Bands and Brands, It's Time for an Official Union


Stop denying it, you guys are meant for one another.

If you don't work in music you might not know it, but bands and brands are exactly the same thing. Well, except of course, bands are cooler.

The similarity between the two is one of the first things that stood out to me after leaving Silicon Valley for the LA music industry. The concept maybe simple, but the opportunity is rich... and ripe for the picking.

To be specific, after the loss of revenue from record sales, bands need brand money; And with the voracious appetite of social media fans, brands need a constant supply of content -- and a way to be cool as word-of-mouth rules the webwaves.

For the non-concert promoter: Just as brand marketers launch products, the band managers, agents, and promoters launch concerts respectively but at a MUCH faster rate. Brands launch a new product often just a few times a year while the band's team does a full launch for every show at every venue.

Most brand managers can't even imagine the day-to-day reality of this. We're talking pitch materials, marketing plan, budget, graphic design, banners, videos, TV ads, radio ads, print, PR outreach, promotions, promotional events, social messaging/content, FB events, mobile messaging, and on and on - show by show by show. The volume is mind-boggling.

And then to crank it up a notch, the Band's image must be on-point and on-brand across all of these venues, shows, channels and media. Trust me, you don't ever want to portray an artist in any way other than how he/she/they want to be portrayed. Which means, the execution must be nothing short of perfection.

This is where the Band Manager becomes the Brand Manager. The two best I've seen are Jonathan Kessler, who manages the forever cool Depeche Mode, and Amy Thomson, the architect of the masterful rise and exit of Swedish House Mafia.

These band managers go through the same steps as any brand marketer except for one big difference: they have to maintain and protect their je ne sais quoi - it's critical. This elusive, magical quality is the one thing every brand wants but few have been able to attain.

The ability to be cool is fairly easy for bands. Just ask any guitar player in the 10th grade. It's the building and maintaining of it -- either for decades or up until a perfect exit at the top -- that is nothing short of Art. This achievement is almost always an actual brand managers dream never come true.

How is it that cultivating cool is like finding a diamond in the desert for brands, yet bands have it in spades? Does it just come down to a combination of product, skill, aesthetic, presence, mysticism and sex appeal? And if so, why is this combination way harder for brands and products to manifest? I will dare to speculate that this is because the people working on the brand side are just simply not as cool. Luckily for brands, I think the solve is presenting itself loud and clear.

I don't mean to pretend this concept is a new idea, brands partner with bands to export their cool all the time. But only recently has it transpired into something beyond the surface, something that might actually work.

The first big step was a deeper and more integrated alliance available with the pervasiveness of social media and content marketing. But now, brands are taking a giant step further and tapping Artists to become a part of the organization. Like we saw with Myspace and Justin Timberlake, and with Blackberry and Alicia Keys.

Now we're onto something. Brands can now leverage bands (artists) to cultivate their own kind of cool vs. hoping the cool just rubs off on their brand.

So, how do we go from the biggest brands and the biggest bands to helping the entire music industry? Scale.

I did a little research and found the domain is still available for a low cost of $9.99. And then I  found this. It's still in beta and looks pretty new. There appear to be strong indicators that the self-serve approach for matching bands with brands is still in a very nascent stage. What do you think?

Industry folks, is brand money a suitable replacement for the loss of recorded music revenue? Would a self-serve matching system work for bands that don't have agents? Is this the way for smaller brands to finally find a way to use music?

And then on the consumer side, do brands aligned with artists impact you? Do you still consider a band attached to a brand as selling out or is that notion completely outdated? Were you more willing to check out the new MySpace because JT was attached? Did you pause to think Blackberry might have another trick up their sleeve with the Alicia Keys announcement?

As always, I'm interested in your thoughts and eager to help both bands and brands find effective monetization strategies in the connected world.

By Gretchen Fox, Social Architect at grtchnfx

Posted on February 6, 2013 .