As we look forward to this weekend’s Grammy Awards, we are looking back on some of our favorite branded projects featuring music artists and considering what makes these collaborations most successful. We also want to congratulate some of the artists we have collaborated with who are nominated this year including Lizzo, Molly Tuttle, Jack Harlow, Rodney Crowell, and Dolly Parton.
I’m Lagan Sebert, one of the Founding Partners of Hometeam. I love nothing more than helping artists and brands partner in authentic and mutually beneficial ways. I grew up in the music industry; a Music Row brat in Nashville with two musician parents. I’ve worked with my sister, the recording artist Kesha, throughout her career and have had the pleasure of working with dozens of high-profile artists from every corner of the industry over the last few decades. Over time, I have gained a perspective on some things.
As the business of music and advertising evolve, I see artist and brand partnerships becoming more important to both sides. On the music side with the dramatic decline in album sales, artists need to find other avenues for monetizing their art. On the advertising side, it's become so easy for consumers to skip and ignore ads that brands need to find new, creative ways to get in front of more eyeballs and in more ears.
What popular artists lack in physical album sales, they certainly make up for in passionate fan bases that are hungry for content. Most popular brands might not have the same passionate fan bases, but they certainly have healthier marketing budgets than most record labels these days.
But what about the stigma against artists “selling out” you ask? Well, in my experience working in the industry, as album sales have taken a nosedive, so has the stigma against “selling out.” In practice, if a brand and an artist’s ideals are aligned and the brand takes a light touch approach with the artists, these can be matches made in heaven for both sides.
As someone who has worked on both the artist management side and the production side, I can say with some level of confidence that it all comes down to taking a collaborative approach to these partnerships. With few exceptions in my experience, artists rarely respond well to being given strict orders on what they ”have to say” or “have to do.” But instead, if the brand side allow the artists to bring their own voice to the equation not only will the production be more successful; the content will be more authentic and the artist will be more invested in the quality and promotion of the content.
Instead of viewing artists as just someone to read lines of a script, if you give them a voice in the creative discussions, chances are they will plus up the content and be more excited about promoting it. Lets not forget we are talking about world-class creative minds.
For example, when we developed the branded series “The Adventures of Kesha and Macklemore” for T-Mobile with Laundry Service & PMK-BNC, the artists' voices led the creative from the beginning. We set out to give fans an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at life on the road for international stars Kesha and Macklemore on their 2018 summer tour. We staffed up with production teams with previous relationships with the artists. Each episode included footage shot by our embedded production team, mixed with fan-generated video shot on mobile phones resulting in content that felt authentic to fans. Episodes were shot and delivered within one week, and posted on the artists and brands social channels simultaneously to drive organic traffic during the summer tour.
Similarly with our Clio-winning branded content production made with Momentum Worldwide for Walmart, we followed Chance The Rapper, Imagine Dragons, and Kane Brown as they reconnected with their favorite high school teachers to say thank you and give advice to kids in school now. Walmart also made generous donations to teachers and schools across the country as part of the campaign – now, that’s something an artist who cares about their hometown can get behind!
Because in these projects the artists had a hand in designing the approach to the productions, the content felt authentic, and fans engaged. When done right, everyone wins in these types of brand and artist collaborations.