NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ryan Star knows a thing or two about being unemployed -- but what he didn't know was that he'd create a new model for music marketing.
The rangy rocker is working on an album release, has a reality TV show under his belt and just wrapped up about a half-year gig as the opening act for "American Idol's" David Cook, but the memory of being without a job is still fresh. "I've been there, living on girlfriend's couches," said Mr. Star, munching on a green apple while sprawled across a chair in a living room of another sort -- a lounge area in the office of his label, Atlantic Records. "I know what it is like to be down and have nothing and now I can reach out a hand to help."
What he's done to help is feature real unemployed professionals in the music video for his new single "Breathe," and in the process he's blended music marketing with recruiting. The website, breathe4jobs.com, is clearly there to sell the single, but it also acts as a very public posting board for a dozen real job-seekers, from software consultant and restaurant manager to balloon artist and digital-marketing specialist. People viewing the video who are interested in hiring them can send an e-mail through the site, which has already drawn a nibble for at least one hopeful less than a week since its posting.
"Touring around the country with David Cook, I've met a lot of people after shows," Mr. Star said. "Going to Detroit, and all these cities, I've seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the sad. I've seen what it's all about. These are people who want to work."
He's had some success -- his song "Brand New Day" is the theme song for Fox's "Lie to Me," he's appeared on Mark Burnett's reality program "Rock Star: Supernova" and his album, "11:59," is due early next year -- and he decided he wanted to give back when it came time to do the video.
"The purpose is to make you look good -- you are selling a product at the end of the day -- but it didn't sit right with me to spend a lot of money on something to make me look good knowing what [not having a job] means to these people. There were a million visuals I could put to it ... but I wanted to find an idea that would mean something in the bigger picture," Mr. Star said.
The lyrics to "Breathe" fit that purpose -- "Breathe, just breathe, take the world off your shoulders, put it on me" -- but the singer was also wary of looking crass with the finished product. "You don't want to do something cheesy that looks like you are trying [simply] to sell something," he said.
But so far, it's been well-received and has generated some publicity from CNN, NBC's local L.A. affiliate and ABC Radio, as well as a Twitter plug from none other than @aplusk, Ashton Kutcher, who spread the word to his 3.89 million (and counting) followers. "I don't even know him," said Mr. Star, himself an indefatigable Twitterer (@ryanstar). "It's not like I said 'Hey man, do me a favor,' it's just spreading."
That's good news for Trey Pitts, billed in the video as a digital-marketing specialist and retail manager. Mr. Pitts, a self-taught digital expert, is actually a friend of Mr. Star's who helped shape his Facebook and MySpace pages. He's been out of work for about six months after being laid off as a manager for TJX Cos. and has also worked as a racetrack manager, a video-store supervisor and sold real estate.
"Ryan's heart is as big as his voice," said Mr. Pitts. "This is not just some marketing strategy, he really cares about people."
His contribution to the video has generated a couple of e-mails for more information and Mr. Pitts, whose dream job is to create digital marketing for a music or movie company, is hopeful.
So is Mr. Star, who is pumped up by the video hitting 181,000 tweets in a day and becoming a trending topic. "People underestimate the masses," he said, tossing away his apple core. "You and I are the masses."