Soundset Festival Turns Canterbury Into Indie Hip-Hop Mecca

May 13, 2011

Soundset Festival 2011 Banner

Canterbury Park is Minnesota’s home for horse racing — and hip-hop.

For the fourth straight year, thousands of indie hip-hop fans from across the country will flock to Shakopee on May 29 for Soundset, nine hours of great music from an impressive roster of acts.

The festival is a major accomplishment for Rhymesayers Entertainment (RSE), the independent Minneapolis record label that produces the event. The label’s roster of artists continues to grow, and its headlining group, Atmosphere, is touring behind a new album.

RSE’s marketing efforts have been solid. I reached out to RSE’s General Manager Jason Cook to get some insights about how the small label tackles its promotions.

I knew that RSE had been active with social media for awhile, but I started to really be impressed when you guys launched the social media campaign for the “To All My Friends” tour. Can you talk about that idea and what it taught you about how tools like Foursquare, Flickr and Twitter can raise awareness of a tour?

Social media is a direct link between us and the fans who support Rhymesayers and its artists. With each album or tour, we want to develop that relationship and bridge the gap between us and the fans. Whether that’s directing people to where tickets can be purchased, telling kids where they shouldn’t be buying tickets (scalpers), just answering FAQs or involving fans in a fun photo campaign; it’s an important way to stay connected with your base.

It’s also fun when you can involve everyone: fans and artists alike into one social arena, like the Friends idea. We have two Jedis in our office that make it happen for Rhymesayers, Leif Brostrom and Jake Schaefer.

The artists do run their own Facebook and Twitter accounts too. Twitter is great for tours, as a fan can get brought in on the fun with images, behind the scenes, ticket giveaways, meet and greets or just the information flow like when tickets are sold out. It’s amazing what you can accomplish from your phone now days. How did people tour before cell phones?

This year’s Dr. Ralph Borka content was great. Really showed fans a side of Atmosphere they likely had not seen before. How did this concept come up? And how will it guide your content marketing efforts going forward?

That would be the idea of Mr. Sean Daley (Slug), I’m not sure what I can add to it besides that I thought it turned out amazing and fit with the launch of “The Family Sign” album. Everybody should watch these clips.

Soundset is coming up pretty quick and you’ve got a killer line-up. I recall last year that the mobile marketing at the festival was pretty cool, like fans would get text messages to win prizes or to be notified that a performer was signing autographs. Are you doing the same thing this year? Any new things that we should look forward to on this front?

Yes, we will offer the same on-site fun-filled contests, through texting, Facebook and Twitter. For example, there will be chances to watch your favorite groups from the side of the stage, win VIP upgrades, after-party tickets and free merch items throughout the day.

It also is an information tool, to tell when the meet and greets are happening, when someone is performing or answering questions like “When does the last free shuttle leave Soundset?” This starts about an hour before doors open and runs through the after party at First Avenue. If you’re coming out to Soundset, look for our Connection Tent next to the main merchandise area. This is central headquarters for all contests and meet & greets.

We will release all the fun details about this Monday, May 16, 2011 via our Twitter account.

It’s pretty amazing how the festival has grown from being held at the Metrodome parking lot to a packed crowd with acts like Big Boi and De La Soul at Canterbury Park. How much do you attribute the growth of Soundset to how you’ve been able to engage indie hip-hop fans and performers out of state through social media?

We’ve been growing each year now going into our fourth year of Soundset as a festival. The Metrodome was the first year with roughly 12,000 people, but we had to find a new permanent location the second year when the Twins were home. This will be our third year at Canterbury, and being back on the green grass this year makes a huge difference in everyone’s comfort. The concrete was one of the biggest complaints we had, so we fixed it.

The great thing about social media is that it allows people who can’t make it to still share in the experience, whether it’s photos online, following our timeline or checking out some live video streaming. Each year we’ve done our best to document the festival online through our various online outlets. This means pre-festival marketing doing blog pieces on all the artists playing and the different areas at Soundset to check out like the car show, live painting or skating.

I also have been going on Twitter pretty regular to let kids ask questions about Soundset to provide a direct Q&A. It’s great because it helps us figure out quickly where there may be confusion, what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. You always have to listen.

What’s next for Rhymesayers and Soundset? Any new campaign teasers you want to let us know about? And just to be sure, tickets are not sold out, right?

We just launched the new “Do You Know Who’s Playing Soundset?” video, which has received great response. It was created by Adam Garcia and Puny Entertainment. You can watch it here.

We’ll have to see where Soundset goes in 2012. It’s a real challenge to try to make it better each year, and make all those kids on Facebook happy. There are still GA and VIP tickets available. At our record store, Fifth Element in Minneapolis, there are no extra ticketing fees if you pay cash and there are also still tickets available at Ticket Web. To stay up on the latest go to Soundset’s website.