Well known for its impressive professional equipment—especially its line of keyboards—Casio also has a longstanding reputation of making affordable keyboards for players who are just starting out. That early spirit and desire to cater to rising musicians has not diminished and, in fact, has ramped up in intensity recently with three artist-based initiatives: Up and Comers, GRAMMY Camp–Basic Training and The Songwriters.
According to Stephen Schmidt, Vice President of Casio Electronics, “Casio has focused over the past 32 years on developing new artists. However, in the past two years we have made it a bigger initiative for up-and-coming artists, and for students.”
Those efforts include an alignment with the GRAMMYs, and performing right organization ASCAP. General Manager of Marketing, Michael Martin, has contributed a point-of-view that adds to Schmidt’s business smarts. Specifically, Martin offers the musician’s point of view.
Martin has also contributed his knowledge of social networking to the company. “We want to reach out to up-and-comers via social media, in addition to traditional media,” says Schmidt. “Social media and online videos allow for great exposure for Casio and for the artists.”
In addition, the company is quite active on Facebook and YouTube. “We are making the effort to be a well-rounded company,” Schmidt informs. “We are a business, in the sense that a business needs to make money. However, we are also a business that cares a great deal about music. In this digital age, we still believe in instruments.” Of course, the Casio line includes digital-based equipment, but Schmidt feels there is a significant difference between creating music on a computer and creating it on an actual instrument.
He and Martin are also firm believers in new marketing techniques. According to Martin, “Social networking has really expanded our consumer base. It provides great exposure for us and for the bands that we feature through our various programs.” Martin adds that Casio’s involvement with ASCAP and the GRAMMYs has also provided valuable exposure. Specifically, Casio’s appearances at ASCAP events held at SXSW promote the use of traditional instruments. “At those events, we are able to reach out to potential customers, people who don’t go to the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show.”
For Casio’s Up and Comers project, Schmidt, Martin and others evaluate artists via Facebook and YouTube submissions. “Of course, we focus on piano or keyboard players,” Schmidt qualifies. The winners are provided equipment and promotional assistance via social media. Recent recipients include Fallen Rivera (featured in Music Connection’s Top 25 New Music Critiques of 2011), Ali Isabella and Karmina. “We hope that Fallen Riviera and the other winners remember us when they get as big as (longtime endorsers of Casio keyboard products) the Chemical Brothers!”
Casio has also hooked up with Matt Sorum, promoting and funding the former Guns N’ Roses drummer’s efforts with in-school music programs, as well as providing instruments. “Matt Sorum reached out to us regarding the need for instruments in public schools,” Schmidt informs. “It is a little selfish to say, but we do recognize that if kids have fewer opportunities to become interested in learning music skills, and being able to play in school, that diminishes our consumer base.”
It isn’t a one-sided deal. According to Schmidt, “We’re working closely with Matt. We discuss what he wants to do, and there are many different programs that we each support.
“I am not a musician,” adds Schmidt. “I am a businessman. But I respect the fact that we sell manual instruments in a digital world. Pro Tools and other programs have diminished the use of actual instruments. So we want to encourage the use of instruments in any way we can.”
The Casio company’s relationship with Sorum and the GRAMMY organization has gone a long way to enabling that goal. In May 2012, Casio participated in the annual “GRAMMY Camp–Basic Training” in New York City and awarded four high school students with Privia keyboards.
Casio has also been involved in The Songwriters project in association with the GRAMMYs and BMG management by providing a financial contribution to this nationwide search for new songwriters.
Overall, says Schmidt, the company prides itself on being flexible in its support of artists. “We are a well-rounded company that is passionate about music.”
For information regarding Casio’s up-and-coming artists, please visit http://casiomusicgear.com/artists