Heavy Metal Tours Re-Energized

Rockstar and Monster Energy Drinks Give Music Festivals a Needed Boost

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- When it comes to sponsorship, metal was getting a bit rusty. Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest? Reduced to a single weekend concert in Dallas, down from a national tour only a year ago. The venerable Korn Family Values Tour? Mothballed this summer.
Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival

The Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival will feature bands such as Slipknot and Disturbed.

Things were getting so bad, dispirited headbangers might have felt compelled to guzzle an extra energy drink or two.

Roaring back
Fortunately, this summer, they'll still have their choice -- both of energy drinks and ear-splitting tours; in fact, several energy drinks are sponsoring ear-splitting tours.

"Ultimately, there's never been a real metal community," said John Reese, who this summer is partnering with Van's Warped Tour creator Kevin Lyman to create the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, featuring bands such as Slipknot and Disturbed.

"We've lowered prices. We've tried to create a community aspect," Mr. Reese said. "These corporate sponsorships -- they're the only way to run a metal tour. You can't make any money charging a lower price without some sort of subsidy." Mr. Reese said metal tours had always charged more than other tours for tickets and merchandise such as T-shirts.

Also kicking off in July is the U.S. leg of Projekt Revolution, the Live Nation-produced tour of hard-edged bands such as Linkin Park and rappers such as Busta Rhymes; it has long been co-sponsored by rival Monster Energy.

Craving energy
As Russell Wallach, Live Nation's president-national alliances, explained, "Concertgoers have a higher propensity for energy drinks. In fact, they're 19% more likely to buy energy drinks than the general population."

Said Sam Pontrelli, VP-marketing at Hansen's Monster Energy, "It's not rocket science. You go for what the young male is interested in. We go out to where they're having fun."

That also means following them online: With the purchase of a four-pack of Monster, metalheads can download 25 songs associated with acts from the tour. (Monster remains a co-sponsor of the Vans Warped Tour as well as the now much leaner Ozzfest.)

Mr. Pontrelli said Messrs. Lyman and Reese had first approached Monster about the Mayhem Festival, but decided to pass so Monster could focus some of its budget on sponsorship deals with extreme-sports stars such as Ricky Carmichael and Dave Mirra.

"Sports. Music. Girls. It's pretty primal. But we're a growing brand," Mr. Pontrelli said. "You have to live within your means."

Undeterred, Messrs. Reese and Lyman recently struck up a nationwide promotion deal with the AM PM convenience-store chain that puts Rockstar Mayhem Festival signage in some 3,500 stores, a first for the chain.

Frank Guernsey, VP-marketing at Rockstar, said that to grow its share (the brand trails Red Bull and Monster), more-aggressive tactics are needed.

'Not an afterthought'
"I prefer this model to Ozzfest," he said. "If we're going to invest in this kind of tour, we need it to be name and title. We're not an afterthought, or a little logo at the bottom." He added, "Ozzfest is always Ozzfest; Warped will always be the Vans Warped Tour."

To connect more deeply with its customers, Rockstar isn't focusing on just music, but on creating another hybrid tour with Mr. Reese that will pair music with an interest that transcends musical genres: tattoos.

In February, Mr. Reese presented Muze-Ink in Orange County, Calif., a concert of punk and metal hosted by Kat Von D, the star of the TLC show "L.A. Ink" that also featured tattoo art, artists and inked performers.

The "tattoo lifestyle transcends metal, punk and emo rock, and it's a central part of the music lifestyle," Mr. Reese said. "The reason I'm so interested in this tattoo thing, it skews all demographics. From the standpoint of Rockstar working with Muze-Ink, every company that's going to spend a significant amount of money wants to broaden their appeal."

Mr. Guernsey confirmed that negotiations are proceeding apace for Rockstar to take Mr. Reese's Ms. Von D and the Muze-Ink tour national later this year or early next.

"Conceptually, if you're into those things -- hard rock, tattoos -- you're in our demographic," Mr. Guernsey explained. "That tattoo culture is not taboo to us. You look at our athlete roster, everybody's heavily inked: Half our BMX athletes are 'sleeved up.' Most of them don't fit into the clean-cut model."

More deals predicted
Mr. Reese, meanwhile, sees the burgeoning relationships between bands and brands getting only cozier, thanks to psychographic research.

"The record labels are already in enough trouble, but personally, I am waiting for the band that releases its album through a [consumer products] company in the next two years," he said. "That's coming. No doubt."
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