As a consultancy acting for brands, we deal every day with artists, artist managers and music rights owners (labels & publishers). Typically we’re looking to license existing tracks for our clients’ marketing films, or book an artist for a live event. It intrigues me that there’s such wide variety of attitudes and behaviours among the rights owner and management community. When discussing brand-related deals, some people just “get it” and others don’t. Broadly speaking, it’s simpler brokering deals with unsigned acts (where all rights sit with the artist themselves) than with those who are signed to labels & publishers (where multiple rights owners are involved). Thankfully, the situation is constantly improving so I’d like to offer some thoughts to help this trend continue in the right direction. Apologies if I’m preaching to the converted!
Brands generally find music difficult & complicated. Unlike photography or talent (actors, models, sports stars), the fragmented nature of music appears as a frightening tangle of conflicting agendas with no clear path to navigate. Brands often ask: “Who should I talk to? Label, Manager, Booking Agent, Publisher, Artist, Lawyer or everyone?” Of course, it all depends on the project objectives and which rights are required.
Here are some tips for artists (& artist managers) looking for greater insight into the perspective of brands:
1. It’s all demand-led. Focus on what the brand is looking to buy (rather than what you have to sell). This will be a direct function of what business problem the brand needs to solve.
2. For brands, you are a service (company). So behave like one. Be responsive, polite & helpful at all times.
3. Music is everything to you – but it isn’t for brands. It’s a passion point to engage with consumers but could just as easily be sports or fashion. Make music an easy option for brands.
4. Be open & transparent. Explain who all the different stakeholders are. If you’re unsigned and all rights sit with you, explain the benefits of that. If you’re signed, explain the role of your label, publisher(s) and manager – and encourage the brand to invite them all to the table from the outset. Educate the brand on who controls which rights and how the consent process works. A better-informed brand will be easier to work with.
5. Deal direct. Brands may have consultants to advise them, but aim to contract directly with the brand rather than their agencies. You’ll gain better insight on how best to satisfy the brand’s needs without an agency in-between.
6. Build trust. Be open about costs up-front, but don’t look to catch the brand out later on if they’ve forgotten to ask key questions. If you help to educate them, they’ll have a better understanding of your world, and will trust you more. With trust comes repeat business.
7. Think long term. It’s not just about one transaction – it’s a partnership that you want. So don’t hold a gun to the brand’s head now if you want to work with them in the future. They will remember!
Richard Kirstein is a Founding Partner of Resilient Music LLP. Resilient is a network of skilled music specialists, in music-led brand marketing and music rights management.