"I spend half of my time on the road in hotel rooms -- The Patch in Austin was a good break from that," says singer-songwriter Zella Day. "It was quiet, with all of the ‘at home’ luxuries one could possibly need."
For up-and-comers like Day who are used to sleeping in cheap motels or tour vans or flopping on fans’ sofas, the Patch houses, opened in Austin and Brooklyn by candy brand Sour Patch Kids, offer a comfortable, spacious -- and free -- alternative.
"Life on the road is hard for musicians, so why don’t we start by giving them a place to stay?" Sour Patch Kids marketing director Farrah Bezner says of the brand’s decision to establish the homes (the first opened in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood in September 2014). The houses were designed with musicians in mind, whether they’re looking to write and record a new album, stage press showcases or just crash after a gig. In addition to laundry facilities, full kitchens and backyards, the residences include plug-and-play recording studios and installations by local visual artists.
Musicians submit requests to crash at the house through the Nue Agency; if they are deemed promising, they are invited to stay (typically for between two to five nights). More than 100 up-and-coming acts have stayed at the houses, including Halsey, whose debut studio album Badlands arrives Aug. 28, and rock band Priory. "There are no requirements to stay here," says Bezner, although artists have shown their gratitude by participating in The Patch Sessions, taping video interviews and musical performances that are shared on The Patch’s Tumblr. Halsey’s Tumblr interview, in which she talked about the difficulties of life on the road, generated more than 52,000 views.
Billboard also has partnered with The Patch to showcase Day and Australian singer-songwriter Conrad Sewell with paid performances at the Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival, which takes place Aug. 22 and 23 at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, N.Y.
Like companies such as Converse, with its international chain of Rubber Tracks rehearsal and recording studios, and Red Bull, which has become a driving force in electronic music through its Music Academy, Bezner says that instead of "talking at" coveted teen and millennial audiences, Sour Patch prefers to influence by aligning with "influencers" -- market speak for rising artists. It’s a strategy that has worked for hipsters for decades: finding a way to say, "We knew them before they were cool."
This article first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of Billboard.