W Hotels Global Music Director Michaelangelo L'Acqua.
At first, the match doesn't seem entirely natural: W Hotels, the international hotelier that hangs its hat on its art and culture positioning; and burn energy drink, distributed by Coca-Cola and available nearly everywhere but the U.S. (reportedly thanks to a little juggernaut known as Red Bull). Luxury hotels, all-nighters in a bottle: Add DJs and electronic music culture as an intersection point, and suddenly it all makes sense.
The brands used March 22, the Thursday of Miami Music Week (MMW) - possibly the biggest convergence of EDM talent, media and fans in the world - to announce the second year of the W Hotels and burn studios DJ Lab. The program seeks out fresh new DJ and producer talent worldwide, and gives the selected artists priceless mentorships and a shot at fame.
The event - a panel discussion about the virtues of mentorship, followed by the announcement itself - was held at the W's palatial South Beach location, also a hub for other MMW events, like Belvedere vodka's sponsored lounge and performance area.
"When Coke and W made their deal overall for Starwood [W's parent company], Coke said, 'We have so many different programs and platforms, and since music is such a huge passion point for your brand, maybe we can converge and find a medium that can work perfectly for both of us,'" says Michaelangelo L'Acqua W Hotels Global Music Director. "It's worked out amazingly well."
2011 participants DJs Miaou MIx (left, center) and Angus Wong
The 2012 program will invite 8 aspiring DJ/producers from around the world (up from last year's 5) to take part in an artist's boot camp in Bali, where W recently opened a new resort (last year's location was Ibiza). For a week, they'll work closely with a group of mentors, including Rob Garza, one half of electro/world-music outfit Thievery Corporation; Paul Nolan, a master audio engineer; Jason Bentley, Music Director of Los Angeles-based KCRW and music supervisor for film and advertising; and W Hotels Global Fashion Director Jenné Lombardo, who will provide some personal styling guidance. The students will then embark on an extensive tour, playing W locations worldwide; and contribute mixes and other content to W owned media assets, like its iPhone application.
The partnership ticks a lot of boxes for both W and Coke: International? Check. Facilitating consumer creativity? Check. A self-running content engine? Check. Shared equity and cachet? Indeed.
But for L'Acqua, a musician and DJ himself, DJ Lab is more than a marketing program. "I am exceptionally proud, because when you get in the middle of two behemoth brands, a lot of times you create a contrived entity," he says. "But this really is a living, breathing program. I'm excited that I can be put into a position where I'm still watching the interests of the brand, but they're also giving me some beautiful assets to give back to the artist community."