Ministering in the U.S.

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Few mainstream music labels become brand names. Motown Records became synonymous with R&B; Def Jam Records made the leap with hip-hop. Mostly it's the artist who develops into a brand name.

Now, U.K. dance-music company Ministry of Sound is angling to make a brand name for itself-more than for its artists or records-in the U.S. It's doing so with a Gap-like local market TV campaign along with an Internet ad featuring naked dancers.

Long known as a purveyor of dance music and its culture in Europe, Ministry of Sound is expanding its operation across the pond under Chris Stephenson, president-CEO, Ministry of Sound North America. Mr. Stephenson, a former senior VP-marketing at House of Blues, is a one-time head of marketing for MTV Europe.

"This record label was built and branded through TV advertising," Mr. Stephenson said. "Every compilation was supported by TV." That strategy will be recreated in the U.S.

Ministry of Sound started as a dance club in the U.K., but acting on requests from its customers, branched out into the record business, doing compilations of music, DJ mixes, and finally signing artists. The company also launched a U.K. magazine called Ministry and produces dance events, festivals, radio programs and TV videos. Ministry now pulls in about $100 million in annual revenue. "What we are more than anything is the No. 1 club lifestyle brand for the global dance audience," said Mr. Stephenson.

Ministry projects U.S. dance-music sales, especially compilations, will explode from the current $215 million to over $1 billion in the next five years.

Next month, Ministry, for the first time, will launch a number of CDs in the U.S., including "The Annual," its main music compilation product. Ministry also will market, under its DJ mix series called "Sessions," a release from world-famous DJ Paul Van Dyke.

Minstry's TV campaign will launch next month in six key dance-music markets-New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Miami. The 30-second TV spot, with a similar visual feel as ads from retailer Gap, will show teens dancing in ones and twos on a white background. A second spot for the Internet only shows the same people dancing naked. The spots were produced in-house and the media was placed by the Gary Group, Santa Monica, Calif.

Ministry is also cross-promoting with other young-skewing brands. In four weeks, a CD compilation produced by Ministry for KMX, a new energy drink from Coca-Cola Co., will hit college bookstores. %

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