Giles Fitzgerald, FRUKT

We speak to FRUKT’s Giles Fitzgerald about how collaborations between bands and brands are an effective way for musicians to line their coffers…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 19 Mar 2015
  • min read
Giles Fitzgerald
Back in 2012, FRUKT and PRS for Music released research stating that the UK music industry attracted over £100m of investments from brands.

The study revealed that partnering with a company such as Coca Cola, Red Bull or Converse could be an astute move for new and emerging artists, particularly with ever dwindling music industry money available.

Two years after the original study was published, we caught up FRUKT’s trends and insights editor Giles Fitzgerald for his take on this ever-evolving landscape…

Has the amount of money brands are investing in the music industry continued to grow since the 2012 research?

Brand activity has become a mainstay of the music business, with labels and artists actively looking to offset their depleted music sales. Brands are starting to truly understand the inherent value of forging a deeper relationship with music beyond the occasional ad sync.

Although we (FRUKT) haven’t conducted a full new study, partnership activity is definitely on the rise year-on-year and now provides a crucial source of revenue, both for emerging and established acts alike. What was once seen as ‘selling out’ has now become a standard component of an artist’s portfolio. For example, FRUKT’s recent Brands & Bands: The Value Exchange report highlighted that 68 percent of artist managers now view brand partnerships as an increasingly important factor in adding value to an artist’s overall career.

Why is music seen as such a popular way of amplifying brands by marketeers?

Music has the innate ability to provide that most sought after return on investment for a brand - a long-term emotional connection. No matter how hard you try, becoming emotionally attached to a can of soft drink, a new laptop or dog food is hard. However, add a layer of music and this creates a heightened level of emotional resonance, enhancing our subconscious perception of the product.

Also, music is universal; it provides a window on the world that everyone can access and relate to, transcending culture, demographic or economic background. This is extremely beneficial to brands with a global remit.

What should bands/music makers have at the forefront of their minds when collaborating with brands?

Artists need to realise that brands aren’t cash points. It’s often easy to assume that large corporations have boundless amounts of cash and that playing hardball on the financial negotiations is all that matters. However, there are far more valuable benefits to be had than merely walking away with a one off pay check. When it comes to additional value, 90 percent of artist managers cited “access to new audiences” and the ability to “tap into new global markets” as the most important benefits outside of payment. Opting out of a brand deal because the payment terms aren’t high enough for you could effectively mean turning your back on millions of associated marketing dollars and access to a whole new legion of fans.

That said, artists obviously still need to be paid for their work, and brands need to be both respectful and mindful of the day-to-day financial needs of the creative community.

Are there any potential pitfalls they need to be aware of?

Don’t sign away your integrity or do anything that devalues your fan base, both of these are hard fought assets and offer far more leverage to brands than you probably realise. Damaging your own personal brand through a poorly considered partnership can weaken your credibility with your audience, which ultimately effects your value to other brand partners in the future.

What needs to be in place for a successful relationship?

It needs to feel authentic. It needs to feel like a natural fit. Fans will see right through a campaign if it feels forced. A vast 98 percent of artist managers cited a ‘credible artist fit’ as one of the most crucial factors that determine whether they enter into a brand partnership.

What does the future of this space look like?

Ultimately the line between the artist and the brand is going to become increasingly blurred.

With traditional music sales plummeting and the long-term viability of streaming music continually coming into question, the branded revenue stream is going to become highly sough after. You’re already starting to see it happen now with some Western artists, but I envisage more of a swing towards the Eastern model, currently utilised in Korea/ Japan, whereby artists are built from the ground up as brands first and music artists second. Kpop artists are trained to be endorsement friendly from the get go, with brand partnerships an integral part of the artist’s career trajectory.

As artists, label and managers push harder for brand alignments, it becomes ever more critical to have a viable, measurable filter to assess the true value of a partnership.

Which platforms/tech are offering the most exciting opportunities?

Technology tends to be faddish, and is either too nascent to be relevant to the masses or too invasive to be credible (retro-fitting brands into existing music videos). Technology is all well and good for one off stunts, but if you look to the most credible brands operating in music today – say Red Bull or Converse – they have achieved this position not by jumping on every tech trend that came their way, but by investing in the ‘experience’ of music and building an authentic relationship with fans to build respect for their brands.

Check out our recent feature on brands vs bands.