Since 2008, Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound has given fans the opportunity to download free tracks from up-and-coming artists.
But now the PepsiCo soda brand is preparing to launch an iTunes storefront that will allow listeners to purchase music from certain Green Label Sound artists -- and Mountain Dew is waiving the usual label share of the revenue, leaving all income, minus iTunes processing fees, to the artists.
The first act to be part of the initiative is Chicago hip-hop group the Cool Kids, one of the first talents featured on Green Label Sound, which will release the group's new full-length, "When Fish Ride Bicycles," in the spring. (A release date hasn't yet been set). It will be the act's first album since its 2008 debut, "The Bake Sale" (Chocolate Industries), which reached No. 8 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart and has sold 61,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. New track "Bundle Up" will be released as a Green Label Sound single for free download on Feb. 23.
"Labels suck," the Cool Kids' Chuck Inglish says with a laugh. "What can they do that Pepsi can't do? We had a good experience with Green Label Sound -- we got more from that single than we got from our previous album. I was tired of the album sitting around and just wanted to get it out."
Regarding the generous iTunes deal, Inglish says, "We totally got the best deal in the world -- by accident."
Cornerstone, the agency that runs Green Label Sound for PepsiCo, will work with Mountain Dew to "create assets and do PR and paid media around the album," Cornerstone executive VP of creative and strategy Jeff Tammes says.
The Cool Kids will also get additional publicity at South by Southwest, playing a showcase March 18 at La Zona Rosa with MNDR and Chromeo, which have also released singles through Green Label Sound.
While Green Label Sound has always strived to direct fans to new music, "it's been hard to direct people to do that and pay for it," Mountain Dew director of marketing Brett O'Brien says. "But now with this partnership we have the perfect opportunity to do that."
O'Brien says the Cool Kids are natural partners. "They've been part of Green Label Sound for a long time," he says. "We've maintained a relationship with them and they came to us with what was then an EP and no label. We loved the tracks and decided to help them master what they had done and brought in production. They also did several more tracks so we'll be releasing the album as a full-length record."
While other brands, including Nike, have dedicated iTunes storefronts, O'Brien says Green Label Sound didn't model its plans on what other brands have done. He says Mountain Dew is still figuring out how to direct traffic to the iTunes storefront and where it will post links. For example, a user might download a free track at the Green Label Sound site and then be directed to a link to the iTunes store to purchase the entire album.
"We are still working out exactly what it will all look like," O'Brien says. "We do know Green Label Sound will be the label name."