A new frontier for brands and bands

Brand partnerships are no longer just about bands and brands. They are about brands and bands, plus an influential media partner or a powerful distribution channel.

Midem: Warren Johnson (far right) talking brands, bands and media with the panel
Midem: Warren Johnson (far right) talking brands, bands and media with the panel

At Midem, the annual event where the great and good of the music and marketing industry descend on Cannes to debate the future of the music industry, this was one of the compelling insights into the role of new distribution models connecting PR, brands, bands and audiences.

I was invited to chair a session on the subject representing our music division WVA, along with Replay comms manager Emanuela Virago, Vice marketing manager Sara Cantarutti and Vision Artists Management partners Matt Luxon and Ronnie Traynor.

Replay Jeans agreed a unique partnership deal with Vice, but the key to its success was securing English singer songwriter Charlie XCX, which is where Vision Artists came in. She gave the collaboration the edge it needed, while Vice produced credible and influential content that would be distributed exclusively by them and by their influential network of sites around the world.

The result: Replay got a fantastic piece of promotion. Vice created a great piece of content to share with its readers. Charlie XCX received exposure in new markets that have fuelling her fledgling career. A win-win scenario for all.

It's not just media such as Vice providing an influential new-world distribution channel.

Brands have their own media/distribution platforms, which can give talent access to an even broader audience, and multi-channel marketing should now be an essential prerequisite for any music deal.

Meanwhile, Charlie XCX eschewed the traditional MTV route to launch her latest video exclusively via ASOS. A perfect audience fit, it reached a massive target audience delivering 20 million views, and providing a tangible way to measure success along the way.

Most musicians no longer see partnering with a brand as 'selling out'. The world has changed. Young people are exposed to a constant flow of branded content, be it music from O2, or football from the Emirates Stadium, and the public perception has changed.

The financial realities mean that record companies – and artists – have less money, but at the same time more sophisticated brand collaborations are helping to make up marketing dollars and exposing musicians to new audiences and new territories. It's easier than ever for a brand to make a band, as well as the other way around.

And this all means that artists are much more open to collaborations, if subject to a certain degree of soul-searching.

Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am, speaking via a Skype link at Midem, made it clear that he wasn't happy about the new revenue model, but admitted that he'd made more money in hardware sales through his partnership with Beats by Dr Dre than he had from the Black Eyed Peas. "Our music sells other people's hardware, and it's a hard pill to swallow," he said.

He also highlighted that record labels should not be thinking about competing with other labels; they are competing with Samsung and LG.

And he is right. While some artists might be sceptical, it seems to me that there has never been a better time for musicians, brands and distribution channels to collaborate, and for PR to grasp the potential for our clients with both hands.

Warren Johnson is CEO and founder of W

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