What’s the Deal With Brand Partnerships?
**Guest post written by Anelka Argiro, VP of Brand Partnerships for Wind Up Records.
Thanks to music's digital revolution and the explosive growth of the internet, there is more new music available today than ever before, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of places you can go online to discover new music in just a few clicks. This is great for music fans, but it makes breaking through the clutter near impossible for an artist or band. A good song just isn't enough these days. Combine that with the continuing drop in album sales (and revenues), and it's not a pretty picture.
Enter your new best friend -- brand partnerships.
A few years ago, "brand partnership" was a dirty word in the music industry. Bands aligning with multi-million dollar corporations were considered sell-outs--and often rightfully so. But this is 2015, and fans finally understand that as money from album sales dries up, their favorite musicians need to find some other way to fund their albums, tours, music videos, and more. Brands stepped up to fill that void. Why did they do this? We'll get to that in a minute.
Why are brand partnerships important to bands?
Two big reasons -- the paycheck and the exposure. Brands, unlike music labels, continue to have multi-million dollar marketing budgets, and some even have specific budgets for music-related programs. These brand paydays help artists focus on creating new music and sharing it with the world. And while some bands think a paycheck is all they need, do not underestimate the value of exposure to a brand's audience. Brands give you a platform by which you can get your music in front of millions of potential new fans quickly and easily. This is how bands in 2015 break through the clutter! Support from a single brand can take an unknown artist and put them on a national or global stage.
Remember when I asked why brands stepped in to fill the void left by the ghost of album sales past? Well, it's because partnerships with bands and musicians are critically important for brands today. As an emerging artist, what you create and how it connects with what brands call the "millennial demographic” is incredibly powerful. In other words -- music is an emotional driver that connects with young people in a way that traditional marketing such as TV ads and billboards never will. You need brands, but brands also need you. Music is one way that brands cut through the clutter of their advertising world just like you use brands to cut through the clutter of your music world. Many brands look to emerging artists to give themselves a cool-factor -- they want to be responsible for breaking artists and being able to say "they knew them first" or at the very least to show their customers they know what’s new and fresh at any given moment. Keep this in mind when working with brands: it’s a two-way street!
Now you know why brand partnerships are important, and you know you want to give it a shot, but where do you start?!
This is easy! Start by understanding what brands you already use and like! Make a list. Depending on the deal details, you might end up incorporating this brand and their products into your band's day-to-day--posting on socials, thanking them in liner notes, having their products in your music videos, etc. It'll be easier and more authentic if you already love who they are and what they do. And authenticity is the name of the game. What happens when bands work with brands that don’t make sense? Their fans think they've sold out. To prevent being labeled a sell-out, only work with brands who align with the look, feel, vibe and moral values or your band. Are you sober, but sponsored by Jack Daniels? Probably not the best fit. Are all the band members vegetarians but you're sponsored by a beef jerky company? Might want to re-think that.
If you're still stuck, Next Big Sound recently released a report on the value of a brand which says the top ten categories of "brands artists have worked with" are:
1) Fashion - 58%
2) Alcohol - 55%
3) Technology - 45%
4) Automotive - 30%
5) Mobile - 30%
6) Soft Drinks - 28%
7) Beauty - 20%
8) Travel - 20%
9) Food - 13%
10) Finance - 10%
("Brands & Bands: The Value Exchange," Next Big Sound, Dec. 2014)
Still need more help? Get online and start digging. Check out the sponsor pages for music festivals and tours--these brands are already investing in music, and would be a great place to start.
Once you reach the brands, be persistent without being annoying. And whatever you do, do not send the same boring copy-and-pasted email to every brand on your list. Do your homework and learn something about them beforehand. Mention something they've been doing lately. Why is your music a good fit? What do you love about their brand or product? How do you want to help them? If you make the message personal, you'll always have a better chance of hearing back.
But what does a brand partnership look like?
The most honest answer is that the sky's the limit. A brand sponsorship can include tour sponsorship, music video product placement, co-marketing opportunities, exclusive content deals (e.g. you allow them to use one song or video exclusively that they can share with their customers), free track downloads, a gear sponsorship, merchandising deals, product trade (clothes, food, free studio time, etc), and I could go on and on.
Despite the many faces, the one thing successful brand partnerships have in common is that they begin with respect and a mutual understanding of everyone's goals. Once you know the end target, you work together to create fun, unique programs where everyone is happy with the program.
When do I reach out?
Good question! You should try to time brand partnerships to coincide with other important things your band has going on (tours, new album, etc). Just be aware that brands often work a few months ahead, so think about this when you're coming up with your timelines. If your album is dropping in July and you don't have any brand connections yet, start reaching out four-to-six months ahead. Let them know your timeline. If you're just looking for some social media love, brands often schedule posts a month or more in advance.
At the end of the day, brand partnerships are here to stay in the music industry. Begin forming these relationships now, and your band will thank you for it later. And remember--you've created something valuable and sought-after by these brands. Everyone should benefit from brand partnerships, so if you feel a brand is asking for the moon but offering nothing in return, move on. You'll find a better opportunity tomorrow.
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Hailing from Brooklyn, Anelka Argiro has spent the past decade creating driven marketing campaigns with some of the largest and most influential brands and advertising agencies in the world. With a background in licensing, visual media, consumer trend forecasting and branding, she currently leads the charge for Brand Partnerships and sync licensing at Wind-up Records.