When Marketers Become Record Labels

Atlantic Records' Camille Hackney Says One Day Brands Can Help Launch Bands

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Who: Camille Hackney, senior VP-brand partnerships and commercial licensing at Atlantic Records, a division of Warner Music Group.
Atlantic's Camille Hackney says that 'Finding brand partners to aid in the launch of an album is a top priority for the artist and label' in genres such as hip hop, country and pop.

Why you need to know her: Ms. Hackney works with artists such as Diddy, Gnarls Barkley, Missy Elliott, Kid Rock, Jason Mraz, Jewel and Panic at the Disco. She hooked up Jet with Verizon Wireless and Diddy with the National Football League. She has also worked with Coca-Cola Co., Reebok, General Motors Corp., Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, M&M Mars, Procter & Gamble Co. and Budweiser, among others. She works on overall company-based partnerships that leverage Atlantic's college representatives, urban street teams, website, e-mail lists and wireless database. She also oversees tour sponsorships, music licensing and video product placement.

Credentials: Ms. Hackney worked on Wall Street for a couple of years as a financial analyst at Merrill Lynch, then in the marketing/analysis department at HBO before landing at Warner Music Group, where she was senior director-new-media market development. Before joining Atlantic, she also worked as VP-strategic marketing and new media at Elektra Entertainment Group, responsible for the company's digital sales strategy, wireless marketing, website, online marketing and enhanced CD projects.

Talk about the artists on your label and how you go about finding appropriate brand tie-ins for them. "Each artist and band is very different. There is no cookie-cutter strategy for brand partnerships. You have to know what brands want and don't want in a label partner and artist relationship. But it really starts with talking to the artist about how they want to play in brand land and what brands they love. A successful partnership is one that starts with mutual respect and admiration between brand and band. When a brilliant artist like Lupe Fiasco walks in my office and tells me that he loves video games, martial arts, skateboarding, drinks soda and is a sneaker freak, that makes my job easier. A lot of what I do is knocking on doors and finding the right people at brands and agencies who want to use music as a marketing platform. Other times, [marketers] come to me because they want to work with James Blunt, T.I., Gnarls Barkley or a promising new artist like Paolo Nutini."

How have sponsorship deals changed over the years, both for the artists and the marketers? "Partnership deals are definitely de rigueur for artists in genres like hip hop, country and pop. Finding brand partners to aid in the launch of an album is a top priority for the artist and label. In recent years, the willingness of artists to get involved with brands has increased. Particularly in hip hop, racking up endorsement deals is a rite of passage. The athletes have been doing it for years; it was only a matter of time before hip-hop artists followed suit. The rock bands are also getting into the game but in a less overt way, typically via licensing, tour sponsorship or a promotion that features the album artwork rather than a band photo. Music can be tricky. There are numerous rights-holders to a piece of music. Marketers must navigate through the morass of managers, lawyers and agents who all claim to have the ear of the artist in trying to get the deal done. But savvy marketers have learned whom to trust and how to construct a deal that meets their [return-on-investment] targets."

How do you think sponsorship deals will further evolve? "I think that you will see the line between brands and band blurred even further. It would not be unthinkable to have a brand partner, [along] with a label, sign, develop and market an artist in conjunction with the launch of a new product. Both companies would share the risk and share in the profits. Brands have the strength of their marketing muscle and media dollars, and labels have the ears and expertise in how to best reach the consumer."

Talk about the tour you recently organized that put the Teddybears in front of ad agencies around the country. "That was a fun one. I hope to do more of those at the label. As a bit of background, the Teddybears are a producer-artist trio out of Stockholm. They make fun, upbeat, grab-you-in-the-first-five-seconds music that is perfect for licensing. Instead of routing a typical multicity promotional tour whereby the artist goes to radio stations and does local press, we decided to have them visit ad agencies in four major markets. The guys performed at most of the visits for a gathering of creative directors, production and account supervisors and talked about their music and the creative process. We closed numerous sync deals after their tour." [An Intel ad is using the Teddybears track "Different Sound," Cadillac is using "Punkrocker" and other deals are in the works.]

How can deals be structured so that marketers feel like they're getting what they want and artists don't feel compromised? "That's a tough question as every deal is unique. But generally, structuring an equitable deal whereby both parties are satisfied has a lot to do with communication and trust. Marketers should determine their goals and measure of success before entering the partnership and communicate that clearly to the artist, label and management. The label should communicate its goals and capabilities at the outset as well. The artists need to have a strong voice as well. More and more artists are asking to see the creative before committing to the brand. They know that if the fans don't believe them, then we have all lost credibility."

At a time when so many artists work hand-in-hand with marketers, do you still find some that refuse? Is it possible to change their minds? "I have had several artists decline deals or decline being a part of certain aspects of campaigns. When that happens, we take an internal assessment at the label, asking the questions: Is this a sound deal? Does the partnership fit with the artist's brand image? Is the artist protecting their brand or just being unreasonable? We are a very artist-centric label and abide by the artist's wishes. It's my job to communicate the artist's sensitivity to the brand and try to provide other options."

Have you seen any sponsorships in the marketplace that you think missed the mark? "I'll leave the criticism to the ad critics, but I will say that I hope more brand categories look to use current music and artists as a part of their advertising strategy. Some categories could really use the injection of energy and a bit of cool, like snack foods, beauty and hair care, banks and credit cards, the airlines and others."

Any particularly good ones? "The Diddy/Burger King partnership has a lot of promise. [Ms. Hackney worked on that alliance.] The Jay-Z/Budweiser deal -- we'll know if it works if bottles of Bud Select replace bottles of Cristal on tables in clubs across America. The Product Red campaign deserves a case study on marketing and branding at Harvard Business School. My favorite campaign on the air right now is the Cadillac brand spot that uses the Teddybears song 'Punkrocker,' featuring Iggy Pop on lead vocals. We also worked with the brand and agency to place a Cadillac in the band's upcoming video."

If music is so important to so many people, then why do you think the record industry is in such a slump? "A litany of reasons -- let me count the ways ... consolidation of radio, shrinking playlists at radio stations and at video channels, piracy, big-box retailers using CDs as loss leaders, increased competition for the entertainment dollar begets consolidation of record retail, consolidation of record companies begets lack of artist development, labels signing quick hits rather than career artists, increased quarterly pressure on labels to make the numbers. ... Those companies that are able to transform themselves and reinvent the business model will likely succeed."

Do you have a favorite band? "The PC answer: All of the artists or bands on Atlantic are my favorites. Second choice: Jay-Z, but if Biggie were still alive, he would likely be it."

What's the best live show or performance you've seen this year? "Either Madonna in Chicago -- I had seats right at the catwalk and loved every sweaty minute of it -- or Jay-Z at Radio City. I screamed as loudly as I did back in 1999, when he headlined the Hard Knock Life tour."

What's on your TiVo? "'The Office,' 'Ugly Betty,' 'Heroes,' '24,' 'Seinfeld,' 'Commander in Chief,' the 'Today' show, 'Oprah.' She should run for president."
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