Are you with the band or the brand? The lines between the two continue to blur with every passing week. Be it U2 and Apple making out like spam-happy Nigerian spivs with Songs Of Innocence or Guinness paying huge fees to big acts to play in small rooms, there's little subtlety when it comes to how brands use bands to get their way. They pay the money and they call the tune (or throw them into your iTunes library without asking).
It doesn't have to be like this. Both sides want something. The brand wants exposure and association and the band wants cash. They can paint it up all they want, but that's it in a nutshell. And this exchange can actually be done in ways that don't require the kind of build-up and execution usually only seen when small countries are invaded.There are a couple of great examples of how music and brands work well together. The Red Bull Music Academy is regularly cited, along with Converse's studios in Brooklyn and Boston. Then, there's the recently opened House Of Vans venue in London. Indeed, there's now another branded venue in the UK capital in the shape of the temporary Jack Rocks the Macbeth, sponsored by Jack Daniel's whiskey.
YOU'VE GOT TO HEAR THIS
Caribou Our Love
Dan Snaith's gone and done it again. Those
who swooned to last album Swim or got giddy
to his Daphni offshoot will find themselves
in raptures with Our Love. An album which
sends shivers up your spine every time
you hear it, it's got the endorphin highs
to go with the sunrise after an epic night out.
While every single brand looks at what the energy drink company has done with the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) and wants a piece of that pie, very few are prepared to invest that amount of time, patience and stealth tactics. The story of the RBMA has been one of a slow, steady build since it debuted in Berlin in 1998 – with the pay-off in recognition coming much later. For years, the academy didn’t bother advertising or promoting who attended its workshops and panels, so it took a bit of digging around to discover the identities of the lecturers and students.
The lecturers were top-drawer names, while the attendees tended to be the cream of the who’s next crop. Such electronic music luminaries as Katy B, Hudson Mohawke, Flying Lotus, Fatima, Objekt and many others are on the academy’s roll of past pupils.
However, the chances that any other brand would be prepared to invest 17 years in a similar project are slim to none. Companies typically want immediate bang for their bucks, hence the current fad for shoving big acts into small rooms and why many will look at imitating the U2/Apple shock-and-awe (or shocking awful) approach. Doing things incrementally and beneath the surface is not popular with brand managers.
It’s a pity because many bands and musicians would respond positively to such a low-key approach. The acts want to get paid – even Bono wants his money – but tact and understanding can go a long way in establishing a fruitful relationship.
One of OTR's favourite record labels is Numero. Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley, the founders of the Chicago-based reissue imprint, come to Dublin's Sugar Club on September 25th to talk about music, spin some music and answer questions about music from host Donal Dineen. Ask 'em to tell some tales about Willie Wright and that awesome Telling the Truth album.