By Ursula Garcia
Super Pal Universe is a new band made up of Austin teens and tweens, mentored by Austin musician Sara Hickman. Though they’re dedicated to creating original music (like they’ll play at this year’s SXSW and their CD release debut March 22 at Ruta Maya), they’re also committed to what they’ve termed “pop-driven activism.” Inspiring their peers toward greater community involvement is central to the band’s mission. To help accomplish this, the band has teamed up with the Youth Action Network at Austin Voices to involve youth in music marketing. Both SPU and Austin Voices want young adults to use their creativity and involvement in the community to solve problems, and by learning the basics of marketing in a real-world project, the Austin Voices students at Garza High School are earning economics credits while helping Super Pal Universe reach even more teens. We spoke to Super Pal Universe marketing director John Rodriguez about the project.
How did this project get started?
Every year Super Pal gives a grant, called the Change 4 Change Fundation Grant, to community-involved organizations. The grant was an opportunity for young people from the Austin area involved to use their creativity. Although Austin Voices didn’t win the grant competition last fall, Super Pal was so impressed by the submission and mission of this organization that one of the committee members decided to give them a $1000 personal grant. In essence, they hired them as a Super Pal Merchandising Partner.
What is Super Pal Universe all about?
Super Pal Universe is about PDA – Pop-driven activism. It is a five-person band and a community outlet for Austin youth. It’s a band and a brand targeting teens and pre-teens with pop driven activism. They want youth to be involved in the community.
Why is the message of community involvement with Super Pal Universe important?
You can be in a band, you can be whoever you want to be, or do whatever you want to do, but you can’t forget your community, you should stay involved. Emulation is huge: pre-teens emulate teens and teens emulate adults. The mission of SPU is to have the youth feel like they can be involved. It sends a clear message when you do it directly and following through with what you believe.
How are Austin Voices students helping out, specifically the Garza class? What are they doing with marketing?
At the beginning of the semester, we worked with Austin Voices to come up with a marketing and economic curriculum, which incorporated a plan to be executed by the class. The plan teaches them how to execute a marketing plan from beginning to end, taking economics into consideration.
At the beginning of the project, they were asked to come up with products that the band would be able to sell. Choosing a product involved coming up with graphic designs and doing research. After revising their creative ideas several times, they were able to come up with a branding logo, which is incorporated in every product they create.
They were asked to think of ways to come up with cost-effective products to be made available at Super Pal Universe’s upcoming concert. Some ideas they came up with were t-shirts, buttons, guitar picks, dog tag necklaces for guys and earrings for girls.
The theme of production has been keeping things green. The Garza class was collect 400 donated T-Shirts, and their ideas for the t-shirt designs happened with recycled t-shirts in mind.
They have helped SPU design and produce products that will be sold to support SPU’s mission. Other products they have helped create have been ‘zines and planners. At the SPU shows in March, they will help to sell the merchandise.
How long has Super Pal Universe been together and do they have any upcoming shows?
The five member band has been together since the summer of 2007.
Their most current upcoming events this year include a performance at SXSW on March 15, at Auditorium Shores at 1 p.m. as well as the Blastbeat Party at Freddie’s that same day at 4 p.m. They are also getting ready to release their debut EP – that show is a free show March 22, 4 p.m., at Ruta Maya.
What happens after the show at SXSW for the Austin Voices Youth Action Network students?
Garza High School’s economic class gets to be involved in a focus group where they will evaluate results of the concert and sales of the merchandise. They will be able to take a look back and see what worked and what did not work.
Why do you think this partnership works?
It works – and, in fact, it’s special – because the Super Pal Universe band members are approximately in the same age group as the Garza students, and consequently are experiencing similar types of struggles and triumphs.
What do you expect the Austin Voices kids to take away from this experience?
They should become prideful in seeing their work and how their efforts contribute to the success of the band. They should recognize their ability to complete a project from beginning to end and they should also enjoy the feeling of youth and community involvement.
What should SPU take away from this experience?
They should want to stay in compliance with the youth for youth dogma. It is important that young adults talk to each other. The SPU members are really excited to know that much of their merchandising has been done by people their own age, because they have similar ideas.
What is the goal of this project?
One goal was to help SPU get integrated into the community through the Austin Voices Youth Action Network, creating a mutually benefiting relationship with students from the Garza class to learn and be more involved with artistic and musical production. Another goal is to have the Garza class continue to be involved with SPU and realize that their success is gained through their efforts. I’m really looking forward to listening in on their focus group because they’ve learned so much and they’ve been very well informed with the path being taken through the marketing plan. What they like and take away from the project is very important.
What is the expected time frame involved with this project?
The project should run through the end of 2008, which will include the students assisting the band with a planned summer camp for young musicians and a number of local shows.