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Monday, 14 May 2012

Reporting back from The Great Escape

The Great Escape : The Brand Band Partnership Panel

Last week I attended The Great Escape in Brighton - my third time at the event. I spoke on the The Brand Band Partnership Panel together with:

  • Tim Dellow (Creative Director, Love Live)
  • Jemma Downey (Director of Marketing Partnerships, Live Nation)
  • Jasmine Skee (Head of Music Sponsorship, O2) - Panel Moderator

Here are some of the questions we addressed and some thoughts in response:

(A) Why do brands spend money on new artists?
Music is of course a consumer passion point and therefore a powerful short-cut to engagement. In this context, there was a general consensus that some brands like to adopt the role of "patron of the arts". We discussed how an element of philanthropy / altruism can be justified as part of corporate CSR strategy - a role in which the brand is seen to be "doing good works", unmotivated by profit. It's also true that new artists are more cost-effective. Some brands pay little or no fees to new artists. Finally, brands like to be positioned as taste-makers - a conduit to music discovery for consumers. Partnerships with new artists help to reinforce this positioning.

(B) What do they really want in tangible terms?

Exposure? Access to audience? Content? Intellectual Property ownership?

For Brands, clearly authenticity and credibility are important objectives in any artist partnership. We examined the idea of "fit" - though it's certainly a subjective term. There were some strong views on partnerships that worked and those that didn't. Brands with a heritage, or "permission" to be in music, received praise. Some examples were:

Converse Allstars have been many musicians' footwear of choice for several generations.

Like Converse, Rayban clearly has heritage in music - The Wayfarer model in particular is a favourite of musicians the world over.

Whilst some panellists felt Blackberry's U2 tour sponsorship was purely a badging exercise, the Tinie Tempah partnership was deemed more credible. The artist openly spoken about his daily use of the product which adds authenticity to the
relationship. In a similar way, Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am has used Blackberry's BBM IM service for live raps which adds a product-demo elements to their partnership with the brand.

We also touched on the IP issue - clearly something close to my heart as rights management is Resilient's core business. Some brands are already securing IP ownership of commissioned content i.e. assignment of copyright in bespoke music rather than a traditional usage licence. While this might be seen a controversional by some, I see this as a natural development which will only expand over time. 

Turning to Artists, what do they want? Certainly exposure via brands' owned, earned & bought media channels. In many cases, brands can offer artists far greater reach (and far deeper consumer insight) than record labels. Logistical touring support and/or travel is also very desirable.

Tim discussed Love Live's work on Ford's Bands In Transit activation. Clearly all artists need transport for touring, and the classic Ford Transit has been the van of choice for many generations of UK artists. There's both a credible heritage (or "permission") for Ford to be here, plus a utilitarian/functional benefit for artists who participate.

Finally, investment in content creation was seen as very attractive lure for artists. Brands can easily fund high-production value filmed content in a manner which artists (and many labels) cannot do for themselves.

(C) What will they really offer in return?
Money? Free product? Audience?

Yes, all the above. On Money, Tim felt that artists should always be paid. Jasmine commented on how O2 rarely paid emerging artists. I believe that "value exchance" is certainly a better strategy for both parties (rather than a straight financial transaction), especially where longevity of relationship is a key objective. Where brands pay fees, managers take commission and labels/publishers withhold artists' shares against unrecouped balances. In contrast, artists receive the full benefit directly for any goods or services provided by a brand within a "value exchange" deal. A manager can't take 20% of a van or jacket!  

(D) How can artists access brand money, or get involved in brand-funded new talent initiatives?

All the panellists stressed the need for artists and their managers to "do their homework". Prior research is vital before making any approach to a brand or agency.

Points to consider included:

Identify brands with compatible values

  • Identify brands who work with artists in a similar genre
  • Examine the types of campaign that target brands have previously activated
  • Examine brands' campaign cycles and time your approach accordingly

I would also advise artists to:

  • Consider brands that the artist already uses in their daily life
  • Consider brands whose services or products it needs to support their career e.g. transport, clothing, footwear, equipment

In terms of identifying the right people within brands, my advice would be:

  • Reach out directly
  • Immerse yourself in Marketing trade media (e.g. brandrepublic.com)
  • Look for brand contacts who have a geniune passion for music - they may be musicians themselves or have held previous roles in music companies. These people may feel like more compatible partners than career corporate marketers who just happen to have been given music as a remit.

(E) Do artists have to compromise in anyway to capitalise on brand money?
It's all about clarity and transparency. Both sides need to be clear on objectives & commercial terms from the outset. Eveyone should enter the relationship with their eyes open and walk away if they're not comfortable. No one likes surprises - both brands and artists.

(F) Should new artists really treat brands as a new form of media, rather than a new form of investment?
Yes, brands are now media channels – much more so than the traditional music industry. Brands increasingly focus their energies and investment on earned media, namely social. In this context, engaging content is vital in driving consumer engagement - so music has a key role to play.

So, we attempted to cover a lot of ground in our 50 minute session. Hopefully the above points will be helpful.

My thanks to Chris Cooke (Unlimited Media) and all The Great Escape Team for organising the event.

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