How not to hit a bum note with digital music partnerships

Apple Music adds to a myriad of digital music partnership opportunities, says Adrian Pettett, CEO, Havas SE Cake, but it can very easily fall flat.

Apple Music launches, adding further opportunities for brands to associate with music
Apple Music launches, adding further opportunities for brands to associate with music
Bands and artists are still held in almost god-like regard by their followers and fans have never felt closer to their idols

As Apple gears up to take on Spotify with details of a new streaming service unveiled last night, the music industry certainly continues to grab headlines this month. Despite being beaten to the punch by Google, which announced a similar product at its own developers conference a couple of weeks ago, Apple Music’s association with Beats could give it the edge.

These announcements follow news that UK stars Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding are topping charts globally, and a report from PwC last week also predicted the music industry’s revenue will be £2.69bn in 2019. Much of this success can be attributed to huge growth in digital music streaming and the arrival of new revenue streams for artists and labels.

No more than a tweet away

All this comes as a timely reminder of the value music and entertainment offers for brands, and the opportunities presented by partnerships with influential industry players. Bands and artists are still held in almost god-like regard by their followers and fans have never felt closer to their idols. Many are now no more than a tweet away, and will be within touching distance as they headline festivals and live brand experiences throughout the summer.

There has been many a clumsy brand tie-up that has done more bad than good for all parties

From Twitter and Facebook to Spotify and Snapchat, technology has given the average consumer a direct channel to communicate with his or her favourite celebrities – such technology has also shaken up the music industry’s traditional revenue streams, however, leaving artists and bands searching for new ways to monetise the following they have worked so hard to build. This has made even the world’s biggest acts realistic targets for brand partnerships, and there are now more opportunities than ever before to market to music fans.

Clumsy brand tie-up

While the changing music and entertainment landscape provides a chance for brands to engage with consumers on a more genuine level, it’s not a simple case of brand + musician = success. In fact, there has been many a clumsy brand tie-up that has done more bad than good for all parties.

Brands need to think not just about how popular a band is at present, but the credibility such a partnership would have with its fans. Sometimes, a more engaged up-and-coming act that will contribute to the creative process will form a more believable campaign than a global superstar who gives the brand an hour of their time.

Don't be cool by association

Above all, don’t just do it to be ‘cool by association’. At Havas SE Cake, we give every idea the 'fundamental stress test' – in other words, does it make anybody’s life better; is it genuinely useful or more fun? Does this partnership serve a purpose and give someone something they wouldn't otherwise get? That innate tangibility is the real engagement kick-starter.

There are many brilliant examples of course, but I wanted to share one I really admire – and, for balance, one that didn't quite hit the mark:

EE / Glastonbury festival


EE solved a couple of genuine problems for festivalgoers at Glastonbury, instantly adding value to their experience. They provided a recharge tent and a ‘power bar’ exchange – a portable mobile device charger people could swap for a fully charged one once theirs had run out – meaning people didn’t run out of juice on the first of a five-day trip.

With all that extra battery life, EE’s high-speed WiFi also allowed them to tweet and post selfies long into the night. This is a great example of being useful to your audience, and it gave EE the opportunity to show current and prospective customers the benefits of its services.

Blackberry / Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys: originally appointed to help promote the BlackBerry 10 operating system

Alicia Keys, Global Creative Director, Blackberry. The title raised a few eyebrows at the time and Alicia certainly didn’t help things by sending a tweet tagged with ‘sent from my iPhone’ – a classic case of big name not always equalling big success.

It clearly did little to halt Blackberry’s sliding sales. on the other hand, who has a history of breaking new ground in his industry, made a lot more sense when he popped up as Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation.

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