Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Bands and brands (part two)

Of course, it was inevitable that we were going to come back to this topic at some stage. Back in October, this piece summed up the current state of the bands-and-brands game, but there have been a couple of developements …

Tue, Nov 30, 2010, 09:50


Of course, it was inevitable that we were going to come back to this topic at some stage. Back in October, this piece summed up the current state of the bands-and-brands game, but there have been a couple of developements since then which have put the issue back at the top of the music business agenda, especially in Ireland.

There was one of those 24 hour storms-in-a-Twitter-teacup a week or two ago when Cathy Davey joined forces with Lexus for a campaign which features the singer fronting an online video and doing a couple of dates in car showrooms around the country.

It caused some tut-tutting from various commentators but, to be perfectly honest, what is Davey to do? She’s not signed to a major label any more, she has bills to pay, she will be recording a new album in the future which has to be paid for and money doesn’t grow on trees. Her tunes may be played on the radio a lot (ensuring a healthy return from the IMRO coffers), but album sales are not what they used to be so there’s not much cash coming from that quarter (and much of that income was probably spent recording the last album). As Zach Barron from the Village Voice pointed out in this (previously linked) piece talking about the new Convese studio in New York, “someone has to pay artists, and increasingly, we’re (the consumers) not doing it. So who is the enemy in 2010? We are. Not the majors. Not Converse. Us.” When Lexus came along and offered Davey a large wodge of cash. I doubt if there was much hesitation.

And I also doubt if many of the acts who were muttering under their breath online about this would say no either if Lexus had called to their frontdoor. The money to keep a professional act on the road has to come from somewhere and, seeing as most pop acts are not senior bondholders and revenue from album sales ain’t anything to write home about, brands are as good a source as anywhere else for that cash.

But there’s still a world of difference between what Davey has done and a story like this about a new band called Le Rev who have signed to Two Black Cats, a record label set up by ad agency RKCR/Y&R.

Per Damon Collins, the agency’s executive creative director, “having a label means an effective single campaign where money is not siphoned off by existing rights and licence holders. The ad agency benefits, the band benefits and the client benefits because of the greater exposure from a record release as well as the financial savings.”

The first fruits of Le Rev’s new deal can be found on a current TV ad for hair straighteners, with the song to be released as a single during the two-month ad campaign.

“We are modelling what we do on a small indie label,” the agency’s head of music, Dan Neale, told the Guardian. “Everything is a punt and this may or may not make us money. But it is also about us pushing music we like and getting it out there. Owning a label seems a good fit because we are in the creative business, after all.”

Neale has previous form in this area, having worked with Bacardi when they signed Groove Armada, but this is one of the first times I’ve come across a non-trad record label working with new acts in such a 360 way. Given, though, what we’ve seen across the Atlantic with Green Label and others, 2011 might well be the year when the A&R man you want to target is Don Draper rather than the dude at Sony or EMI.

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