Rock Brand 2.0: What Advertisers Really Want

If music is the soundtrack to our lives, then advertisers want a piece of the experience.

But how can artists forge powerful and profitable relationships with brands?  At South by Southwest on Thursday, entrepreneurs started sharing notes on the elusive branding partnership.

The major label recording contract was once the ultimate prize for  many artists, simply because of the financial, distribution, and promotional muscle involved.  But artists now have alternative paths towards broader-scale success, including direct relationships with brands.

Superstar artists certainly have their place in the advertising world, and multi-million dollar sponsorships prove it.  But brands are usually interested in connecting with targeted demographics, and that opens the door for smaller labels, bands, and scenes.  “I would actually rather work with a medium-to-small sized artist,” commented Trey Shelton, chief executive of Music Interactive.  “With an up-and-coming act, you are getting a little bit more of a tastemaker crowd.”

But connecting with an advertiser or advertising agency is a tricky proposition.  According to those close to the deals, speaking the right language is the first step towards securing lucrative partnerships.  “The music industry is not the best industry at understanding its consumers,” commented Dominic Hodge, senior strategist at Frukt.  “But the advertising industry is all about understanding who is buying, where to reach them, and how to target them.”

In the pitch phase, that means deemphasizing the artistic elements for one moment, and shifting towards more concrete demographic details. “If you are a manager, artist or label, you need to be able to communicate what it is you are offering the brand,” Hodge continued.

And of course, any music-related advertising discussion usually includes online and mobile platforms, simply because of the hyper-targeting involved.  Bands have been finding niche fans online for years, though advertisers also know the terrain well.  “If you are partnering with brands, you can ride along with their targeting,” Shelton advised.  “They’re going to know where their demographic is.”

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Austin, TX.