The music industry has changed significantly over the last decade or two. Technology has made the media accessible to artists at all levels, making the music industry extremely competitive. As a result, making good music alone is no longer enough for artists to sustain their careers. Many artists are turning to live performances as their everyday bread and butter. Savvy artists (not just established ones, but emerging ones as well) are tapping into the brand partnerships not only as a source of supplemental revenue but also as a music strategy to help them achieve their career goals.
What you, as an artist could benefit from partnering with brands.
Traditionally, partnerships with brands were considered primarily as a means for artists or record labels to get an immediate cash payout. Nowadays, many artists and music institutions are realizing that partnerships with brands could have a more significant value other than the involved immediate cash transaction. Artists are realizing that they could also benefit from properly partnering with the right brands in terms of:
- Earned Media
This is a media activity related to your artist brand that is generated by fans or journalists through fan-to-fan word of mouth, online blogs, and television exposure. Such media and fan attention bring more exposure to you and enhance your credibility and reputation as an artist; all of which can help you build your brand as an artist. A perfect example of earned media value is Bruno Mars partnership with the NFL in Super Bowl in 2014. Although Bruno Mars did not get paid a single dime by the NFL to perform at Super Bowl, he earned $96 million in earned media for a twelve-minute singing.
- Access to New Audiences
Partnerships with brands give you access to the brands’ customers and consumers that may not have been part of your fans before.
- Introduction to Global Markets
Joining forces with a brand that has a global audience means that the artist now has a global content distribution channel that he/she may not have had otherwise.
- TV / Print / Online Exposure
Partnerships between artists and brands tend to draw a lot of attention from all types of media from television, blogs, social media, news agencies. Also, brands are more ready to invest their resources in television, PR, social media channels in order to maximize the reach of the partnership. Such exposure can significantly expand the audience for the brand as well as of the artist.
- Elevated Album Awareness
Just as brands look to music partnerships to enhance their brand awareness, artists could also look to brand partnerships to elevate awareness to their album release. Planning and aligning your album release with a brand partnership campaign or even partnering with a brand for an album release could significantly increase the awareness of your album to new fans. In this day where music sales are dwindling, such help could make a huge difference.
- Enhanced Music Video Production
Music videos are expensive to produce. And without a music institution such as a record label to finance, most artists just cannot afford to produce videos for their music. This is why music videos have declined in both quantity and quality since the 90s. However; with proper strategy, brands are willing to finance the production and distribution of music videos for artists if they see it as an opportunity that can help them achieve their goals.
- Subsidized Music Production Cost
With the decline of record labels pouring money in artist and music development, sponsored music projects for artists are some innovative means artists are using to finance their music projects today.
So how can an artist build a music strategy?
The music industry and commercial brands come from two completely different cultures with a great deal of difference in values, communication and work ethic. In order for artists and brands to collaborate effectively and reap the biggest benefits from a partnership, they both need to take the time to understand what each party values the most and how each party strategize to achieve their goals. In order to entice brands to partner with you as an artist, you would need to demonstrate just how much value (that aligns with the brand’s goals) you can bring to the brand as a partner.
Here is how you can prepare yourself as an artist for partnerships with brands:
- Define yourself and your goals as clearly as possible.
What is your vision?
Finding a brand with a vision that aligns with yours would enable you and the brand to forge a partnership that not only lasts long but also is more rewarding. This is why you first need to clearly state what your vision is as an artist. To help you state your vision, ask yourself where you would be in five years time.
What are your goals?
Most rewarding partnerships with brands are those that help both the artist and the brand achieve their goals. For this reason, you need to have clear goals and objectives for you as an artist. Set, monitor and periodically evaluate realistic and measurable goals against a specific timeline. What is it that you want to achieve in your career, both short term, and long term? Can brands help you achieve those goals? If so, which brands and how can they do so?
What are your values?
Brands are looking to reaffirm their values in order to build brand loyalty in consumers. They are looking to align themselves with artists that enhance those same values. For that reason, you would need to define your values as an artist. It is important to define what values you represent because this is what brands consider first when contemplating a partnership with an artist. Define who you are or whom you want to be, the core values that you and your music stand for. Define the core values that you want people to associate you with. Are you independent, rebellious, contemporary, trendy?
- Define your assets.
This is where you demonstrate the value that you can bring to the brand. Essentially, this is where you show the brand how you can help them achieve their goals while they are helping you achieve yours. What is it that you have that may be of interest to a brand? This is not just a chance to tell brands how many fans you have, but most importantly just how and where you connect and interact with those fans.
Who are your fans?
Brands are more interested in the people that listen to and access your music. They want to know exactly who your fans are, how many are, and where they are.
What are your platforms?
By partnering with artists, brands are most likely looking to enhance their cultural relevance, create compelling and entertaining content, elevate their brand awareness, access new audiences, reaffirm their core values as well as build credibility and reputation through earned media. For this reason, you would need to clearly define how you can help them achieve exactly that through the platforms you already have. This includes both online platforms such as social media, blogs, websites as well as offline such as events, network. Answer the following questions:
- How many people are exposed to your music?
- How do you interact with your fans and how much time you spend interacting with them?
- How can your platforms be of help to a brand in achieving its goals?
- Avoid being a ‘sell-out’. Align with the right partners.
Partnerships between artists and brands must transcend beyond the monetary value and must consider the moral value as well in order to achieve their intended results. Ask yourself, can the brand play a natural role within my culture as an artist? Does the partnership make sense for what I stand for (values) and my fans as well as for the brand and its consumers? Could I and the brand be friends in real life? Fans can tell when there’s no real relationship between the artist and the brand and such unnatural partnerships can do more harm than good for both artist and brand.
- Build a strong music foundation.
Music is the foundation on which brand partnerships are built upon. Make sure that you take the time and allocate adequate resources to create quality music that continues to connect with your fans and build longevity in your career. (See Music Development: The Foundation For Building Artist Longevity) Remember that it is this creative element within you that the brands are looking for. So continue to build your identity and be authentic to yourself and your fans and the brands will follow.
Although the impetus that brings artists and consumer brands together are often very different, the opportunities for both parties to leverage each other’s strength are immense. Careful planning on both artist and brand side and adequate infrastructure to support such relationships and business opportunities are fundamental to attaining more successful partnerships. We at The Music Development Agency understand that most artists just want to focus on the music and need help navigating the brand partnership landscape. This is why we developed our Brand Partnerships program. This is a program in which we help artists prepare for brand partnerships, match them with the right brands and formulate and implement music strategy for partnerships.