Newest record label: Toyota's Scion

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Toyota Motor Sales USA's Scion, which built its reputation as a brand for young influencers and the hip-hop underground culture, is driving into the music business. But big record labels need not fret.

While the Toyota Division sub-brand is promoting unsigned bands by paying recording and production costs of vinyl records and distributing them free to college disc jockeys, clubs and radio stations across the county under the name Scion A/V, the automaker won't own the master recording, which will remain in the hands of the band. "We're not making a profit from this," said Jeri Yoshizu, sales promotion manager for Scion. The goal is "to extend the brand and create a new marketing initiative" she said. "We are marketing Scion as a lifestyle brand."

The music connection is a logical one for the Scion, which sold 100,000 cars last year. Its target is college educated and predominantly male 20- and 30-somethings.

Scion already has two bands lined up and will study their success before deciding on whether to expand the program.

Ms. Yoshizu herself started talks with both bands, since creating music marketing programs is part of her job. Scion has already produced and given away 10 CDs of compilations with young amateur musicians as part of its marketing. The bands that Scion has recorded on vinyl can create their own CDs for sale.


The Southern-California native heard the first group, the 60-piece hip-hop orchestra Dakar of Los Angeles, play in the area. Scion has already used several of the group's singles on the brand's CDs, given away at its numerous events around the country. Scion's second vinyl record from Brooklyn, New York, duo Junk Science arrives in April. Scion discovered the duo when it won the youth brand's Nextup online rap competition. The pair won a video produced by Scion. The automaker will also help distribute Junk Science's music video.

Scion has long been on the razor's edge of untraditional marketing, to a degree rewriting the rules of auto marketing to youth. When asked the about the recording program, Tom Healey, the director of consultant's J.D. Power & Associates' advertising practice, said "I don't think at this stage of the game it's wise to second guess Toyota."

Scion, trying to preserve the hip-hop, underground community, has elevated talented amateur musicians, artists and fashion designers into more commercial exploits via its marketing programs. When asked how Scion will adapt when today's underground becomes tomorrow's mainstream, Ms. Yoshizu admitted her Scion team has "heavy discussions" about the topic. "We will be evolving to the next thing in a couple of years."

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