Companies used to be wary of sponsoring electronic dance music events; after all, the DJ-created genre (dubbed EDM) is often associated with warehouse raves and drugs—and attendees have recently died.
But at the Electric Zoo music festival that took place on New York’s Randall’s Island over Labor Day weekend—two years after the event was cancelled early due to two drug-related deaths—brands were visible everywhere. There was the T-Mobile (TMUS) VIP deck and lounge, and even a T-Mobile ferry (equipped with a DJ), with certain areas accessible only to the cellphone carrier’s customers. Deodorant brand Secret handed out samples, while Snapchat broadcasted live moments from the event to the app’s users.
The most popular swag at the three-day EZoo, however, seemed to come from Uber: Besides promoting its car-service app as a way of getting to and from the event, the technology company handed out plastic “Uber” sunglasses decorated with glowing blue lights that flickered in response to music and bass. (Uber has lately expanded its array of festival freebies to include staples such as sunscreen and beach balls as well as high-tech accessories.)
It wasn’t just the partygoers, though, who enjoyed the perks: DJs from the electronic music group Above & Beyond, who headlined Electric Zoo on Saturday, took an Uber to their set.
Above & Beyond, however, drew a line on the influence of the festival’s corporate sponsors. During their performance, the DJs posted a message on the giant LED screen behind them, saying that T-Mobile CEO John Legere had asked to choose a song for them to play. “We told him we don’t do requests,” Above & Beyond said in another onscreen message.