Volume Control

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Verizon Wireless is tuning up for a stint at South by Southwest this month to tout its young V Cast Music service, which launched in February.

V Cast’s tie-in to the high-profile music festival follows its blitz of the Grammy Awards last month, including the first-ever live concert at Hollywood & Vine. Both events set the stage for a year of promotions centered on live music events, entertainment and exclusive content on the music download service.

Verizon Wireless will be the exclusive wireless partner for South by Southwest, the March 10-19 festival and conference in Austin, TX.

That builds on the momentum that began in January, when Verizon Wireless unveiled V Cast Music at the Consumer Electronics Show, hosting a concert at Hard Rock Café with hot bands Maroon 5 and Yellowcard. TV, print and outdoor ads broke Jan. 16, and V Cast Music launched Feb. 1.

That’s when Verizon Wireless turned up the volume for Grammy week, closing down L.A.’s iconic Hollywood & Vine intersection to host a free Fugees concert on Feb. 6.

“Grammys week is the most important week in the music industry,” says Henry Johnston, VP-group account director for Momentum Worldwide, which handles V Cast Music promotions. “We’re helping to make V Cast Music part of the culture of the music industry.”

Being part of the culture is crucial to V Cast Music’s success. Subscribers download music to their cell phones or PC, and can transfer tunes between phone and PC — which sets V Cast Music apart from other download services. Songs cost 99 cents each, or $1.99 to download immediately to both the phone and PC.

Bedminster, NJ-based Verizon Wireless will have 1 million songs available this spring via deals with major music labels including Warner Music Group, EMI Music, Universal and Sony/BMG, as well as independent labels.

Subscribers also can sign up for text-message alerts when their fave artists release a new track or album, and can preview new songs.

For the Fugees concert, Verizon Wireless and New York-based Momentum distributed 9,000 to 10,000 free tickets — 5,000 of them via street teams that roamed Los Angeles in branded vehicles including Hummers and a double-decker bus with a DJ spinning tunes on the top deck.

Other tickets went to Verizon Wireless subscribers who responded quickest to a text message inviting them to the concert. Those tickets were delivered to fans’ phones via multi-media short messaging (mms); ticket holders showed a bar code on their phone screens to get into the show. (Radio station KKBT-FM gave away the rest of the tickets.)

The Fugees concert was a coup for Verizon Wireless: It’s the first time Los Angeles authorities have let a marketer close down the famous Hollywood & Vine intersection for an event. Civic Entertainment Group, New York, handled the concert, including negotiations for the locale.

The concert was streamed live (with a 10-minute delay) on Verizon Wireless’ Web site and to V Cast subscribers’ phones. A 35-minute highlights video was posted online for V Cast subscribers to download. “It’s exclusive content; the only place people will see that concert is on V Cast Music,” Johnston says.

After the concert, Verizon Wireless and Rolling Stone hosted a post-concert party for 1,200 industry influencers and reporters at the nearby Avalon Club, with an appearance by Best Album nominee Kanye West.

V Cast returned to the Avalon Club the next day for a concert starring Yellowcard and newcomer James Blunt.

Verizon Wireless street teams stayed out through Feb. 8, Grammy night, distributing 15,000 CDs with five songs, a V Cast Music tutorial, and a link to Windows’ multimedia player. Moxie Interactive, Atlanta, created the premium.

The Fugees — musicians Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Pras Michel — agreed to record new music that will be available only on V Cast Music for a limited time, before wider distribution.

Verizon Wireless first showed off V Cast last spring on the red carpet at the Oscars, showing Best Actress winner Hillary Swank clips from her early movies on a V Cast-enabled cell phone as she entered the theater (July 2005). V Cast launched with 3D games and short-content video (think news, weather, sports and entertainment) in 2005. V Cast Music adds the soundtrack.

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