Jez Nelson Gilles Peterson Cannes Lions

'The kiss of death is to work with a brand that doesn't get you' - DJ superstars Gilles Peterson and Steve Angello discuss building relationships and working with brands


By Jon Wilkins, Chairman

June 27, 2016 | 3 min read

The ascendancy of the dance DJs and their dedicated global following offers valuable lessons to brands, a panel featuring global superstars Gilles Peterson and Steve Angello and chaired by Somethin’ Else’s Jez Nelson discussed at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Jez Nelson, Gilles Peterson and Steve Angello

Jez Nelson, Gilles Peterson and Steve Angello at Cannes

While DJs have been at the heart of music for more than 40 years, they have become trusted curators of music and brands in their own right. In a world where choice has become endless, their need as taste makers is now more important than ever.

Angello said his relationship with his fans was “like a love affair” and that he engaged with them on social media regularly. “I always take good care of them because at the end of the day I wouldn't be here without them.”

The pair also talked about the difference between building an audiences globally as opposed to in local markets. Peterson said he became an “ambassador for British club culture” by playing regular nights outside of London, particularly in Paris, Cologne and Vienna, which helped build his audience outside of the UK. He now has a radio show outside of his BBC work, syndicated around the world, which helps to engage and expand his global audience.

They also said that much like other brands, they have to work to protect their brand image. “The kiss of death is to work with a brand that doesn't get you, because it will affect your relationship with your fans”, he said.

Angello said that due to his close relationship with his fans, they knew if he would actually wear a certain jacket that he's been asked to promote or not. “I always say it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he added, emphasising the importance of “organically growing” brand relationships.

Nelson asked how brands could work most effectively with music. Angello said it was most important that when working with a brand to put out work that doesn't take away from your own music. He said that when creating music with a brand or as part of brand work, it needs to be “standalone and recognisable” for the audience.

Both have worked on solo projects with commercial brands over the years including Absolut Vodka, Google, Havana Club, and Peterson has recently been announced as the creative director of wetransfer. Peterson added that the crucial point about his relationship with Havana Club was that they didn't simply attempt to throw money at a short term project, “they had a long term vision with me”. The brand works with the government to promote Cuban culture and Peterson has been able to record and champion local artist as well as having the freedom to make a documentary about rhumba and its culture.

Written independently by Jon Wilkins, chairman of Karmarama

Jez Nelson Gilles Peterson Cannes Lions

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