Adult Swim to Make a Splash at Inaugural Festival

2 Oct 2018 - This post originally appeared on the Turner Blog.

Over the years Cartoon Network’s nightly sibling, Adult Swim, has become much more than just cartoons and comedy, developing its own unique musical and cultural identity. As the leading network with young-adult audiences, Adult Swim has evolved beyond its linear presence into a compelling lifestyle brand with a strong musical influence that is reinventing television as we know it.

This October, Adult Swim is expanding their unprecedented portfolio with the Adult Swim Festival, an extension of the network’s commitment to live events and part of a larger, five-year growth plan.

Taking place in Los Angeles, Calif., October 5-7 at the ROW DTLA, the Adult Swim Festival is scheduled to make quite the splash. With exclusive merch, interactive experiences and over 42 music and comedy acts, it’s set to be everything fans love about Adult Swim all under one roof.

“It’ll be unlike any other festival,” says Jason DeMarco, SVP and Creative Director of Adult Swim. “Which is sort of the goal—to stick out just like we do on television.”

And indeed, the Emmy-award winning network sticks out from the bunch; it’s oddball animation and crazy comedy have made Adult Swim one the most-watched networks on television–a true testament to the network’s experimental nature and hard-working individuals behind-the-scenes.


Adult Swim’s Music Man

Music runs deep within Adult Swim’s veins. Since the network’s inception in 2001, show creators have worked closely with artists to embed music into their programming.

Artists such as T-PAIN, Run the Jewels, and Neko Case have long working relationship with the network, recording theme-songs, voicing show characters and even producing short series.

Behind these big names is a long-time Turner employee who has developed these deep-rooted relationships and influenced the Adult Swim sound: Jason DeMarco.

As an avid music lover himself, DeMarco uses his own musical taste and those of other execs at the network to curate Adult Swim’s unique musical identity. The TV exec selects most of the network’s music from his own roster of records, promoting independent artists while reflecting what Adult Swim fans love hearing on-air: metal, electronic and rap. DeMarco’s work is invaluable to both listeners looking for new music and underground artists seeking exposure.

“Jason is like a modern-day Robin Hood” Jill King, SVP of Consumer & Partnership Marketing at Adult Swim says. “He found a lot of these artists as they were emerging and really gave them a chance in their careers.”  

DeMarco is far from your average corporate executive; he isn’t in it for the money or recognition. He’s a genuine guy who truly cares about music and artistry, King adds. DeMarco tries to support the artists in any way he can because he himself is a fan and wants to see them succeed.

“Adult Swim is a platform that allows artists to express themselves how they want to,” DeMarco admits. “They aren't asked to change lyrics or fit into a box.”

These musicians are allowed to be their true, authentic selves and are encouraged explore their creativity under DeMarco as partners with Adult Swim. This freedom and support helps artists thrive, bringing the Adult Swim name along with them on their path to success. 

In 2007, DeMarco encouraged Adult Swim start its own record label, Williams Street Records—a bold move for a television network. The label produced several popular collaborations and show-based records including all three Dethklok albums, music from The Venture Bros., Definitive Swim with Definitive Jux, Ghostly Swim with Ghostly International, and many more.

With DeMarco’s support, the label evolved into the hugely successful Adult Swim Singles. The program features original, one-off projects with underground artists and has become a destination for fans to stream, download and discover new music on the Adult Swim website. Adult Swim Singles has over 20 million Soundcloud streams and has grown from releasing just nine songs in 2010, to present day, dropping at least one new track every week for an entire year.

Since launching in 2010, Adult Swim Singles has published more than 150 free new music tracks from emerging artists alongside industry favorites like Run the Jewels, Earl Sweatshirt, Captain Murphy, Vince Staples, SremmLife Crew, Metro Boomin, and more.

Adult Swim and DeMarco have a detailed history in the music industry; such a deep history that many publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter have written comprehensive pieces about the network’s historical past and influence on the music industry, if you’d like to learn more.

Risks and Rewards: Working at Adult Swim

During his time working for Adult Swim, DeMarco has quietly become an influential tastemaker in the music world. He’s even to thank for the formation of the popular rap duo, Run The Jewels.

DeMarco’s long-standing relationships and reputation in the industry have resulted in bringing countless artists to the network for both on-air programming, live touring events and to the stage this weekend in Los Angeles. A feat that would not have been possible without the Adult Swim leadership team, who continue to push boundaries and promote innovation across all aspects of the network.

“We experiment with a whole bunch of little things,” DeMarco notes. “Sometimes they’re a flop, and other times they turn into ‘Rick and Morty.’”

Since its inception, Adult Swim has approached most projects with a modest budget, allowing employees to give even their most eccentric ideas a try. This freedom to fail and the experimental nature of the network is what makes Adult Swim and Turner unique.

“There’s no other TV network that would have let me start a record label.” DeMarco admits. “There’s a reason people don’t leave Turner. It’s a great place to work that allowed me to create my dream job.”

For indeed, Adult Swim’s encouragement of the uncommon and unconventional has allowed Adult Swim music to thrive and gain a unique cultural identity of its own.

“I can’t think of any other network or even media company that has a true music identity,” Jill King, admits. “Adult Swim, through the work that Jason and his team has done has a very specific music identity, and I think that that is another example of how Adult Swim is much more than a network.”

The Festival

For its inaugural year, the Adult Swim team wanted to make the festival a family affair—a homecoming for all of the different types of talent who have a love and connection to the late-night network.

“It’s definitely not just a music festival,” Ashley Wagner, senior director of marketing at Adult Swim says. “It’s everything we touch, everything that makes Adult Swim unique all under one roof.”

With a line-up of both indie and mainstream artists like headliners Run the Jewels and Mastodon, hilarious comedians such as Jena Friedman and Hannibal Buress, and immersive experiences like “Dream Corp LLC” virtual reality and a mechanical bull hotdog, the Adult Swim festival is unlike anything Los Angeles has ever seen.

But planning and pulling off this eclectic, fan-centric festival is no small undertaking. Adult Swim employees like Ashley have been working for over a year planning and ideating each and every step, working on everything from the layout to each specific detail.

“It’s most ambitious thing we’ve done to date,” Wagner says about the festival. “But it’s been really fun stretching our creative minds and challenging ourselves.”

Preparing and organizing this festival has taken incredible collaboration, patience, and support from employees nationwide. Wagner has been working with everyone from teams in marketing and PR to social media and sponsorship to make the festival fantastic for its fans.

Wagner’s work on the festival has been a “year-long labor of love” she admits candidly. Despite the countless hours of hard work and sleepless nights, Wagner is most excited for that initial moment when the fans first come through the doors. Getting to see the excitement on their faces and their utter awe makes her long labors such a rewarding experience.

With weekend passes selling for over $200, the pressure is on and the stakes are high to make this experience extraordinary for the Adult Swim fans.

One of the most immersive and anticipated events of the festival is the new Rick and Morty Musical Ricksperience--a live, 37-piece orchestra where Ryan Elder, the composer behind the Emmy-award winning animated series, will join special guests and perform fan-favorite tracks from the show in sync with an episode.

This immersive experience allows fans to connect with the shows they love on a much deeper level. The creativity, innovation, and brilliant minds behind Adult Swim help make events and experiences like these possible. And, of course, none of it would be conceivable without the nutty night-time network that gives its employees the creative freedom to build the impossible.

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the fun! Tickets are on sale now for the Adult Swim Festival. Grab yours before they’re gone: