With music artists battling to make the big bucks previous generations enjoyed, and brands fighting to gain credibility with young people, a mutual need for long-term partnerships has emerged.

Could the music world, known for its impetuous divas and devil-may-care attitude, have come of age? With income from music sales falling, bands are increasingly prepared to settle down with brands to take advantage of their financial and marketing clout.

Tie-ups between music and advertising are nothing new, but a shift is happening in the relationship between brands and bands. Rather than sponsoring a one-off gig or gaining permission to use a music track in an ad, brands now want to pursue long-term relationships with bands, according to Nick McEwan, managing director of marketing agency Brand New Music.

“Global brands are looking to execute strategies that are long-running, looking three to five years into the future. Either through the use of one global act that they know is going to work across many territories, or targeting each separate territory with an artist who is successful in that market,” explains McEwan, who launched BNM in May to capitalise on the recent growth in the market.

The reason for this growth in long-term deals, he argues, is that return on investment for brands in the music arena has not been as high as it could have been. He says: “People get interested in an event and then three months later the brand has dropped it. The Facebook page and Twitter feed they used to connect with consumers goes dry and they’re on to something else.”

Artists need long-term commitment from brands to get themselves noticed, adds Irwin Sparkes, lead singer of The Hoosiers (pictured above). “Bands need every kind of platform they can get to put their music out there, and brands can be useful for that. It can almost be like a second promotional video.”

With illegal downloads said to account for upwards of 75% of all music downloads, and album sales plummeting, the music industry is becoming increasingly receptive to brand partnerships as a way to bring in much needed revenue and increase their marketing budget.

In the past, bands that partnered with brands were accused of having sold out, but it has gradually become a more acceptable method of increasing awareness and amplifying reach.

Sparkes says: “It used to be a black mark against you, but these days the most credible acts you can think of are doing it.”

A new generation of consumers raised on brand endorsement and social media are buying music because of branded partnerships, according to The Brands and Music Manifesto report by specialist music marketing agency FRUKT for PRS for Music (the Performing Right Society). Two-thirds of respondents (67%) have bought a song based purely on its presence within an ad.

And it’s not just the cool factor which attracts brands to bands. Emerging artists can provide a real financial boost – 81% of all 16- to 18-year-olds taking part in FRUKT’s research say they “love” music. Brand activity in music is a driving force behind purchase preference, influencing their choice of a brand over another, say 31% of 16- to 18-year-olds.

Advertising and sponsorship revenue for the music industry totalled £90m last year, according to the research. The revenue generated by marketing partnerships is predicted to increase, with more money set aside to nurture long-term relationships.

Everyone is trying to use music as away to market products, so we wanted to do something stronger than a simple partnership, like sponsoring a tour

Elena Bernardelli, Fiat

Last year, men’s fashion retailer Topman launched a platform across MySpace, its own website and social networking sites to introduce new bands and host live music gigs. Every month a band curates a set of gigs and runs the Topman CTRL page on MySpace.

Jack Horner, co-founder at FRUKT, which came up with the concept, says the men’s fashion retailer wants continuing engagement with consumers, and believes using music is the way to keep its target market coming back to its website. And there are benefits for the artists, too, he says. “Topman gets well over 1 million people visiting its home page every month, so if we can put emerging artists on there, they can access a much bigger audience than they would easily have been able to do by themselves.”

Energy drink brand Red Bull has also built a strong association with music, and is an early adopter of developing long-term relationships, with multiple bands across various platforms. It launched the Red Bull Music Academy in 1998, a platform that pulls together 60 selected participants each year – producers, vocalists, DJs, instrumentalists – from around the world. The enterprise holds local workshops and lectures, appears at music festivals and has a year-round radio station.

BNM’s McEwan explains: “The engagement is key. There are club nights for people to go to and workshops to learn how to produce records.”

With collaborations between music artists and brands becoming more wide reaching, the process is becoming more formalised, says FRUKT’s Horner. “It’s becoming more professionalised, in the way that sports sponsorship, marketing and endorsement has become.”

Some of the more interesting partnerships are happening outside the traditional label-artist structure. Faithless, for instance, self-financed and self-released their new album, The Dance, which entered the UK charts at No 2 in May.

In the UK it is being sold exclusively for a year by iTunes and Tesco. It has also recently partnered with Fiat to create the video for their latest single, Feeling Good, in a collaboration nicknamed a “promercial” (see Viewpoint, below).

