Rules of Engagement
“The sweet spot is when the brand helps the artist realise something that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.”
To paraphrase a recent PRS for Music Magazine piece, brand collaborations can offer a vital source of income when music industry cash is more and more hard to come by. Team leader here at Kingdom Collective, Nick Griffiths, contributed to this article, exploring the relationship between brands and music in an industry landscape with increasingly blurred lines between the two. For a taster, here’s an excerpt:
Artists who willingly clamber into the arms of corporate companies and big brands were once accused of selling their souls to the devil. Legend has it that Robert Johnson gave his away in a Faustian exchange for musical ability at a crossroads. But shaking hands over a cheque from a global conglomerate was considered a far more heinous crime. As the late, great comedian Bill Hicks said: ‘If you do an advert, then you’re off the artistic register forever.’
These days the creative industries have moved on, with artists and songwriters no longer criticised for partnering with companies. With the budgetary waistlines of music businesses tighter than ever, collaborating with a brand is now a standard, if not arguably essential, part of an act’s strategy.
Red Bull has only been active in the musical sphere for a relatively short time but its musical portfolio now includes a label, a publishing company, Red Bull Studios and the much talked of Red Bull Music Academy. The studios has hosted many of the UK’s cooler stars including Katy B and Disclosure while the academy has supported an estimated 1,000 artists since its inception. Mumdance, a new London producer and DJ, describes the latter as a ‘dream ticket for any electronic musician’.
Mumdance, aka Jack Adams, draws on jungle and grime to inform his sounds. He’s behind the latest instalment in the FABRICLIVE mix series while’s he also released music via XL Recordings with London’s latest grime star Novelist. For Jack, there aren’t any negative aspects to these relationships. “The academy lands in a city and builds a studio – they think about it very carefully,” he explains. “They’re leaving behind a trail of great music and building up a heritage. If it takes a drinks brand to do this, then that’s cool with me.”
With increasingly forward thinking media and technologies available, these partnerships are only limited by the imaginations of the parties involved. The 2014 Google Glass advert featuring FKA Twigs perhaps points to where the future lies. #throughglass was a two-minute ad which she directed and appeared in, showing off how the new technology worked.
While radical innovation is taking place, Giles [Fitzgerald, FRUKT’s Trends and Insight Editor] sees the branded revenue streams as an increasingly sought after area. “I envisage more of a swing towards the Eastern model, currently utilised in Korea and Japan, where artists are built from the ground up as brands first and music artists second,” he explains.”K-pop artists are trained – often for many years before being released to the public – to be endorsement-friendly from the get-go, with brand partnerships an integral part of the artist’s career trajectory.”
Despite the success, bands and brands need to exercise some caution. Overexposure is a huge danger for both artists and brands, and ultimately both need to understand the other. This way art and commerce can co-exist and help the other thrive.
As Nick says: “As long as bands see it as a way to help them create something more interesting and compelling, then it can be a great thing.”
Photo credit: PRS for music