Band and Brand: The View from the Corporation

Music and arts fans are used now to seeing the debate on artist sponsorship portrayed from the point of view of the artist. Sacha Taylor-Cox voices it from the brand's side.

What is less frequently voiced though, is the partnership as experienced by the commercial patron. Capitalize's Sacha Taylor-Cox outlines some of the basics in an article which may prove useful to artists and businesses alike.

Two very different cultures exist between a commercial brand (whose planning process exists a year or two in advance), and the more informal  and immediate requirements of the artist.

It is widely assumed that the integration between brand and artist is what enables a brand to forge an emotional connection with fans, but less well known is whether the relationship between brand and artist always results in an enjoyable cultural immersion beneficial to both?

integration with the artist's fanbase, as well as publicity and marketing opportunities

There’s always a defined criteria of expectations from any brand embarking on a partnership with an artist. The desired result being effective brand integration with the artist's fanbase, as well as publicity and marketing opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable.  On top of this, a brand will usually have a strict requirement for a  measurable return on their return on investment (ROI), and a clear objective to reach a specific consumer via their strategic messaging. Artists will have their own separate concerns – credibility, reward, and partner ethics amongst them.

The most successful partnerships from a brand's perspective are those that are fully immersive, across all media and marketing platforms, and which inspire an emotional connection with their target consumers. Equally, in order to achieve these objectives a brand will need to have an understanding of the artist's culture. These need to be clearly contracted with simple execution techniques (No..Robbie won’t wear a Banana suit and dance the Macarena… not today anyway). And of course: the required amount of cash.

But what’s in it for the band? Not so many years ago The Guardian published an article with a certain industry exec quoting one of her bands saying: ‘Whatever next, Coca Cola Records?’ Whilst there’s always been a supportive sponsorship culture, it was commonplace for bands and artists to turn their noses up at any commercial ‘sell out’.

As the digital era came in to play and recording revenues plummeted to an all-time low, management and labels had to start getting savvy, and be a little more accommodating when the suits called. The trick is to get the balance of the relationship right and understand that, in every sense of the word, these deals have to be worked as partnerships. Branding around the word is all good, but unless both parties are benefitting from the deal, someone is likely to end up with the proverbial egg on their face.

management and labels had to start getting savvy

It’s true that bands need cash injections, and they are not always in a position to plan their requirements a year in advance to hit a brand during their planning stages. It’s also important to any creative artist to be credible. Above and beyond anything else, the artist will want to feel that they are doing something with integrity. Brands should have realistic expectations and internally, at every level, really understand who the artists are that they’re working with, to avoid any faux pas!

Likewise they will need to discuss all their requirements well in advance and lock it down within a contract, understanding the marketing process for artists. With a usual heavy fall on PR in any partnership, it’s essential a brand understands where an artist is in their cycle, and what they will be able to offer without compromising their own media campaigns


And the artists? Well it’s arguable that there should be some flexibility and understanding as to what it is the brand needs out of the deal. There’s a lot of ‘making a quick buck’ and ‘take the money and run’ mentality floating around, which in the long term does no-one any justice. Brands are not bottomless pits or banks. We hate the R word, but whether we like it or not the recession does exist, and industry-wide belt tightening is happening. Budget cuts  are the norm, and executives held accountable not just for every penny spent, but why it’s been spent.

Brands are not bottomless pits or banks

Band/Brand partnership is a great subject for a lively debate. When it’s executed well these deals can be amazing, with the ultimate goal that consumers will talk about it for years and be inspired by the whole process. There are certainly plenty of managers, artists, label execs and brand execs who really are pioneering in their approach, creating some stellar campaigns that everyone enjoys being part of. But there’s still a lot to learn on both sides, predominantly due to the vast cultural differences between the two business models. It’s exciting stuff!

Henley Business School are hosting a seminar on June 28th which will be investigating the relationship between artists  and brands, where senior delegates from the industry will be sharing ideas on best practices and ways of merging cultures. Capitalize's CEO Richard Moore will be one of the guest speakers, sharing his knowledge as a representative of several youthful consumer brands who use music to engage with their fans.

Sidebar Images: jannoon028, kongsky


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