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Next up at SXSW

Serious engagement at a music festival used to mean throwing dirt and starting bonfires. Fortunately, the times appear to have changed. Interested fans can be sucked in by demos and discussions in the down time between sets, just as easily as they can be caught in the ebb and flow of swaying bodies up at the stage. Iconic brands like Fender support this new seriousness at events, extending a conversation that runs 24/7 digitally and activating it on-site for attendees.

Marketers and music listeners alike understand that SXSW is about more than music, but so is the music. Next week, Fender will leverage “the world’s largest gathering of creative professionals” (in tech and the movie industries, too) to raise the roof for the next generation of the Fender family, launching a new artist development program, Fender Next, at an exclusive location, for two days, branded as The Fender Next House. On March 14 and 15,  this pop-up will be a hub for daytime events, as well as nighttime performances. “Conversations” at the festival include “Guitars and More: Creating New Sounds with Tech.” Sponsored artists who will perform at the site include Vacationer, Melanie Faye, Cuco and Japanese Breakfast, among others.

Matt Watts, Fender’s VP of Artist and Integrated Marketing, told DMN that in May the brand will host a similar schedule at the Great Escape new music festival, in Brighton, U.K. She Shreds Magazine will also be “a key partner to the Fender brand, as they represent the future of guitar,” Watts stated. Fender research discovered that 50 percent of new guitar buyers are female.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of all players quit the first year after purchasing a guitar. To help retain these customers, Fender implemented Fender Play, a learning app that will gain much exposure alongside the Fender Next artists.

Watts, before joining the marketing team, was a Fender-sponsored artist. The curated panels will feature Fender Next artists and introduce new products with “thought leadership discussions about what artists use and can put in their toolboxes.”

He adds, “YouTube will be presenting as well, speaking to how artists engage in their channels.”

The artist-sponsor relationship in the Fender Next program is very tight and synergistic. Sure, there are plenty of big stars that the brand benefits from being seen around. Developing relationships earlier in the career places the brand in an exciting narrative along the artist’s journey. The fifty artists in this first year of the program are representative of the new global stage, a melange of all genres, on which guitars are played. Fender Next comprises 50 artists: 28 from North America; 22 international acts.

With a roster of some 2,000 artists overall, Watts says they are “integrated into our brand’s storytelling.” He explained, “A lot of times, our endorsement is ‘day one’ for them, and allows a really great opportunity for them to leverage our platform and for us to give the artists a voice. For many musicians, Fender is the brand of choice, which makes this a natural relationship to be able to collaborate with them to tell their stories…something that we’re very proud to be involved in.”

Said CMO Evan Jones, “What we’re learning from artists directly is that there is no finish line here. This program, for some, helps them break their careers, for some it will help accelerate it. And some, this will help further fuel careers they’ve already started. More importantly, really, Fender Next showcases the artists playing guitar in ways that are as diverse as the people who use them.”

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