Just seven months after LCD Soundsystem played its farewell shows at Madison Square Garden, founding members James Murphy and Pat Mahoney went behind the decks in Greenpoint Tuesday night. It was a rare New York DJ set from Murphy, who's been spinning across Europe in recent months and is heading back later this week for his label DFA's 10th anniversary parties in Lisbon and Barcelona. But the promoter wasn't The Bowery Presents, Live Nation or even Madison Square Garden - Murphy's appearance was brought to you by… Toyota?
The gig in question was Toyota Antics, a mini-music festival held at Brooklyn's House of Vans (itself a branded venue opened by the shoe brand in fall 2010). Since 2007, Toyota has been working with ad agency Saatchi LA and Filter magazine to create a series of music events primarily in L.A. and New York that could double as showcases for its vehicles geared toward the 20-something tastemaker set. This year, Toyota Antics expanded that program to six events in six different cities, ranging from a Nashville block party with The Delta Spirit, The Rosebuds and Surfer Blood to a Saddle Creek-curated concert in Omaha with Built To Spill, The Rural Alberta Advantage and The Mynabirds.
Originally conceived as a marketing stunt for the Toyota Matrix held at various music festivals, Antics has since evolved into a more independently owned and branded event for Toyota to own, not unlike Samsung's Summer Krush Tour or the Honda Civic Tour. But that's not to say the car company isn't missing opportunities to showcase its cars. While Murphy spun disco obscurities like D.D. Sound's "Burning Love" and a dancefied take on Kate Bush's "Watching You Without Me," attendees could play games that required them to sit inside three different Toyota vehicles (the Matrix, Yaris and Corolla) in order to win special prizes. The RSVP also gave attendees the option of being contacted by a local dealer, a point that Brooklyn Vegan delighted in pointing out.
Alan Sartirana, co-owner of Filter Creative Group and co-publisher of Filter Magazine, welcomes such commentary - if only because it shows music blogs are paying attention to the brand of Toyota Antics as its own festival. To date, Toyota Antics has generated a database of over 50,000 consumers for Toyota newsletters and digital initiatives, he says. "We want to make Toyota vested in this long-term," he told Backbeat. "There is brand equity in supporting good music. And this is literally the vehicle through which music fans can get to these unique experiences."
Plus, there probably aren't too many dealers who offer a free fortune reading in the backseat of a car like the ones offered at the Brooklyn Antics event. "We don't want it to feel like a showroom - we want people to get into the vehicles," said Jennifer Jay, associate director of Saatchi LA's brand integration group. "It's not about awareness, it's more about purchase consideration."
And Toyota could use a little purchase consideration, having recently reported a 6.8% decrease in sales on a volume basis during October 2011 compared to October 2010 (despite Toyota group vice president Bob Carter's promises to deliver year-over-year increases.) The slump was driven primarily by the Corollla which was down 9.5% vs. the year prior. But much like its sister brand Scion, which has sustained a long-term strategy in support of indie music despite years of double-digit sales declines, Toyota has continued to support the arts and particularly its Antics-branded events in hopes of luring prospective drivers somewhere down the road.
"This is a very tough audience to win over," Filter's Sartirana said. "We're trying to present the brand in a different light so it doesn't feel like they're being marketed to."
Up next: Miami, where Toyota Antics will be making a stop during the Art Basel festival. Last year's show featured performances from Flosstradamus, Twin Shadow and Phantogram.