With such a high volume of new music constantly being released, artists and their music have a difficult time breaking through and getting traction among listeners. That said, the upheaval and transformation of the traditional music industry has given the scrappy do-it-yourselfers a chance to succeed with the help of brand partnerships.
Guest post by Maxwell Zotz, director of brand partnerships and artists relations, MAX
With upward of seven million new tracks a year, it’s challenging to break a new artist or song. But here’s the good news: the disruption of the legacy music industry has put artists—especially those on their way up—in control of their own destinies by opening up the universe of brand partnerships. What’s the catch? You’ve got to be creative and willing to hustle.
Articulate your values and understand the value exchange
Traditionally, brand partnerships were audience in exchange for cash. Artists with large enough audiences to attract marketers collected hefty fees, and everyone else was out of luck. Thankfully, the process has changed for the better in several ways.
First, today’s brand partnerships work best when marketers and artists align around shared values. If the artist and brand don’t share the same values, audiences will smell a cynical marketing ploy. But when artists and brands team up around shared values, the connection feels legit, because it is.
As for values, we’re talking about core beliefs that make you who you are. Community is a value. Respect is a value. Chances are if it’s something that fires you up, there’s a core value driving that passion. Marketers are already tuned in to their brand’s values, but for these partnerships to work, artists need to have internal conversations about their values.
Second, while cash is king, it’s not the only thing of value to exchange. Brands can give value to artists by amplifying their current single/album releases, through additional paid media, or further radio or tour promotion. What it comes down to is timing, and aligning with the artist around those key moments where they appreciate the further amplification and are more open to including a brand partnership in their overall message. Allowing a brand to align on a release or tour, can reduce an artist’s reliance on a label, or better utilize those backings to impact their career in more unique ways. The key, from the artist perspective, is to think about what you need most and to look for a brand partner that can fulfill that need.
When brands put marketing muscle into breaking an artist, consumers discover the artist and the brand together, making for very powerful connection. But that connection must be real. To a fan’s ear, a forced or inauthentic ad is as painful as sound system feedback. From the marketer’s perspective, inauthentic sponsorships don’t perform. Artists must seek partnerships with brands they respect, and they must believe in the brand’s message. My favorite brand partnership of 2018, Crocs & Post Malone, was based supremely on the artist’s authentic and organic love of the product. The brand was able to identify and align with that, and his rockstar lifestyle, in an impactful way, that made the “cool kids” rethink the comfortable footwear again.
There are more brand partnerships than you realize
There’s a common misconception that brands only work with the biggest names, and that when they do, it’s about slapping their logos on a tour bus. In fact, it’s the most entrepreneurial artists who earn brand partnerships. Look at independent artist Chance The Rapper and his alignment with the 80+ year old Kit Kat brand in a way that didn’t compromise his value but rather amplified his creative outlook.
Any artist with a measurable audience has something valuable to offer. Thanks to social media, artists can take the initiative and reach out to brands directly to make their own deals happen. In other words, artist don’t have to hit it big and then wait around for an ad agency to call their manager. Instead, artists can make their own deals where none existed by thinking creatively about what they have to offer and then hustling to put that value proposition in front of the right partner. That might sound daunting, but if you break it down to its essentials (creativity and hustle), artists are actually playing to their strengths here. If an artist organically puts it out there his or her authentic love for a brand and organic use of the product daily, it’s likely it will be placed on their radar in a matter of time.
Emerging artists hit a brand sweet spot
Brands that invest in music in meaningful ways are looking for deeper connections with artists and their audiences. By investing in that relationship, brands position themselves to help fans discover new music and artists. But discovery only makes sense for emerging artists—because they’re the ones that need the support.
That’s why emerging artists hit a brand sweet spot. They over-deliver on a marketer’s investment because an emerging artist’s relationship with their fans is incredibly personal. When an artist loves a brand, their fans don’t just know about it, they feel it. So when an artist works with the right brand partner, they aren’t just exchanging value, they’re creating it—for brands that want to connect with consumers, for fans that want to discover new music, and for the artist, who needs more than just talent and hustle to blow up their music.