Sports Illustrated To Highlight Indie Bands in Swimsuit Issue, Music Festival
Sports Illustrated To Highlight Indie Bands in Swimsuit Issue, Music Festival

For nearly 50 years, Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has been the ultimate showcase for the hottest models (and, technically, swimwear) in fashion. But for the first time ever, the No. 1 sports magazine's biggest annual issue will double as a showcase for hot new indie bands, too.

Debuting Feb. 14, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2012 will feature four pages of editorial and 17 model spotlight videos at showcasing 17 emerging artists across rock, indie and electronic genres. The music program will be accompanied by a two-day music festival, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Beauties & Beats, to be held at Las Vegas' Cosmopolitan Hotel and sponsored by Lexus. The event will be the first music festival hosted at the Cosmopolitan, which debuted in late 2010.

MJ Day, senior editor of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, said music has historically played a big role in the magazine's production - from soundtracking photo shoots to energizing staffers at the end of an 18-hour work day. But when discussion turned to making music a featured part of the issue itself and its auxiliary platforms, Day contacted her friend Brent Dicrescenzo, music editor of Time Out Chicago, to help the staff select which 17 bands would be featured.

"We've dabbled in music a bit in the past with previous issues," Day says, "but now with all four digital platforms we thought it would be such a great way to integrate and basically enhance the Swimsuit experience."

Ten of the 17 selected artists will participate in the Vegas festival: Delta Spirit, Elan Atias & White Elephant, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Little Hurricane, Maluca, Nick Waterhouse, Vonnegutt, Selebrities, White Denim and headliners The Black Lips. Seven other artists will be featured editorially: Bosco Delrey, DJ A-Trak, Hanni El Khatib, Kito & Reija Lee, New Look, Rhye, Toro Y Moi and The newno2. Each artist will be paired with a different model in the magazine and online, with new or previously unreleased tracks from each respective artist.

Brian Bolain, national manager of marketing communications for Lexus, said the timing of the program synced up nicely for the company. Not only is Lexus prepping the launch of the latest GS, it's also the exclusive automotive sponsor of this year's Swimsuit Issue. And with the demographics of Lexus buyers starting to shift more toward the younger Sports Illustrated circuit, sponsoring an indie-music festival in Vegas was an opportunity to get in front of a different kind of tastemaker. "We've always had an eye on who's next or what's next," Bolain said, nodding to Lexus' ongoing Hybrid Living initiative. Lexus will also sponsor a series of Swimsuit mobile apps, including Super Modeled, which allows you to insert your headshot into a photo with featured models like Tori Praver.

Kristen Reynolds, senior talent buyer for C3, worked with the teams at Sports Illustrated and Cosmopolitan to book the 10 participating acts, which will perform across three different indoor stages. She's also helped secure acts like Coldplay, Foster The People, Adele and Young The Giant to play large to medium-sized concerts over the last 12 months.

Rehan Choudhry, director of entertainment and special events for The Cosmopolitan, hopes that bringing 10 indie bands to the casino floor will be just the kind of cutting-edge stunt to get noticed in the Strip's increasingly crowded music scene. The Palms is another hotel, for example, to align itself with indie music in recent years, tapping artists like My Morning Jacket, Death Cab For Cutie, Regina Spektor and others for exclusive iTunes releases.

"The audience we brand as 'the curious class,' they're lifestyle enthusiasts, people who travel the world and seek authentic, meaningful experiences," Choudhry says. "Frankly, they're an audience that never visited Vegas beforeā€¦It's very difficult to create a meaningful experience for them, you can't fake it."