Thursday, January 01, 2009

A&R Vs. A&B – Artist & Branding

Back in 1994, only a couple of years after I started producing music for TV, radio and early interactive media, I noticed the increasing number of people calling the studio inquiring about the music they had heard on a commercial. They wanted to know where they could buy the album that included the full length version of the track that they heard on the commercial.

Most of the time I had to tell them that no such an album existed.

Well, it didn't take long for me to realize an opportunity was being wasted here. So, at that point I started pitching my clients –account execs at ad agencies– with the idea to produce an album of music that included an extended version of the ad music, and several other similarly composed selections.

The result would be a promotional gift they could give to their customers upon a purchase. I envisioned hiring young rising stars and then making, say, a BMW produced-and-branded CD (or later, I conceived it as a downloadable playlist, which I alternately called Branded or Brand Mixes) that, say, new car owners could play in their 'Ultimate Driving Machine'.

In other words, I wanted advertising agencies to become music companies.

It seemed like a simple thing to do. After all,  agencies were already producing 'singles', per say in the way of jingles and underscores; and creating multi million dollar videos for them (the commercials); and buying enough media time to put them into heavy rotation (promoting TV shows and products), thereby insuring public awareness, buzz and even to some extent, mass popularity. So, what's another half mil to actually create a piece of collateral you can own (for a little while, anyway) and give to customers of the 'core merchandise'?

And now, wake up to the year 2009, and this model appears, if not quite in full swing, a viable alternate way to for some musicians win fans and to either bypass or attract the attention of record labels.

That said, I don't think it's working out quite so well for the advertisers, and that's because agencies by and large have missed one key ingredient in the production of

However, if advertising agencies are increasingly assuming the role one held by record labels why isn't the model yet working in terms of industry?

The problem has to do with how advertisers view people: Whereas Artists see Fans who relate to performers, Advertisers see Consumers who simply use products.

But this paradigm might change if the makers of products and services begin place less emphasis on creating profit and instead consider how they might create and benefit from the creation of artistic or socially conscious cultural capital.

Whether such promotions will cost more or less than traditional marketing means remains to be seen, but ROE  (the Return Of Emotion) potentially earns more loyalty and therefore generates more earnings long term (than meeting immediate profit goals).

ROE is always worth more than ROI alone, because ROE influences repeated contact with the brand, and therefore more opportunities for Consumer and Company to interact. ROE is what transforms a Seller/Buyer arrangement into a RELATIONSHIP.

In other words, ROE is what turns customers into return customers, thereby transforming them from a person who makes a casual purchase into a FAN.

Customers come and customers go, but fans will nurture and maintain a long term commitment (with Bands AND Brands) because Bands AND Brands give them REAL reasons to love them. In this respect, ROE encourages the development of exactly the kind of characteristics similarly found in relationships between two people, or a person and a pet, or any two living beings that share a mutual bond.

In no particular order, such characteristics include (and yes, some words overlap the definitions of others):

• Availability
• Dependability
• Reliability
• Respect
• Communication
• Maintainability
• Support
• Shared Responsibility
• Trust
• Integrity
• Loyalty

And last but not least:

• Free Gifts

It would be funny, wouldn't it, if it weren't also true.

At any rate, I once even fancied myself adopting a new role with the job title 'Artist & Branding'.

Didn't happen, although not doubt, with the tremendous increase in licensing music by advertising agencies in recent years, many music supervisors have already essentially taken on this role.

Regardless, since then, other's have created similarly conceived positions (not to mention produced similarly conceived promotions) with notable success. As a result, I do believe that one day in the near future –if only because I see it already happening right now– the traditional A&R role will evolve into a new A&B model. –Regardless of whether or not industry staffers ever actually relinquish the title that so many still dream of assuming, 'Artists & Repertoire'.