#MadeInAmerica: Translation's Steve Stoute Talks Diversity, Honesty, and The Digital Revolution
photos by Marco Torres
This Labor Day holiday weekend in Philadelphia, Jay-Z is teaming up with Budweiser and Live Nation to curate the initial and inaugural Made In America Music Festival, a two-day, multi-genre event featuring acts such as Pearl Jam, Skrillex, Santigold, and Gary Clark Jr, and features the return of D'Angelo and Run DMC.
Organizers expect about 50,000 ticketed spectators to walk through the gates each day, and millions to tune into the Pandora and YouTube livestream broadcasts.
In anticipation of the festival, Rocks Off spoke with author and advertising executive Steve Stoute, who along with Jay-Z serves as co-chairman of Translation Advertising, which specializes in helping marketers reach consumers in the multicultural market.
Translation was awarded the account to market and promote the Made In America festival, and plays an integral role in channelling Jay-Z and Budweiser's vision of a successful music and cultural event into reality.
Rocks Off: Thank you so much for speaking with us, sir. In the song "Made In America" from the Watch The Throne album, Kanye ends his verse by rapping the following:
This ain't no fashion show muthafucka, we live it!
That concept of being real and honest... is that what is at the core of Translation's partnerships with brands such as Budweiser and Chevrolet, etc.?
Steve Stoute: What's funny is that the name of the festival didn't originate from that song as many people tend to think. Budweiser actually owns the trademark to the term "Made In America", which is crazy. So they along with Jay decided that the name could work for us. As far as that Kanye line, yes... that also works. What we at Translation try to do is make sure brands are not visiting culture, but rather living culture. That goes for life as well, don't go around trying to be cool just for the photo op or whatever, its your life. Make it rich and full, always.
RO: Where did the idea for the Made In America festival originate, and why go through the headache of putting on a major music festival?
SS: As leaders of culture, both Budweiser and Jay-Z saw an opportunity to create an event in order to celebrate the diversity that is found in America. That's why the line-up is so diverse. We didn't want to just feature hip-hop acts or rock artists, we want to attract fans from all walks of life. Genres are irrelevant. Genres are created by the media and record companies. The only thing we care about is good music. If you put on a festival full of good music, people will find you.
RO: What advice can you offer to upstart artists and other young people so that they, too, can get "Made In America"?
SS: Always be honest. Honesty always wins. You and your ideas might not be popular with the masses at first, but the few who do accept what you have to say, those people will help you turn the tide in the long run. Look at Nas or Jay's first albums, they were not especially well received at first. They were being outsold by Coolio or whatever. But they spoke the truth, and look at them now. The albums are classics, and so are they. Its easy to get blinded by the lights and success, but if you aren't culturally connected, you're just going to flame out. Don't just do it for the money, tell the truth from your perspective, and the success will follow.
Steve Stoute and Nas @ SXSW 2012.
RO: In the last decade, top brands have fought to gain the attention of the minority consumer. Demographic patterns tell us that Latinos and Asian-Americans are the fastest growing groups, and along with Black America, their buying power is in the trillions. What can we expect from those companies who are trying to reach these consumers in the digital age?
SS: The only goal of most companies is to sell more goods and services in order to produce the most income. What we at Translation are also trying to do is communicate with the consumer, find out what drives them, and create something that is appropriate for "us". Consumers are smart. If you try to sell them something that is in bad taste, they sniff that out right away. Companies in the past attempted to segregate people in order to produce an income, and that's bullshit! We need to be inclusive of the diversity, not try to be exclusive with ridiculous walls and barriers. And now with Twitter and Facebook, those walls are so transparent. Consumers talk to each other, and they also talk to the companies themselves. You would think technology would create a seperation, but in fact it builds a more personal relationship.
RO: So does Steve Stoute and Jay-Z actually drink Budweiser?
SS: I definitely do! Budweiser was the first drink I ever had. I drank some of my father's beer as a young man, although I won't disclose the exact age (laughs). As a matter of fact, I got the call about the Made In America partnership as I was drinking a Bud at Lollapalooza. I also like the Bud Light Platinum.
Rocks Off will be in Philly for the festival. Check back on Sunday and Monday for reviews and photos of the event.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.