Come Together: Opening Hands for Brands

Marketers Won't Be Music Industry Saviors but Deserve Some Credit

By Published on .

Please welcome Jon Cohen and Rob Stone from Cornerstone, who have generously agreed to share their thoughts on brands and music here on the blog. They're busy guys, but we couldn't pass up an opportunity to get them both to contribute, so they'll be piping up whenever they find something stirring within their hive mind.

There will be even more voices to come on Songs for Soap in the coming weeks, but here is the first, from Jon:

Jon Cohen
Jon Cohen
Once upon a time, when record sales were meaningful enough to make a band a living, it was considered sacrilege for an act to marry its music to a brand. In those days, there were powerful media vehicles like MTV, radio and magazines that were built around exposing new music. There were actual record stores that had long check-out lines (remember Tower Records?), and there were powerful record companies with visionary leadership and a large staff of people that loved, ate and breathed music. Seemingly overnight, things changed dramatically. The records stores gave way to iTunes. MTV dropped music for soap operas. Radio started to suck, and the people at record companies were working at just another corporate job. But the turbulence has opened the door to great opportunity.

Today there is an increasingly lower barrier of entry to create and release music as well as a much broader means to expose it. There are more ways than ever for the fan to enjoy and consume music through an endless and growing list of media vehicles. Most important, there are outside brand partners that can lend marketing support, supply a real revenue stream and leverage their strength to create more mass awareness of music. Yet as the traditional record business continues to struggle and figure out how to fix itself, the role of brands in music continues to be debated. Why?

Music purists will argue that a brand should not be the vehicle of introduction to an artist, and the record labels still stick to old-school thinking that makes partnership deals increasingly difficult to close. There are plenty of appalling music-based campaigns worthy of the outcry and ridicule they draw, but, in recent years, there have been a number of innovative campaigns that have brought songs and bands to a new level -- and these deserve more respect. Due to this new paradigm, the artists are more receptive than ever to working with brands. If the relationship is put in place properly, the artist should have full confidence and control of how their image and music is going to be presented. Today's consumers and the music fans are accepting of brands as a credible source for music.

Brands are certainly not the saviors of the music business, but they can be excellent partners. Brands deserve more credit for their contributions toward marketing and breaking music in recent years. By forging a deeper connection to music, they have been able to make a stronger connection to their target consumers. Of course, brands remain focused on their core business -- selling product -- but leveraging music has given them a more exciting way to extend campaigns and bring them to life. And, perhaps more importantly, brands are willing to take their music partners along for the ride and create a truly collaborative experience.

Brand managers really want to listen and embrace the ideas and concerns of the artists they are partnering with -- oftentimes more than the artist's own record label. When we structure a brand and artist relationship, it is imperative that artist and its management understand the brand's needs and goals, and, likewise, the brand allows the artist to control its own image and presentation. This is the difference between an authentic partnership and a jingle.

Brands also bring the power and scale of their media spend and their ability to leverage at retail. Their music relationships fill those channels with great content that enables a brand to stick out from the crowd. The results can be mutually beneficial. A number of recent brand campaigns built around music have played a large role in breaking artists, and, conversely, the right use of music has made a massive impact on the success of many campaigns. These campaigns have also placed music in places that record companies would have been unable to secure on their own.

Expect to see more and more collaborations with the music and brand world as content continues to become a vital part of campaigns. As someone who has been fortunate to work in the healthy years of the music industry and now gets to work first-hand with music and brands, I never thought I would see situations where the labels have become more corporate and conservative than the brands. It's time for the labels to trust more in brand partnerships. It's crucial for the brands to budget their projects so artists and labels are properly compensated for their involvement, and the artists are able to be a significant part of the creative process. This type of partnership results in the best campaigns.

~ ~ ~
Jon Cohen is co-CEO of Cornerstone, a full-service lifestyle-marketing firm based in New York. For more than 12 years, Mr. Cohen has executed customized brand campaigns for a roster of A-list clients targeting the key demographic of 15- to 34-year-olds.

Most Popular