Dr Pepper Builds L.A. Recording Studio, to Release EPs feat. RZA, Dave Sitek and Hood Internet (Exclusive)

Robert DeLong (left) and RZA in Dr Pepper's L.A. recording studio

Brian O'Hara

For several years now, brands like Converse, Red Bull and Sonos have established studio spaces where emerging and established artists could record and perform new music, free of the endorsement trappings one would initially associate with a branded studio. But Dr Pepper is taking the trend a step further, by establishing a new studio space in Hollywood as well as becoming the main distributor of a trio of EPs featuring original music from top-of-the-line producers and hot, rising vocalists.

The studio and EPs are part of Dr Pepper’s “One of a Kind” series, created in partnership with Complex Media Group, and kicks off May 14 with “Only One Place To Get It,” a four-track EP produced by RZA. Indie-rap duo The Hood Internet will release the second EP on June, while psych-rock producer Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio, Kelis’ “Food”) will release his July 16.

Each of the three EPs will feature original music from the respective producers with vocalists Robert DeLong, Rockie Fresh, Tinashe and RAC. Dr Pepper will distribute the EPs through media partners like Spotify, Batanga, Spin Media and Xbox. Additionally, Complex will produce video segments for each of the producers and artists, to be hosted at Complex.com/DrPepper.

Dr Pepper has been amping up its music presence this year, partnering in recent months with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Latin sensation Romeo Santos for multi-tiered endorsement deals. But One Of A Kind sees the brand taking of a hands-off approach to the creative process of music, encouraging collaborations among artists and producers in their known comfort zones. You can imagine the results of pairing a psych-rock producer like Sitek with an R&B newcomer like Tinashe, for example, or hip-hop icon RZA with EDM vocalist DeLong. 

“We actually had a chance to work with the producers to identify artist that they were genuinely excited about working with,” says Jaxie Alt, senior VP of marketing at Dr Pepper. “It was also important that we had talent who felt authentic to our brand and embodied what being 'One of a Kind' truly is. Through all of our creative, we wanted to tell the stories of unique artist and capture the collaborative process between producer and artist.”

One of a Kind also takes on new meaning in the context of how Dr Pepper is seeking to further differentiate itself from cola giants Pepsi and Coke, who have been one-upping each other with big-name endorsements, music-competition sponsorships and tour deals for years. The brand has a significantly smaller, more focused ad budget than the half-billion Pepsi and Coke spend annually on music -- Dr Pepper spent just over $104 million on measured media in 2013, according to Kantar Media. If anything, it positions Dr Pepper as more of a cultural curator on par with Red Bull, Converse or PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew, whose Green Label Sound imprint is also powered by Complex.

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Rich Antoniello, CEO of Complex Media Group, says the company has worked with Dr Pepper years before its relationship with PepsiCo, and has helped introduce the brand to artists like Big Sean and Neon Trees in custom marketing programs. And furthermore, he adds, “Pepper is actually distributed by Pepsi in many, many markets. There’s not this Coke-Pepsi rivalry because it’s not a cola, it’s not a citrus, it’s in a lane all by itself. It’s also a brand that has a rich history in college sports, and for the next couple years they want music to become what college football has been for them. It’s a major franchise.”

Complex magazine will feature custom advertorials featuring the participating One of a Kind artists in June and August, as well as help distribute content across a network of 100 sites that reached 33.6 million unique viewers in March, according to ComScore. “With this Complex partnership, we’re able to leverage their authority in the space and build off the existing relationships they have with notable talent and labels,” Dr Pepper’s Alt says.

One of a Kind’s artists’ respective labels aren’t actively involved in the EP series (Tinashe is signed to RCA, for example, while DeLong is on Glassnote and Rockie Fresh is linked with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group). But that doesn’t mean Dr Pepper wants to become a label, either, Alt says. “We simply wanted to create an environment that fostered creativity and the Dr Pepper Studio was that venue that allowed all of this to happen.”

Dr Pepper does, however, own certain rights to the EPs' 12 songs, "and could potentially use them in creative and other campaigns if it makes sense," Alt adds.