One of the advertising industry’s favorite buzzwords is “branded content,” the idea that marketing messages can be conveyed with special subtlety through the guise of entertainment or even journalism. But the concept often falls flat, as readers see through awkward advertorials and as the logos of eager corporate sponsors overtake pop-culture events like South by Southwest.
And then there is Red Bull Music Academy.
On its face, it should be objectionable, or at least annoying: An energy drink known for its association with extreme sports sponsors a highbrow music festival. But for 18 years, the event has built a rare kind of credibility, attracting otherwise elusive musical figures like Brian Eno, La Monte Young, Ryuichi Sakamoto and D’Angelo, and drawing critical acclaim. Its existence seems proof that branded content can actually be good.
The full academy — which includes concerts and an educational program — takes place in a different city each year, and this fall it will head to Montreal. But for a fourth straight year, a Red Bull Music Academy festival f live events will be held in New York, and the lineup for this year’s festival, from April 29 to May 22, is another impressive one.
It includes a night of avant-garde jazz featuring:
— Kamasi Washington — Pharoah Sanders and the Sun Ra Arkestra — Anohni (the vocalist formerly known as Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons) — Rare appearances by Diamanda Galás and Glenn Branca — Giants of the 1980s downtown scene — The London rapper Dizzee Rascal performing his landmark 2003 album “Boy in da Corner” — The Latin jazz artist Eddie Palmieri playing his 1971 record “Harlem River Drive.”
Other events include a conversation on music and film with Spike Lee; a celebration of freestyle, the 1980s hybrid of hip-hop and New York dance music; and a collaboration with Bell Labs in tribute to Experiments in Art and Technology, the company’s 1960s program linking technology and the arts.
A complete schedule can be found at the festival’s website, which will start selling tickets March 24. And, lest anyone forget the brand behind the content, the events are sure to include plenty of Red Bull.