Chipotle Gets Its Global Groove On

Quirky burrito joint latches onto world music

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% Chipotle this past weekend hosted its first Global Groove world music festival in its Denver backyard, expanding the McDonald's-backed burrito joint's commitment to noncommercial music and its image as a cultural trendsetter.

"We don't play music people want to hear, we play music that we think people should hear," said Dan Fogarty, the marketing chief who goes by the title of Keeper of the Faith. "That's an important part of our philosophy. It's all about turning them on to something new. We're selling food that makes people feel good inside and an atmosphere that makes people feel good about being there."

Known for its unusual play list that began with founder and chef Steve Ells' own personal collection, Chipotle's $125,000 presenting sponsorship was the largest-ever investment for the marketer. It was a big step from the chains' days as a supporting sponsor for the AT&T LoDo Music Festival in Denver. After about four years as a LoDo sponsor, Chipotle turned to LoDo promoter Al Kraizer, president of Performance International, to find an event to which it could put its own name.

Global Groove was an existing concept his company was developing and it offered a way to jell the chain's motto of "Food. Music. Life" in ways it had not been able to before.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 festival goers attended the two-day event held at Denver's Union Station, to see such performers as Afro-Cuban artist Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca, Zimbabwe legend Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited and American electro-acoustic string player David Lindley.

Kraizer admits the demand for world music events is relatively small, but noted it is one of the fastest-growing segments in the music industry. In addition to the Latin-music explosion, pop artists such as Peter Gabriel and Sting have been collaborating with artists that are unknown here but blockbuster stars in their home countries.

"There is a tremendous trend now against corporate radio and that which is filtered to us, and people are looking outside of it and now have the means to do it with the Internet," he said. "I've been around the events business for nearly 30 years and it's a very small number of companies who are the leaders in the business, and they become leaders by taking a stake in something early on and staying with it."

Corporations are expected to boost their spending on music and concert venues to $695 million, up 21% from the $575 million spent in 2003, according to IEG Sponsorship Report. Fast-food chains ranked ninth among category spenders, with Chipotle parent McDonald's leading the category.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Jim Andrews, a VP with IEG called Chipotle's $125,000 investment small in the festival world, but considering the fact they had created their own event, "they got their money's worth."

While Global Groove has a long way to go to reach the scope of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Chipotle already is talking about taking the event on the road. Until then, the chain keeps enhancing its musical offerings in restaurants. Music has become as synonymous with Chipotle as its massive burritos. In focus groups, some consumers told the company they only go to Chipotle when they have time to stay and soak in the new tunes.

So would Fogarty be open to pursuing in-store music sales as a potential profit center? "We sell tacos, not tunes, but we don't mind playing it," he said. "We want it to be part of our experience, not a profit center. You come to Chipotle because you like the music and you like the food."

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