Music News

More Than Music: Red Rocks Embraces Concert Activism With Propeller Partnership

Red Rocks and Propeller have teamed up for a first-of-its-kind partnership to engage fans around social issues that artists support.
Red Rocks and Propeller have teamed up for a first-of-its-kind partnership to engage fans around social issues that artists support. Courtesy Red Rocks
Artists using their platforms for activism is nothing new. From Woody Guthrie proudly displaying “This machine kills fascists” on his acoustic guitar to Lady Gaga building a legion of loyal “monsters” through her LGBTQ+ advocacy, music has almost always carried more meaningful messages behind catchy choruses and headbanging hooks.

The people at Propeller know this, too, and they want to help fans help artists achieve their philanthropic goals and inspire change. A digital marketing platform that creates social impact initiatives through its work with artists, festivals and record labels, Propeller has announced a new partnership with Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the 2022-23 season. The collaboration is a first of its kind for both entities.

“We saw an opportunity in partnering with a venue and wanted to experiment if venues would be a good route for us in addition to just working directly with the artists, festivals and record labels,” says Propeller founder Brandon Deroche, who started the company in 2015 after touring the country as a musician and working with the band Incubus’s Make Yourself Foundation on similar social impact initiatives. “We just thought, ‘Why not start at the top?’ We love Red Rocks. We wanted to do it in a marquee venue, and they were receptive toward the idea of the program we envisioned for them.”

The venue has offered a space for causes such as signing up to be a bone marrow donor, but having a company like Propeller oversee these efforts is a win-win for both groups.

“The cool thing about this is it's a way to activate what artists care about to an audience that is already built in, and Red Rocks provides a unique backdrop,” says Red Rocks spokesperson Brian Kitts. “I think that for anybody who cares about any of the programs that the artists care about, we're happy to help out with those things. We're going to have one and a half million fans through Red Rocks this season. The ability to raise awareness of any of these causes that artists care about is kind of cool.”

The idea was years in the making, Deroche explains, as the two sides were planning to announce and launch the joint initiative before the pandemic paused concerts and impacted the music business for the better part of two years. But with a slate of nearly 200 Red Rocks shows this season to make up for the dearth of touring, Propeller plans to have a presence at every single one of them.

“We didn’t realize a normal Red Rocks season is not nearly as many shows as it is this year since there’s so many dates that carry over from previous years,” Deroche says. “It allows us to more than get our feet wet to see how this program will work.”

Here’s how it goes on the back end: Propeller connects with artists coming through Red Rocks about what organizations or social issues they are passionate about. After that, the team creates a campaign for the upcoming concert with an emphasis on actionable items that fans can engage with. These campaigns may include ticket giveaways prior to the show, artist meet-and-greets or simply displaying pertinent information on the venue’s video screens or having an informational kiosk on site throughout the evening.

“Most of the time when we’re working with the artists, they have videos that play before they go on stage,” adds Ben Kroetz, Propeller’s director of campaigns and operations.

Although the Red Rocks season is still young, both Deroche and Kroetz were happy to report that the concert-to-concert campaigns are going well. One surprising hit with fans has been the prize-wheel kiosk, which gives people a chance to win unique rewards.

“We’re in the process now of conversations with local businesses and other potential partners to add prizes to that prize wheel. A lot of it honestly is just getting a sense of the cadence and rhythm of how the audience acts through the venue at different times,” Kroetz explains. “It’s also been a fascinating sociological experiment of the different audiences for different artists and how they behave in relation to the program, because it’s the same program every night, to a degree, but very different people. So the results vary quite a bit. Obviously, we’ve had some really great shows. We’ve had some artists who have really gone above and beyond for specific causes.”

Bleachers, The Ally Coalition (TAC) and Propeller created a campaign for the band’s June 20 show. The LGBTQ+ organization was co-founded by current Bleachers frontman and guitarist Jack Antonoff in 2012, when he was still a member of pop-rock band Fun.

For the Red Rocks concert, a coalition service project was organized where a group of fans compiled “welcome kits,” complete with hygiene products. Those fans were also treated to an acoustic performance and Q&A session with Antonoff before the gates opened. Concert attendees were then encouraged to donate to the coalition or sign a Human Rights Campaign petition. A portion of proceeds from every ticket also went to local LGBTQ+ efforts.

While TAC has hosted numerous star-studded events over the years, including “talent shows” with the likes of Taylor Swift and Lorde, partnering with Propeller and Red Rocks just made sense for everyone involved.

“It really comes in very clearly for us why Propeller is so vital to anything we do, because it provides us a direct connection to the fans at each of these shows. Even if we didn't have a show through COVID, we did a lot with Propeller asking fans to take action or donate to support those local organizations,” says TAC executive director Jeb Gutelius.

The professionalism is undeniable as well.

“One of those things that also sets Propeller apart from other contesting platforms in the space is that the prizes and the marketing and the visual look just perfectly match the artists. They do a really nice job of making sure everything feels really cohesive, really coherent, but also uniquely the artist they’re working with,” says Geoff Morrissey, TAC’s director of community engagement.

For Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s two sold-out shows on July 11 and 12, Propeller organized an all-inclusive concert getaway package, including the chance to watch the band’s encore from the side stage, if fans signed a Keep Your Bans Off My Body petition or donated to Planned Parenthood, among other incentives.

"The partnership with Propeller for our Red Rocks shows has allowed us to push our causes for a fairer and more just world. While we have long worked with fans to help fund donations to many food security and equality based organizations, Propeller allows us to direct our fans towards immediate action items,” Rainbow Kitten Surprise shared in a statement. “These action items range from signing petitions to joining specific alliances, as well as accepting donations to said causes. It was very appealing to us as a band that Propeller focused on more than just the donation element when creating these experiences for our fans.”

Deroche, Kroetz and Kitts believe this season is just the beginning of what could be a longstanding partnership.

“I think we’re getting to the point now where we’re starting to build those relationships, and I’m excited to see what happens this summer,” Kroetz says.

Learn more about Propeller at propeller.la.
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