The world of wine is changing. Wineries are shaking off their stuffy traditions. Wine drinkers are more Internet-savvy, younger than ever before, and looking for new outlets to express their love of wine.
And now The Winery Music Awards (WMAs)—an American Idol-style competition open to unsigned artists and judged by music industry veterans—can be added to the list of exciting developments driving the reinvention of wine across the United States.
“There’s a 21–34 age group that’s more sophisticated than the wine industry thinks,” says Kathy Kelly, veteran television producer, who spawned the idea for a winery music competition in April 2005, after leaving Los Angeles to settle in California’s Central Coast.
Those aged between 13–30, known as the ‘Millennial Generation,’ make up about 70 million—26% of the population—in the U.S. According to the Wine Market Council of St. Helena, the Millennial Generation consumed 17% of wine in 2006, they’re second only to the Baby Boomers, who comprise 77 million and consumed about 39% of wine last year.
“There’s a mystique around wine, but kids know more about wine than ever before, and they don’t want to be snobby,” says Kelly, who says that wineries are actively trying to hit new markets and attract a younger audience.
To succeed, wineries need to focus their efforts on understanding the lifestyle choices of the audience they are trying to attract, says Kelly, who wanted to shake up the comfortable world of classical quartets and jazz improvisation bands that have traditionally dominated winery music performance.
“The cool thing about holding this event at wineries is that it’s not a crowded smoky bar. There’s a fun audience and everyone, from 21 to 70, had good time together,” adds Kelly.
Heats were held in wineries throughout the California region between June and September, and the final was held in Paso Robles in October. Presented by Andrew Firestone from TV’s “The Bachelor” and model Janie Terrazas, the final brought six unsigned artists from the U.S. and Canada together to compete for a record contract with RNB Entertainment.