Warner Music wants to tell the story, not sell the story
A view from Bob Workman

Warner Music wants to 'tell the story, not sell the story' with The Firepit

Record company Warner Music has launched The Firepit, a creative content division and innovation incubator, to bring bands, brands and technology together, explains Bob Workman.

Two brands coming together for mutual benefit is nothing new, and neither are the potential risks, especially when one of those brands is a human being – whether a genius from the football field, a social media celebrity or a music megastar.

In our world, consumers have an unprecedented level of access to their heroes and feel they’re on intimate terms, and at the same time, they’re more brand-literate than ever.

As a result, the negative feedback to a crass brand mismatch – where the motivation is all commerce and no art –  will be swift and merciless, amplified through countless channels until it becomes deafening.

These same risk factors – the brilliant, nuanced, and multi-layered nature of the artists that people find compelling, the connection their audience feel toward them and the many platforms that both fan and artist now have to express themselves – represent, to the brand partner ready to embrace them, a unique and exciting opportunity.

The days of brands giving artists a script are over. Today’s most progressive brands know that a partnership with an artist delivers the most value when both parties are prepared to embark on a mutual understanding of each other’s worlds, values and ambitions.

The biggest opportunity is in exchanging ideas and co-creating something new and different, something that burnishes not just the brand or the artist, but that enriches the fans and audiences that experience it.

Today’s most progressive brands know that a partnership with an artist delivers the most value when both parties are prepared to embark on a mutual understanding of each other’s worlds, values and ambitions.

Charli XCX designing her lines with Boohoo is a great example of an artist extending her talents beyond the stage.

It’s worth noting that music artists are in fact, artists. They want to create for their fans, whether music or something much broader and have amazing instincts for what their fans will enjoy.

It’s the difference between selling a story and telling a story.

That’s easy to say, but not so easy to do. It requires imagination, experimentation and agility. Partners have to be able to come together, to explore and create across an incredible range of platforms and spaces, all of which have their own rules of engagement when it comes to tone and content and it has to happen at a speed that’s sometimes dizzying.

The conversation between consumer, brand and artist takes place in real time and doesn’t wait for ideation sessions, production meetings or approval processes.

Navigate all that and you have authenticity – the word of the moment, the basis of my argument and the aspiration of every great brand and every great artist.

But there’s the rub. Authenticity takes work. It takes investment, it takes consistency and it takes confidence. By its very definition, it can’t be faked.

That’s why at Warner Music UK, we’ve created The Firepit, a creative content division and an innovation incubator based in our London HQ that also houses a state of the art recording studio.

Authenticity takes work. It takes investment, it takes consistency and it takes confidence. By its very definition, it can’t be faked.

It gives artists and brands a place to create together, along with access to technologies that add a new dimension to the narrative.

And it houses a collective of experts steeped in insight about our artists and fans’ spectrum of passions, adept at originating rich content and experiences with the speed and quality that audiences demand.

By collaborating with artists and brands in new spaces, The Firepit becomes a conduit for human truths that breed deep affinity.

It’s just over a week since we launched and, from our first ever VR recording session to an adventure in augmented reality to a hit-making producer/singer/songwriter holding an impromptu choir practice in our office canteen, we’ve already seen the power of giving creative people a place to play, to discover and to find new ways to make their voice heard.

So, if truthful, collaborative storytelling is today’s biggest opportunity for brands and music, then spaces like The Firepit are the next chapter for us all.

Bob Workman is senior vice-president, brand partnerships at Warner Music UK