How Uber Is Giving a Lift to Indie Duo Louis York at SXSW

Courtesy Photo
Louis York

With Uber finally available to Austin-ites four years after the company's launch as a pop-up during 2011's South by Southwest, riders during SXSW Interactive might share a surprise ride with a Grammy nominee this weekend.

Songwriter/producers Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony (whose credits include hits for Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson) recently formed an alt-R&B duo called Louis York, whose debut single "Clair Huxtable" debuted last month. And this weekend in Austin, not only will drivers be giving out free download codes to check out the single, the musicians themselves will be riding around town with a handful of attendees to spread the word about their new tunes in advance of a showcase for Uber during SXSWi on Saturday.

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Having spent the past week in Austin to "rehearse and inhale the vibe and energy of the city," Kelly says Louis York's partnership with Uber is the kind of innovative strategy that he and Harmony initially envisioned for the duo's launch. "We want to partner with companies that have forward-thinking visions of how to connect with people and build awareness while changing pop culture and influencing people. And we both use Uber all the time so it's a marriage that made perfect sense." And as for riding shotgun in the Ubers themselves? "Hopefully we will get to play the passengers some of our music. We want to prep them for what's going to blow them away when they see the show."

Since last summer's Uber Live concert series with Target in Chicago, Uber has been on a tear of music partnerships as of late -- including a September team-up with guest driver deadmau5 in his hometown of Toronto, a deep integration with Spotify in November, and artists like Gavin DeGraw, Lauren Alaina and Love and Theft jumping in on its Uber Serenades program in Nashville for Valentine's Day.

The Louis York partnership signifies a next-gen approach to street-team marketing, or at the very least posits hot startups like Uber as the next place to discover and buy music as retail chains like Starbucks start to phase out physical product. Just as long as the South By crowd doesn't feel forced to check out new bands, Kelly will consider the partnership a success.

"I don't think this approach is pushy at all," he says. "People always want to be involved early when it comes to discovering something new. When they see the Uber app in Austin tomorrow and the pop-up, they will feel like they're getting involved in something special, cool and fresh. They will feel honored that they were selected rather than feeling it's something being forced on them."

Kelly also noted that Uber, Tequila Avion and other sponsors will be handing out gift bags at the group's performance on March 14.


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