Records, Cuts and Distributes Vinyl Records by Young Bands

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DETROIT -- Toyota Motor Sales USA's Scion is stepping up its efforts in the music business, launching its own pseudo-record-label to help promote new artists.
Music has played a large part in Scion's marketing; the brand primarily targets 18- to 24-year-olds who grew up on the Internet.

Scion A/V, the Toyota sub-brand that targets the youth market, has begun to pay for the recording and production costs to put out vinyl records featuring unsigned bands.

The automaker will then distribute the records, for free, to college disc jockeys, clubs and radio stations across the country. It's up to the bands to create their own CDs for sale.

Big record labels don't need to worry just yet.

Master recordings

The automaker won't own the master recordings, which will remain in the hands of the band, said Jeri Yoshizu, sales promotion manager of Scion. "We’re not making a profit from this," she said. "We are enabling unsigned artists to get their feet up." She added the program is not for consumers, but to promote underground artists.

Scion declined to reveal spending around the effort.

But Scion already has two bands lined up and will study their success before deciding whether to expand the program. The marketer produced 1,000 copies of the 12-inch vinyl records for each band.

Ms. Yoshizu started talks with both bands, since creating music marketing programs is part of her job at the automaker.

60-piece hip-hop orchestra

The Southern California native heard the first group, a 60-piece hip-hop orchestra called Dakar, when it played in the area. Scion has already used several of the Los Angeles group's singles on Scion's CD compilations, which are given away at numerous events around the country.

Scion's second vinyl record coming out in April is from a Brooklyn, N.Y., duo, Junk Science. Scion discovered the Junk Science after it won the Scion:
Music has played a large part in Scion's marketing; the brand primarily targets 18- to 24-year-olds who grew up on the Internet.

NextUp rap competition and a $50,000 marketing deal, which included a music video produced by Scion and the opportunity to perform the winning song at Scion-sponsored events. The automaker made Junk Science's vinyl records and will help distribute the music video.

Music has played a large role in Scion's marketing since the company and its cars were introduced in 2004. Toyota wasn't attracting young buyers, so it started Scion as a sub-brand, which would give buyers a large number of ways to custom-order their vehicles, including options such as a built-in Pioneer sound system. The carmaker sold nearly 100,000 Scions last year.

18- to 24-year-olds

Scion specifically markets to 18- to 24-year-olds, targeting a generation of teens and young adults who have grown up surfing the Internet. Its marketing efforts have also focused on appealing to the underground hip-hop, techno and electronica music cultures. For the initial launch of Scion's Web site, the company used music and content from URB, whose magazine spans dance music, hip-hop and electronica. The site offered MP3s for download.

Scion has already produced and given away 10 CD compilations featuring tracks by young amateur musicians, and hosts music and film events across the country called Scion Sessions and Metro, as well as contests like Scion's Free Up Your Mix DJ competition.

The goal of the Scion A/V program is to "extend the brand and create a new marketing initiative," Ms. Yoshizu said. "We are marketing Scion as a lifestyle brand."

When asked about the recording program, Tom Healey, the director of consultant J.D. Power and Associates' advertising practice, said, "I don’t think at this stage of the game it’s wise to second-guess Toyota."
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