Matt & Kim Cut Path for Indie Band Sponsorships

Make It Work: Many Fans Still Demand Utility Out of Band-Brand Deals

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I was absent-mindedly cleaning out my fishtank yesterday when the thought of interviewing Matt & Kim came to mind. Out of all indie bands tinkering with sponsorships, they've become one of the most pro-active, from the "Converse Century" campaign to a single on Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound to sponsored gigs from the likes of Black Swan Wine all the way down to a single on ad-supported RCRD LBL. The duo hasn't been shy about figuring out how to get its music out to fans as cheaply as possible, and, with a new album out soon, now would have been a good time to get in contact with them.

And then Pitchfork beat me to it this morning with a Matt Johnson Q&A:

Pitchfork: Lots of indie bands in the 80s and 90s turned down most of those types of offers, though. Do you think there's been an evolution of the idea of selling out?

MJ: It's definitely a different world now. You're not selling records. The idea of actually getting money back from releasing an album is a complete surprise to me. So you have to be open to other opportunities...but it's a slippery slope. Still, I wouldn't foresee any Camel-sponsored tours-- I wouldn't do anything with a company like that.

Pitchfork: Do you have to like the product to team up with a company?

MJ: I'm not a Mountain Dew drinker so I guess it's not necessarily what I do or don't like. But the plan they laid out was very tasteful. It wasn't like a big Mountain Dew logo over and Kim and my faces [laughs]. At the end of the day they're just trying to sell more of their product. But at the same time, they are supporting the arts. If you're willing to do it elegantly I think it helps both parties.
Well-defended. When artists can use brand partnerships to create tangible benefits for their fans -- rather than funneling cash into more business ventures or a new Bentley -- it's easier for everyone to understand and accept why they were made. And especially for indie artists, whose audiences -- myself included -- tend to expect their bands to live similar lifestyles to themselves, passing money from PepsiCo down to the people through discounted concerts or free singles has undoubtedly become more acceptable.

There's nothing earth-shaking about this idea, except it suggests that, despite all the changes in attitudes toward brand-band relationships, there's still many degrees of stratification between what indie bands and hip-hop moguls can do while still retaining their credibility. Would a fan ever demand to know what they're getting out of Young Jeezy's promotion of Belvedere Vodka? Of course not, but there's still popular artists in the middle like Kenny Chesney who'd expect their fans to benefit from a beer sponsorship deal. When marketers are looking into partnering with musicians (and vice versa), fan expectations of utility should almost always be a consideration, and, more often than not, tangible goals to be met.