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July 14, 2009
Music Branding Gets All Grown Up

The last two weeks have been the busiest this year to date for the “brand”-related music space thanks to a number of breakthrough announcements involving brands and entertainment properties partnering in ways that are delivering real commercial benefit and delivering new revenue streams.

Here are some examples:

Universal and George at ASDA. Universal Music announced a tie in with Walmart’s George at ASDA clothing line in the U.K., where lyrics from Universal’s catalogue have been printed on clothing and shoppers who buy the products will be offered free downloads of the songs the lyrics are from. Look out for people walking around with “Born To Be Wild” emblazoned on their chests and blaring from their earpieces, but more importantly, look out for incremental revenues for Universal Music and ASDA.

Pearl Jam’s new partners. The band announced that it’s releasing its next album without a traditional label involved for the first time in the band’s 18-year history. Instead, a number of commercial partners will be on board, including Target. The retailer will be the exclusive big-box retailer to carry its product, and Pearl Jam has cut a Target TV commercial. (The Eagles had a similar exclusive arrangement with Walmart for its “Long Road Out of Eden” and AC/DC and Guns n’ Roses have recently tied up similar arrangements with Best Buy for their respective album releases.)

Liam Gallagher and Pretty Green. Oasis front man Gallagher announced the launch of a new clothing line, Pretty Green, available at http://www.prettygreen.com/ The site lures fans with free exclusive content, including a movie and behind-the-scenes look at a Gallagher photo shoot. It’s rumored that the next Oasis single will be released free at the Pretty Green site.

Beatles Rock Band game. The long-awaited game from Harmonix / MTV Games and Apple Corps was unveiled in Los Angeles at the recent E3 , electronics and entertainment expo. The Rock Band game will launch this fall to coincide with the digital release of the entire Beatles’ back catalogue. The Beatles are the latest iconic music act to partner with a music gaming franchise to release their own branded game, following in the footsteps of Aerosmith & Metallica who have released games with Guitar Hero and with others from Hendrix and Van Halen rumored to be in development.

Artists partnering with brands and brands using music in their marketing is nothing new, but the neat thing about the ideas above is that they’re clear examples of where consumer brands are becoming business partners and revenue generators for artists (and vice versa) rather than just suppliers of exposure, and ad dollars and this is set to increase further with brands potentially being one of the commercial lifelines for the music and entertainment business.

The financial/commercial approach to the monetization of content and entertainment brands needs to be as innovative as any technological development we’ve seen over the last few years. The real “rock stars” of the business of music are going to be those who can create value and hard revenue from innovation, in whatever forms that takes. It might even be something that executives in the music industry can learn from their more rigorous consumer brand counterparts.

There is also a growing acknowledgement, that artists partnering with brands need to be able to deliver real tangible benefits and that these partnerships need to be based on a higher level of strategic thinking to ensure a good brand fit, relevance and benefit for the brands & the fans/consumers. If we get this right, these types of partnerships could become a longer term – more consistent play for the brands and a revenue generator for the brands and artists, rather than a glorified form of sponsorship or endorsement.

These and other key themes around brands, advertising and music were discussed and vigorously debated at the inaugural Billboard/Adweek 'Music in Advertising' conference which was packed with attendees from the music and brand worlds. This space is very definitely moving towards the top of the brand marketing worlds agendas as advertisers seek out new and different ways of emotionally engaging with consumers (fans) and artists and entertainment properties seek ways to monetize around their ‘brand’ and their content.

It seems that we truly are at the dawn of a new era. Opportunities abound at every corner. Music is more alive than ever, consumers listen to more music in more ways than ever thought possible, artists interact and build connections with fans in new and unique ways, music and other entertainment content can be delivered via multiple platforms for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods, and artists can form business relationships with many different partners—including consumer brands.

The opportunities for brands to partner with music in creative and commercially fruitful ways are endless. The only thing that limits them is our imaginations.

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Mike Tunnicliffe is a former advertising agency CEO with global branding and marketing experience. He has worked with major consumer brands and Fortune 500 companies in almost every major global market and was nominated by M&M Europe and Campaign as one of the top 100 most influential people in global advertising and marketing. Mike is currently a partner in Los Angeles-based entertainment & talent agency Filament.

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