23andMe at The GRAMMY Gift Lounge

What sort of DNA does it take to become a GRAMMY-winning musician? We probably won’t know the answer to that question for at least a few more years (to be modest). In the meantime, however, human genome research and the music industry have started to mingle in a major way.

Case in point: Distinctive Assets—which puts together the GRAMMY Gift Lounge at the awards show—has again tapped 23andMe, Inc., to participate in the annual event. There, the consumer genetics and research company will be featured among the swag given to artists and presenters who congregate backstage.

Distinctive Assets initially roped 23andMe (named after the 23 pairs of chromosomes inside the cells of every human being) into the lounge last year. Since then, genome testing has continued to skyrocket in popularity, with DNA testing kits in particular costing under $100.

Ancestry digging received an added dose of celebrity, thanks to Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s PBS series Finding Your Roots, which has spotlighted everyone from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert to Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin to comedian Tig Notaro.

For its own part, 23andMe is collaborating with iHeartRadio for Spit, a podcast in which writer-comedian Baratunde Thurston hosts ancestry-centric conversations between John Legend and 23andMe CEO-cofounder Anne Wojciciki, Fall Out Boy bassist-singer Pete Wentz and Dr. Robert Green of the Broad Institute, Melissa Etheridge and filmmaker Sarah Lamm, and Wyclef Jean and Northwestern University Professor Alvin Tillery.

23andMe—also which drew headlines last summer following the announcement of a $300 million investment from pharmaceutical behemoth GlaxoSmithKline—is hoping to capture even more celebrity appeal through its repeated involvement at the GRAMMY Gift Lounge.

Tracy Keim, VP of Consumer Marketing & Brand at 23andMe, recently spoke with Music Connection about the genetic testing company’s participation in the lounge.

Music Connection: How did 23andMe become involved with Distinctive Assets and the GRAMMY Gift Lounge opportunity?
Tracy Keim: 23andMe was approached to be a part of the artist gifting lounge last year when genetic testing started to become more mainstream. We started seeing films and music being produced by artists about their DNA story. DNA was redefining the intersection of art, technology and music.

MC: What is the overlap/involvement/relationship between 23andMe, music and the music industry?
Keim: Like language and art, music is one piece of a community’s culture that can be an incredibly important part of one’s identity. The way music impacts and connects people is similar to the way 23andMe and genetics can connect to those around us, whether it’s family members, our friends, or those in our community.

The Latin GRAMMYs celebrate the music roots and heritage from other parts of the world. The diverse music community resonates with 23andMe, as our customer base is represented by people from all over the world.

MC: How does 23andMe view The GRAMMYs as a unique vehicle for its marketing efforts? How does this event compare to other marketing efforts that 23andMe has made?
Keim: The GRAMMYs bring together thousands of creative professionals from all over the world who are all connected by music, and have a passion to connect to one another. Bringing the science to this connection has the potential to bring artists even closer to each other and themselves.
Other marketing initiatives have also supported the power of DNA and connection. We celebrate the scientific fact that we are 99.5% genetically identical. Meaning, we are more alike than we are different—and we often focus on what divides us, not what unites us. A message (and fact) that resonates strongly with the artist and creative community.

MC: Beyond mere exposure, what results is 23andMe hoping to achieve by participating in the GRAMMY Gift Lounge?
Keim: We hope artists are inspired by the experience of connecting with their DNA story. DNA is the ultimate form of inspiration for one’s identity. We hope artists can connect with who they are in a new way—or listen to our podcast Spit on iTunes and see how other musicians have been inspired.

MC: Will 23andMe be advertising during the GRAMMYs’ TV broadcast?
Keim: Not at this time.

MC: Has 23andMe used pop music songs in its ads?
Keim: Over the past six years we’ve used a variety of music in our advertising. From Steve Jablonsky’s “Don’t Be Parsimonious” to Broadway’s King and I’s “Getting to Know You,” to Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” to The Daylights’ “Hope This Gets To You.” Anthony Marinelli at Music Forever in LA has been one of our longtime collaborators in helping us find the best music.

MC: Are you targeting certain artists and/or musical genres as part of your promotional efforts at the GRAMMY Gift Lounge?
Keim: Everyone has a DNA story. We haven’t singled out specific genres as areas of focus.

MC: How would gaining access to high-profile musicians be a boon to 23andMe?
Keim: Artists are people who have the ability to bring change into the world.
We are always excited when artists write songs or make films about their DNA.

MC: Will you be hoping to parlay your participation in the GRAMMY Gift Lounge into celebrity endorsements extending beyond the event itself?
Keim: We hope artists will embrace the brand, and the power of understanding the cultural impact DNA can have on all of us today, and in the future.

Contact Nijhal Castro, [email protected]
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