Can Rodney Jerkins’ Artists & Brands Break Artists Via Music In Commercials?

Artists-brands-logoRodney Jerkins and Artists & Brands recently got a nice writeup in the LA Times about their belief that they can help break artists by connecting them with brands for commercial work. The hope is that a song written for a commercial might take on a life of its own and help one of their up-and-coming artists build on that success. However, when one looks at their activities on the web, it seems like Artists & Brands' focus is on the brands much more than the artists


Twister Commercial with Vocals by Nikki Lynette

Artists & Brands, founded in Chicago in 2009 by Rodney Jerkins, Ira Antelis and Daryl Jones, appears to be doing a solid job connecting artists and brands in the process of creating or participating in marketing campaigns for those brands. However, Gerrick D. Kennedy, writing for the LA Times, focuses on the idea that involving up-and-coming artists in making music for commercials might be a pathway to success:

"Upstarts gain visibility by debuting original tunes — a coffee ad featuring hand dancers and newbie R&B singer Dejion went viral last year — and McDonald's no longer has to pay the big bucks for superstar talent."

I'm guessing Kennedy means the commercial featuring Cleary & Harding, who are apparently well known, doing hand dances to a catchy tune about "caramel and mocha" by an unidentified singer.  Unfortunately, Dejion, who is not listed as a current artist with Artists & Brands, seems to have a very limited web presence with the first result for his name being a MySpace page that hasn't been logged into since December 2010. This couldn't be him could it? It looks like that artist's brand hasn't done so well.

But given that Artists & Brands is not a management company, obviously Dejion needed to do some lifting on his own and that doesn't seem to have happened online. As Kennedy points out:

"Jerkins and his team make it clear they aren't looking for jingles; they're in search of hits. The hope is one of these songs will take off like Somali-Canadian artist K'naan's single "Wavin' Flag," which was Coca-Cola's anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and became a Top 20 hit in more than a dozen countries."

Given that K'naan was an already established artist putting in a lot of work to support "Wavin' Flag," maybe this aspect of Artists & Brands' vision fits a current artist with which they're working, Nikki Lynette.

Lynette is a "rapper, singer, producer, songwriter, visual artist, and on-air personality from Chicago" who has a strong web presence and has already licensed music to MTV that appears on "Jersey Shore" and "The Real World."

She's already getting her work out there and if something she does blows up while working with Artists & Brands, like the vocals for the Twister commercial shown above, Lynette has her own infrastructure developed to capitalize on that break. And the song for the commercial definitely sounds like a song that would stand on its own.

Nevertheless, even though Artists & Brands aren't a management company, I find it a bad sign that what is basically a marketing firm doesn't seem very involved with social media. Their YouTube channel is underdeveloped and their Twitter account is in the early stages. Neither focus much on the artists and, though their Facebook account is in better shape, they didn't crosspost the Twitter video there after posting it on YouTube.

I have to admit, I like the idea of breaking artists via commercial music. But the reality seems to be that Artists & Brands are working for the brands and if a song breaks out, it's the artist and the rest of their team that will be making it something more than a novelty item.

Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at All World Dance and This Business of Blogging. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. This idea is nothing new. Most film/TV pitching agencies have similar agreements in place with the artists whose music they pitch.

  2. Kelland, that’s a good example though it seems like a pretty rare event. And 1994’s been a minute!
    LL, you’re quite right. But I’m not sure why you’re bringing that up.
    I’m writing about the fact that Artists & Brands seem to be making claims and getting press for something that they don’t really seem to be doing.
    If anybody has evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it.
    If anyone knows of other people claiming to be focusing on breaking artists via commercial work, I’d like to hear about it.
    The only examples I can think of are Tag Records which had some related ideas and totally failed:
    I also remember when Mickey Avalon was introduced nationally via a Boost Mobile ad with Jermaine Dupri and Young Jeezy. Which didn’t seem to help him and, in my honest opinion, hurt him as a bad first look at that level:
    Those aren’t exactly the same but they’re good examples of the failure of related strategies.
    I think something could happen with this but that doesn’t really seem to be what Artists & Brands are actually doing.
    Again, actual evidence to the contrary regarding what I’m actually discussing is of special interest.

  3. I’m bringing it up because it’s not mentioned in the article, which could lead people to believe that the Artists & Brands business model is something original/groundbreaking.

  4. My bad. That’s a good point.
    I’ve been blogging for almost ten years and usually when people say “that’s nothing new”, they’re attacking the post and often attack in ways that show they don’t really understand the point of the post.
    That’s actually part of why I got out of hip hop blogging.
    So I made the wrong assumption.

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