Musical Space: How One Corporation Supports Music

Mar 4, 2014

The Red Bull Music Academy is a two-week long festival of New Music that happens every Fall. There are a lot of great music festivals around the world, but this one is interesting to me because it represents how arts patronage can work in the digital age.

Red Bull, yes, the beverage company, sponsors this event as a way of “fostering creative exchange amongst those who have made and continue to make a difference in the world of sound.” It is held in a different city every year; 60 people are chosen from around the world to participate in concerts lectures, workshops, and collaborations.

The scope of this festival shows Red Bull’s commitment to the project. All of the chosen participants are completely funded; they are given free use of recording studios and performing spaces and attend lectures by the most forward thinking musicians of our time. Recent lecturers include the theorist, mega-producer and seminal experimentalist Brian Eno; The Roots’ frontman, producer, and journalist ?uestlove; and pioneering hip-hop DJ Madlib. There have also been appearances by classical innovator Steve Reich, jazz composer Clare Fischer, and South African musician Hugh Masakela.

Next year’s academy will be in Tokyo, and performances will take place in downtown clubs. But concerts are only one aspect of how the Music Academy helps musicians interface with the world. Their website has become a nexus for musical thought. The have archived lectures and concerts and an active streaming radio station. There’s also a print magazine and even a documentary movie: “What Difference Does it Make?” which premiers Feb 18.

All of this is quite audacious, yes; Red Bull is the same company that brings you the crazy human flight contest known as Flugtag, after all. But don’t you think all arts patronage should be audacious?