Authenticity is key when it comes to brands collaborating with musicians

The relationship between musicians and brands is a mainstay of pop culture. Partnerships offer brands the chance to reach coveted audiences and artists a revenue stream not limited by the calendar of the record industry.

However, authenticity is at the heart of any successful collaboration.

On a recent panel at The Drum's Can-Do Festival, recording artist Katie Melua offered her perspective on how this authenticity can come through, and on the relationships between artists and brands moving forward.

Melua says that from an artist’s perspective, “deciding what you give your time is really important. You have a wonderful kind of fortune, being a musical artist that gives you a certain amount of influence, so the selection is super important.”

“Personally, for me, certain values like environmental issues are really important, so we always try to really deep dive into those topics to make sure the alignment is there [before working with a brand].”

Speaking on brands that have fostered a good relationship with artists due to the causes they support, Gary Cohen, head of brand partnerships at ATC Management, held jeans brand Levi’s up as an example.

“Levi‘s is an example of a brand which has always tried to find a route within the partnership. For example, developing local music projects in particularly in disadvantaged areas, and I think they did a big campaign with Stormzy around all of that a few years ago.

“And there‘s any number of other brands that have a dedicated cause, be that the environment or Black Lives Matter in recent times. Now more than ever, I think artists are looking for that type of good cause alignment in everything they do with brands.”

Cohen also emphasises that collaborations with artists work best when the artists are given a high-level of creative control: “We certainly found that the campaigns that work the best are the ones where the artists has the opportunity to really contribute to the final output.

“What we do when we work with brands is we try to bring artists to the table as soon as possible, so they know what’s expected from the brand side, but also so they are able to get their creative input into the final campaign.”

Sumit Bothra, director at ATC management, also agrees that collaboration works best “when the brand just leaves it up to the artist to do what’s appropriate.”

“What you have to understand is that with most artists, and particularly when you’re working in a team, we are quite unique in that we’ve got the artist‘s manager and director of brands quite literally under the same roof, so we are intrinsic to one another.

“What happens in those situations is the artists, the manager, the brand, the brand consultant, the director, everybody wants that relationship to succeed. So we will always ask: you know your audience better than us, so you know how your audience will respond to this collaboration better than us.”

When asked what advice they would give to brands looking to work with artists in the future, Cohen suggests that the key is for brands to recognise the artists‘s humanity, and seek to bring that out.

“An artist essentially has two personas – their artistic persona and the artistic character and all that comes with it. But it is the natural version of themselves, the true honest version of themselves, that more and more the one consumers are responding to.”

Melua, Cohen and Bothra spoke with Lynn Lester as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.

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