A few weeks ago we welcomed brand friends old and new to Spotify HQ, London for a chilled late afternoon chat about the future of music and brand partnerships, featuring a panel of thinkers and innovators from across the industry: Emmy Lovell, VP Digital, Warner Music; Joey Swarbrick, Manager, Rizzle Kicks; Lisa Buchan, Director Music and Culture, Monster Energy; Mark Sutherland, Editor, Music Week; Simon Burke-Kennedy, Manager, Professor Green; and Tom Kitchen, Head of Sales, Spotify.
Our theme was revolution and the potential of music marketing for brands: the revolution in music consumption – more music is being consumed today than ever before – and the huge and largely untapped potential of music to connect brands meaningfully and emotionally with consumers – especially Millennials, for whom music is one of the main passion points.
Here are our top 10 takeaways from the session.
1. Brands have a natural, expected and often essential role in music
Bands and brands is simply how things are today. Modern, mainstream artists are often measured by their fans and followers by who they surround themselves with. This very much includes brands. Simon Burke-Kennedy told us that “Professor Green has had 40-50 brand deals over the last 5-6 years.” Mark Sutherland added: ”Millennials expect brand collaborations to help them discover new music.”
Professor Green and Puma
Professor Green and Puma
2. Any brand can create an authentic role within music
And there are plenty of routes to authenticity. Tom Kitchen: “There is a role for brands you wouldn’t assume have a natural connection with music. For example you can find a connection in how people listen to music – context is important.” A long-term commitment can also deliver authenticity: the Mercedes and Professor Green’s partnership wasn’t an obvious match but has worked really well over a period of a few years. Simon Burke-Kennedy: “The Mercedes partnership was founded on aspiration. Mercedes wanted a bit of risk and edge.” But, as Lisa Buchan explained, it’s all about the idea: “The idea should come first, before the asset or artist.”
3. Collaboration is the key to a successful partnership
The word ‘partnership’ often gets misused. A successful relationship should allow both rights owners and rights users to extract equal value out of any deal. It should not be about a one-way financial transaction (which is often the case). Aligning marketing schedules can often lead to more substantial results, specifically when there is a common target market. Tom Kitchen: “Brands and labels both spend massively on marketing but often conflict – working together would be better for everyone, including the fans.” Joey Swarbrick: “The starting point is to merge what brand and artist want to do.”
4. The starting point for brands is to bring marketing in kind rather than rights fees
As record label budgets continue to plummet, artists and their management regularly search for new opportunities to reach new audiences in order to market and distribute their music. The brands have something that artists and labels don’t: reach, budget and often sophisticated marketing. At the same time, brands value the power of content. Agreeing on a strategy benefiting both sides is more likely to result in a win-win.
Mark Sutherland: “Brands have what labels don’t: money to invest in new talent. Labels are taking fewer risks.” Joey Swarbrick: “Brand marketing budgets are a key selling point for brand partnerships with artists. Beats by Dre will be part of Rizzle Kicks’ third album marketing planning.”
5. Too many brands take a short-term, campaign-specific approach
This is one of the reasons why so many marketers and artists are left disappointed. It scratches the surface of what is possible, uses music tactically rather than strategically, and often results in low ROI for both the brand and band. Joey Swarbrick: “The longevity of brand partnerships is important for credibility – not hit and runs. There is often frustration with short-term brand partnerships for short-term campaigns.” Tom Kitchen: “I rarely see a brand using a long-term music strategy. Just lots of brands trying to be cool and short-term.”
6. The sound of the brand is critical
Successful campaigns require planning and a proactive approach. Music is more often than not a last-minute after-thought (often with little or no budget and left to a junior member of staff to deal with). But it shouldn’t be. The ‘sound of the brand’ is critical and brands should be managing theirs in the same way that labels manage those of their artists. Every brand has a visual identity system with colour and design guidelines: they should also have sound guidelines. Why shouldn’t brands use a Pantone reference scheme for their sound? The ‘traditional’ brand approach is simply missing out music and missing out as a result.
In the multimedia society we live in, the sound of your brand is crucial to get right
7. Music is a complex landscape which most agencies lack the expertise to navigate
The various disconnected verticals (stakeholders) in the music business are very contact driven and complex for those with no experience, making it essential for brands to hire experienced specialist advisors with no conflicts of interest, working on behalf of the brand not the rights owners. Emmy Lovell: “Music is really complicated and the complexity can put brands off. We need to make ourselves more accessible.”
8. Brands need to accept the risks, but there is a big upside: risk can be good!
Brands need to move out of their ‘comfort zone’ and be prepared to take some risks in order to stand out and connect credibly, specifically with Millennials. The music industry takes risks – in order to truly embrace music, so must brands. Something brands such as Mercedes has understood. Lisa Buchan: “Risk can be a good thing as long as the brand is aware of what the risks are and might lead to. Whenever you work with creative people there is risk.” Joey Swarbrick: “If there’s no risk, if it’s completely safe, it won’t cut through.”
Mercedes ‘taking risk’ with UK grime artist Kano in a recent campaign
9. Success comes when preparation meets opportunity
As any top athlete will tell you, preparation is the key to winning. Defining what success looks like before entering into a deal is critical. Many brands have historically entered into relationships with the music industry, unable to define KPI’s – just believing that an investment in the property is right for whatever reason (quite often down to personal belief in an asset). By defining the needs and values of a brand and working to a tight measurable brief, both brand and artist are more likely to benefit and succeed. Tom Kitchen: “Success should be about what you actually want to deliver at the end of the day. Something which is generally overlooked.”
10. The revolution is taking place now – timing is everything
The seismic shift taking place within music is happening now. With the ongoing battle for streaming, increased number of live music events and turf wars amongst other content distributors (the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Netflix) and brands such as Apple showing they can credibly be part of creating culture, there is a window of opportunity amongst artists, labels and management where brands can pioneer and establish the future ways in which things are done. Furthermore, the rights owners are listening… Emmy Lovell: ”We are moving at such a rapid speed of change and evolution – Things are now open that once weren’t.”
If you are a brand marketer interested in discussing how to be part of this revolution and use music as part of your marketing strategy, get in touch with Arnon Woolfson, Head of Entertainment at Synergy.