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The golden rules for music brand partnerships according to ATC's Gary Cohen

By Gary Cohen, managing director

February 10, 2017 | 4 min read

Gary Cohen, brand partnerships director at UK music management company ATC, gives his take on how artists and brands can create seamless collaborations that work for all involved.

Golden rules brand partnerships

The golden rules for music brand partnerships

As a broader range of brands look to engage with music artists and events, there are a few golden rules that both artist and brand should adhere to when approaching potential partnerships to ensure maximum return.

For the artist:

1. Authenticity – are you a genuine fan of the brand and can you credibly advocate on their behalf?

2. Collaboration – beyond the pure financial return, what brand-owned data, channels and insights could be of benefit to the artist?

3. Beyond the music – what passions does the artist have beyond the music? How can they work with brands to bring those passions to a wider audience and potentially develop new revenue streams?

4. Fans first – how can we work with brands to enhance the overall fan experience around touring and releases?

5. Think long-term – it’s not advisable for an artist to be aligned to multiple brands in the short-term; nobody wins. Pick your potential partners carefully and develop organic and evolving relationships.

6. Understand your partner – be familiar with what the brand is trying to achieve from the relationship and be willing to contribute potential ideas. The most effective campaigns are those with some artist input at planning stage.

For the brand:

1. Don’t shout, whisper – let the music be the hero as there’s no point paying an artist a fee and then smothering the content or event with heavy branding. Consumers are smart enough to know it’s brought to you by the brand – let it breathe.

2. Be useful, be interesting – always consider how to enhance the fan experience, whether it’s on-site ponchos or festival registration on the train journey there; being useful is a great way to be remembered post-activation.

3. Seek out value – bring the partnership to life across multiple channels. I’m constantly amazed at how often brands and agencies miss a trick in terms of adding in additional elements to a partnership platform.

4. Change the channel – be open to new ideas, they’re often the most compelling channels of communication. There’s major changes going on in the way recorded music and music-led content is consumed. Be it virtual reality, Snapchat filters or live-streaming, it’s vital brands keep pace with these changes.

5. Putting the art in artist – the most compelling and shareable content often comes from artist input. Brands should utilize the artist’s creative DNA when conceptualizing content. Artist curation is also a proven winner, particularly in the fashion sector.

6. Reach for the masses but speak to the individual – music is a highly personal passion point. Tailor your messaging to reflect the personal connection people have with their favorite artists.

ATC manages over 40 high-profile artists, including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey, Faithless, Katie Melua, Laura Mvula and Shura.

This feature first appeared in a special music issue of The Drum, published in partnership with Clio Music. You can subscribe to The Drum magazine here.

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