the artists performing at night. The big news is we have also entered a contract, where Bira 91 will be continuing the bond with Magnetic Fields for the next three years. We are also introducing, for the first time in the festival’s history, a beer garden and BBQ grill. This is next to the pool, and some of our favourite DJs will be playing hip-hop sets for festival attendees to chill throughout the day.
According to you, what are the parameters that are looked into before you put money in the music business?
Some of the parameters we focus on are the brand synergy, scale and consumer experience. Magnetic Fields as a festival has a massive online reach. Similarly, Saavn has a wide digital reach across states and cities, not just metropolitans. Another factor is, our partnerships are long-term, we partnered with festivals or music streaming apps keeping in mind what our long-term objectives are. For us, it is extremely crucial to grow the community of creators, designers, musicians and grow with them. Knowing all these lead us to the partner with the brands. Grow, but grow in the right manner, without diluting your brand.
Why is Bira 91 solely approaching towards Hip-Hop and what is your approach towards artist endorsements?
Hip-Hop is more than just about a genre, it’s a lifestyle. Irreverent, bold and embracing, Hip-hop has been the expressive voice for urban youth, from New York to New Delhi, and this is what we stand for.
Beyond tours and festivals, we are entering endorsement agreements with Hip-Hop artists from all over India. Our first endorsement deal is with Delhi based MC, Prabhdeep. We have entered a one-year deal wherein we will provide the platform for Prabhdeep to do live gigs and perform at festivals. We will also allocate funds for Prabhdeep to create singles and videos for us. As for us, it is not about just putting money, for us, it is about facilitating comprehensive growth in a wise way. Bira 91 is also investing in different formats of content, not only are we curating playlists, live gigs or festivals, but we are also creating content in video formats, in future, we will step into podcasts, and provide resources for artists to create their original content. The aim is to facilitate local artists by allocating funds and resources that enable them to reach their creative potential with the freedom and operational support one needs.
Does Bira 91 want to partner with artists who have numbers backing them or do independent artists without the support of heavy numbers (albeit talented) have a chance of being endorsed by Bira 91?
We try to achieve a fine balance between analysing streaming data, brand synergy and gut feel to identify artists we want to work with. We want to provide a platform for young artists to be heard and to achieve that not only do we need to back them with funds and resources, but also get them to share the stage with more established local and international artists. Hip-Hop has always been a mass music genre, and like Bira 91, Hip-Hop too, is inclusive by nature and we want more people to come to gigs and stream music. Based on this, if I was to give you an answer – yes, young, talented, artists definitely have a good shot. Feel free to reach out to us and share your music, and we promise we’ll give it a listen.
What is in store for Bira 91 apart from its association with Magnetic Fields?
Bira 91 will continue to be present at relevant festivals, albeit not in the same capacity as Magnetic Fields. We will continue doing Bira 91 FreeFlow tours at bars across Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, perhaps adding other cities to the mix later in 2018. Our next international tour is in Feb-March 2018. We will also host smaller community events across alternate spaces likes studios, co-working spaces, sneaker stores and more spaces where our consumers hang out.
Over the next 12 months, we will close endorsement deals with local MCs and DJs to host gigs and release original content. The larger goal is to build an artist-friendly environment and support Hip-Hop.