There’s not many big brand companies that can touch Red Bull when it comes to innovative marketing. For over a decade, their long running cultural project, Red Bull Music Academy (or RBMA to its friends), has kept the brand front of mind with many an underground music enthusiast through its radio and website offering, while also allowing aspiring musicians the chance to learn from some of their more experienced peers in the form of their annual workshop style events. The project began in 1998 in the city of Berlin, and after taking in some of the world’s most musically rich hotspots, last year it rolled into New York City for what was the RBMA’s 15th anniversary. Clearly never one to miss an opportunity, Red Bull have begun to unleash a number of projects commemorating the milestone, the most recent of which dropped this week.
A 90 minute documentary filmed by award-winning director Ralf Schmerberg and set against the backdrop of last year’s Academy, ‘What Difference Does It Make: A Film About Making Music’ takes a fascinating look behind the scenes of the event, while also inviting some of the music industry’s heavy hitters to share candid insights in front of the camera. These ‘talking heads’ include, amongst others, Brian Eno, François Kevorkian, Steve Arrington, Erykah Badu and a plethora of appearances from other artists and musicians, who all supply interesting tidbits on what being a musician means, discussing their own careers and creative processes, and addressing ultimately the decisions anyone interested in pursuing a career in the arts has to make.
The other premise of the film of course details the exploits of the current crop of participants, and here we follow them through the intensive five-week period as they head to lectures, work together in session rooms and play out live in the city’s venues. The footage is excellent, and really gives a flavour of how the everyday experience unfolds. Add in extensive shots of almost every angle of the city, cleverly juxtaposed with the other segments to provide a heavy dose of vibrant scenery, and you get a stylish feature length with an inspirational message. Just watch as street musician Leroy Webb bathes the subway station in his own unique soulful tones, a highlight in amongst many, and then there are Mr Kevorkian’s frank comments on the ‘beautification’ of the DJ.
You can watch the whole documentary below or head on over to the official site of the 15th anniversary to download the movie for free. There you’ll also find more information on the other projects such as a book, simply called ‘For The Record’, which delves a little deeper into the thoughts and dialogue of a number of high profile contacts in the RBMA rolodex including Chic’s irrepressible Nile Rodgers, Badu and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
If after watching the film, you find yourself curious about what the 62 international participants actually got up to in those studios, then you can peep a selection of the collaborations over on the RBMA Bandcamp page. Entitled ‘Various Assets – Not For Sale 2013’ (you should also try and check the contributions available for previous years – they are packed with heat!), it’s a 30 track strong collection of music composed, improvised and recorded by the band of musicians during their time in NYC. Preview each of the tracks below and if you find something that takes you’re fancy, you can download it from here.