As artists have begun to build their own brands and become more directly integrated with their fans, businesses have begun partnering with them to find unique ways to sell their products. By partnering with them, businesses are able to engage consumers in non-traditional ways and find that they can reach their target markets much easier. Although a few artists have linked with brands and been able to create business opportunities, many struggle to efficiently connect with one. The “Businesses Break Artists” panel was presented to give artists advice on how to collaborate with businesses better.
The panel was moderated by Ian Davis, a marketing consultant based in New York City, who started the conversation by asking about how brands can bring artists to mainstream. He was interested in knowing if brands have become the new A&Rs for artists. Dan Resnick, a Complex Media Booking Representative, felt that it was a strong possibility.
”I think it's fair to look at it that way, but I think it's up to the individuals in the office to try to do be that for artists,” Resnick said. “Complex has many brands that try to stay on top of trends in the marketplace. Most brand relationships where a product is involved start with artists showing an organic interest in it, and us seeing an opportunity that makes sense.”
In continuation, Davis asked James Cuthbert, a Marketing Executive for Sprite, to speak on how larger corporations are now seeking to engage artists with culture through their products, ultimately building brand loyalty on both sides. He referenced the ongoing marketing campaign Sprite currently has in place, which features lyrics from influential Hip-Hop artist on their cans.
“Music sells everything but music,” Davis said. “Nowadays, record labels lack the money that brands have to budget artists, so we can get artists out there in more creative ways, while still generating an interest in our product. Hip-Hop is the most listened to genre, but it's often utilized incorrectly in the corporate world. We rush to ideas and activations, but skip out on staying true to our own brands. It’s important to connect with artists that represent you, vice versa.
John Miller of Swisher Sweets agreed with the premise.
“We try to engage with artists that have an interest in our brand already,” Miller said. “We want it to be authentic and we really feel like it's more about brands and artists breaking together. We try to teach artists how to handle business better and we provide grants to help artists get on their feet.”
Ian Davis found the last part interesting, noticing that brands are now starting to become more financially involved with artists, bankrolling their marketing expenses or funding activities that help them grow the artist, ground up. One of his primary examples was how Red Bull has started a music distribution service for a number of artists, and even referenced Swisher Sweets’ Artist Project.
When Davis asked what brand representatives look for in artists, the answer was simple.
“As an artist, you have to have a transactional relationship with the brand and an emotional connection with fans,” Cuthbert said. On a professional level, all we ask for is punctuality, added value, and attention to detail”