Brands are being given more opportunity to genuinely bolster the careers of music artists, explains Elena Bernardelli, marketing director at Fiat Automobiles UK. But straightforward sponsorships often fall short of providing anything beneficial for the brand.

She argues: “If you’re sponsoring something, the hardest thing is that the band decides what they want to show and communicate. A car manufacturer’s agenda and an artist’s are not the same and usually the artist is stronger. For the sake of being a sponsor you are allowed to do only very small things. You’re not the main decision maker.”

Horner at FRUKT thinks partnerships such as Faithless and Fiat may also be representative of a trend towards more artists going it alone, using brands to finance their work. He says: “Where the really interesting deals are going to start happening is around bigger artists who possibly aren’t going to work with major record labels in the same way as they have in the past. Brands might be able to play a bigger part in A-list artists’ lives”.

But if bands hand over some of the control to brands, do they risk losing credibility in the eyes of their fans? Sparkes of The Hoosiers advises: “Brands come along with shiny, appealing deals. It’s important for bands to keep a degree of separation or else it does the brand no good in the long run either.”

Mervyn Lyn, vice-president of strategic partnerships at Sony Music Entertainment UK, warns of the danger of upsetting fans with ill-fitting partnerships and overbearing brands. He says: “You need to understand the consumer. First and foremost fans are into the music. The brand comes second.”

Lyn, whose company has developed an audience segmentation chart in order to gain consumer insights and match its artists with suitable brands, says even financial brands are looking into how they can reach a young audience through music. He explains: “They want to understand how to communicate with a student market using music. Students don’t want to be having a conversation based around 5% interest rates; they are interested in music activity that rewards them for banking or better managing their finances.”

As consumers become more accepting of brand involvement, even accepting the mix

of music and financial services, more long-term partnerships between music artists and brand will form. It’s up to brands to provide the right platform to ensure long-term success for both parties.


Elena Bernardelli, marketing director, Fiat Automobiles UK

We had already started to position the Punto car towards a younger target market. Music is the most obvious place to start if you want to target this audience. Everyone is trying to use music as a way to market products, so we wanted to do something stronger than a simple partnership such as sponsoring a concert or tour. Those are things that artists put together, and the possibility of interaction is very slim for the brand.

At the beginning of the year we ran a series of events with Channel 4 called Punto Evo Music Rooms. We produced six episodes, giving new artists the chance to become known in the music arena. It was a different way to work with music, not just adding a logo at the end of something that is produced by someone else.

Within Punto Evo Music Rooms we worked with Faithless and decided to continue working with the band after the series finished.

We produced a video together for their single Feeling Good, enabling us to work with a band but be nearly 100% active and proactive in defining the content.

We worked with our creative agency to propose the narrative and the story. Faithless approved it and then we used a production company which also had experience of making music videos.

Faithless are targeting 18- to 40-year-old men and women. They want to be mainstream in terms of approach, but also affordable and desirable. The fact that they are distributing their new album exclusively through Tesco and iTunes is a clear sign of the group trying to be democratic.

Affordability is one of the pillars of the Fiat brand too. The Punto is positioned as an affordable car, but with a lot of style. We think there is a link with the band in that way.

On top of that, Faithless were releasing their single on 31 August on iTunes. It was the perfect time for us because September is a big month in the year for the automotive industry [new licence plates are introduced then]. It was very important for us to have something really strong to communicate in the market.

We were thinking of launching a limited edition Punto, so we matched the two initiatives together. The limited edition version has been released with the name Feeling Good – the same title as the Faithless single.

We had more than 200,000 people watching the video on YouTube. This can only dramatically increase the awareness of the brand, the product and the image.

Four ways to partner with bands

Invest in them
Take on the role of investor. Earlier this year Holiday Inn teamed up with McCann Erickson New York to handle the commercial release of a single featured in their ads called “You Always Make Me Smile” by Kyle Andrews.

Enhance creativity
For example, Google has teamed up with Arcade Fire to produce an interactive video set to the band’s track We Used To Wait.

The online project makes use of Google Maps and Google Street View to incorporate images of the viewer’s hometown into the video.

Amplify an event
Take a performance that a band is already doing and enhance it. Nokia, for example, amplified a recent performance by Rihanna, plugging it into every social network feed going, including live mobile blogging and mobile streaming.

Reach out
Brands can use their web-based services, technology platforms or consumer base to promote bands to new markets. Topman’s CTRL has a new band curating gigs each month and running the CTRL MySpace page.

Source: Jack Horner, FRUKT Communications