Electronic beats is a Berlin-based publication hosting the heights and depths of the Berlin underground techno scene. It does everything you’d expect from a niche online magazine – interviews with the rising and established artists as well as DJs from the infamous and elusive club Berghain. It runs features on the most obscure aspects of the electronic dance subculture and has a Soundcloud playlist worth a listen too. And yet there is something distinctly different from the free-lance run productions you see dotted through indie coffee shops and left behind on subways. Electronic Beats is entirely sponsored by German Telecommunications Company, Deutsche Telekom (or T-Mobile).
While this may seem like a counterintuitive collaboration and perhaps even problematic to the target audiences, Electronic Beats has maintained a persistent presence in the electronic scene over the last 16 years and Deutsche Telekom has seen a return from their extensive investment into cultural capital.
The published magazine ran for 11 years, falling precariously ‘between the cracks of cultural conventions, but, ironically, falling outside of corporate ones as well.’ As a sponsored magazine, Electronic Beats was not constricted by the whims and wills of advertisers, and yet surprisingly (and beautifully), the content remained largely uncensored by the sponsor Deutsche Telekom as well. “The company has simply trusted us to produce engaging interviews, conversations and artist monologues without assuming the role of censor,” said A.J. Samuels, editor-in-chief in the final Electronics Beats Magazine editorial.
In other words, Deutsche Telekom let the digital natives (editors, writers, and designers) have full control over the project. This logically makes sense but is somewhat profound and unique in the corporate publishing sector. Most commonly, we see corporate companies’ thumbprints all over their projects, which is in stark contrast to the simple and inconspicuous logo in the corner of each page of Electronic Beats. While consistent branding, the will not to offend anyone, or simply the resistance to the subtleties of sponsored content may have good intentions, these excessively managed projects often miss the mark in terms of feel and culture. The intended market can smell an imposter a mile off and the project will fall flat. Electronic Beats, fully directed by actual editors, remains authentic and current, establishing themselves as a major player in the scene over the long-term.
Last year, the publication moved entirely online citing ‘clear metrics’ as the reason. While Electronic Beats remains a relevant piece of Berlin underground culture, ‘corporate publishing is viable as long as the belief in branding by association remains powerful’ and we know that the metrics to testing and reporting on this power are a lot clearer online. Shares, likes, comments and interactions are quantifiable measures of engagement online compared to picking up a free music mag to read on the train.
The online platform allowed them to expand their digital footprint establishing EB.TV and EB Radio bringing their followers ‘in-depth interviews, exclusively compiled DJ mixes, concert footage, live streams and much more, covering pioneers, all-stars and newcomers in the electronic music scene.’
Electronic Beats also maintains a tangible presence across all major social media channels with 219,516 likes on Facebook, 12.3K followers on Instagram, 20.5 k followers on Twitter, and even boasting a tidy 105,819 followers on Google+ as well as hosting the previous releases of the magazine on the online publication platform Issuu. Of the more music focused platforms, Electronic Beats has accounts on Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Deezer and Spotify.
In line with increasing cultural capital, Electronic Beats produce their own music festivals across Europe ‘creating memorable music and lifestyle experiences while serving as a platform for innovative Telekom products and services.’ The next festival is set to hit Köln (Cologne) in May 2016 spanning five days and providing a host of free and ticketed music, fashion, tech and art events. All under the thematic umbrella ‘Life is for Sharing’ that incorporates the entire Electronic Beats and Deutsche Telekom brand.
The content marketing campaign has completely eradicated the focus on products and services concentrating instead on the customer experience. By facilitating positive and immersive experiences to potential customers, while producing authentic and desired content in line with what their audience actually desire not just what the company wants them to desire, Deutsche Telekom has become synonymous with underground culture.