Amid the growing array of brands now eager to prove their value in consumers’ lives by positioning themselves as "enablers," Red Bull, with its advertising promise that it "gives you wings" and its credibility as a content creator, is better placed than most. Which helps explain its latest venture: a music tech startup accelerator.
Clearly positioned as an alternative to classic accelerators such as Seedcamp or Y Combinator, the Red Bull Amplifier accelerator, developed with London-based design and innovation agency Sidekick Studios, has been launched to help bring to market innovative ideas that enhance the music experience for fans, artists, or both.
Unlike other accelerators, however, Red Bull won’t invest money or take an equity stake but offer startups access to its global audience.
"From a corporate strategy point of view, it’s all about giving wings to people and ideas—though it might sound a little cheesy, the phrase is an attitude that underpins what we do," says Davide Bortot, one of the four-strong panel of music industry experts who will select which ideas Red Bull will support.
A former editor of German hip-hop magazine Juice, Bortot now runs Red Bull Music Academy—a traveling series of workshops and festivals dedicated to all things music-related launched by Red Bull back in 1998.
Red Bull has since established a strong presence in the music industry with the subsequent launch of Red Bull Music Publishing, Red Bull Records, and Red Bull Academy Music Radio. Each, along with Red Bull Amplifier, now sit within Red Bull Media House—the multiplatform media company focused around sports, culture, and lifestyle set up by Red Bull in 2007 to capitalize on blurring the line that once distinguished content from brand.
"Back in the nineties when we launched Red Bull Music Academy, it was all about providing a platform for people in music to bring them together and share ideas—something that didn’t already exist," Bortot explains.
Now, Red Bull Amplifier demonstrates a similar approach.
"We asked ourselves, Should we go into the VC world and invest? But we felt the one thing we as a brand can bring to the table, thanks to our history, our heritage, and the network of audiences and interest we’ve created over time that’s truly different, is reach," he adds.
Red Bull claims to have in excess of 38 million followers across social channels—37 million on Facebook; 1 million on Twitter—and on top of that, additional audiences built through the hundreds of music-related festivals and events it’s run over the past 15 years.
Its plan is to connect creative, innovative and ambitious music-tech startups with subsections of this global audience pool to help maximize startups’ chances of successfully bringing their ideas to market.
"It’s filling a clear gap that exists," Bortot continues. "For after money, the next big thing any startup wants and needs is networks."
Red Bull Amplifier involves a panel of industry experts—Bortot, Mercury-nominated Ghostpoet, Ciara Byrne of technology news site Venturebeat, and David Hayes of social music player-online music community SoundCloud—will select up to 10 ideas submitted by creative and cutting-edge startups by the entry deadline on April 22.
Those successful will be informed by May 27.
"This isn’t just about looking for the next really disruptive idea that totally reinvents what’s gone before. Just as valid is finding new ways of using what’s already out there—as SoundCloud itself has done—to make the music experience for real people better," Bortot says.
With just under two weeks still to go, ideas so far submitted have ranged from music creation to discovery, collaboration, and social tools to fan engagement and crowd-source applications.
He adds: "The interest we have so far had has far exceeded our expectations."
[Speaker Image: Flickr user Josef Stuefer]