Build Your Band and the Brands Will Come
Jeff Daniel is a great guy who we've sat next to on a couple panels, and he also happens to helm Rock River Music, a music-brand agency that pioneered in-store CDs and helped put together Banana Republic's ongoing "City Stories" campaign. He'll be contributing here from time to time.
To their credit, these artists tend to be driven and dedicated self-promoters, but perhaps that is the self-selected nature of artists who pay to attend these conferences. However, they consistently ask the same question during or after these panels: "How do I get you and your brand clients and agency clients to choose my song or my band for your next major ad campaign?"
The answer is complicated, but the short answer is this: There is no music-branding silver bullet that will skyrocket a developing artist to stardom and riches. Take your time and focus on your own career and we will find you. It's often not the answer these artists want to hear, but it's the truth.
Coca-Cola, Nike and Gap are not going to place your song in a national TV spot or your artist on their billboards or the print ads they are buying in Vanity Fair unless the brand or its agency understands your brand as an artist.
There, I said it. As an artist, you must become a brand unto yourself. It's only then that a major marketer will desire this transference of values. The values that you as an artist embody and express to your fans and your community must be clear to a brand and must match their own values. The brand will then be much more likely to desire your music and a relationship with you as an artist in order to express its values.
Build your artist-brand the same way Ford, Adidas, and Banana Republic have built theirs: through hard work, research, insight and innovation. Write and record often, tour incessantly, use all the digital communication tools at your disposal and build your own community and fanbase. Your fanbase and the community you build around your band is an asset. Cultivate your base -- monitor it, listen to it, converse with it.
If you grow your own community and have an authentic dialog with it, brands will want to work with you, not only for the transference of values, but to reach your fans and their customers.
Soon we will see more and more examples where brands and music-branding agencies like ours will pay you as an artist for your "inventory" (e.g., the space in your e-mail blasts, your website, your tweets) the same way we currently pay traditional publishers like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork or Imeem for their ad inventory.
Build your own brand as an artist, then understand, cultivate and protect your fanbase like it's as valuable as your music-publishing rights, and we will find you. At that point, a band/brand partnership will be one small part of your healthy artist-marketing mix, and both sides will see greater benefits.
See you at the next panel -- I'll be the one sitting behind a stack of CDs with handwritten labels.
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Jeff Daniel is president and CEO of music-branding agency Rock River Music, which advises clients such as Banana Republic, Gap, Adidas, Ford and many others on music strategy, band/brand alignment, licensing and music technology.