Bands to Brands
In a lot of ways, the growth of South by Southwest has mirrored changes in the music business as a whole. Consider all the branded parties and concerts. Never used to be this way. Allan Berg is the director of “Outside Industry, the Story of South by Southwest.”
“Early on the day parties and that were these sort of independent affairs,” he said, adding as the conference grew, corporations took notice.
“They know that this is the center of cool for ten days, so let’s go and bring a bunch of bands in and have them play, and slap our logo up and try to monetize it.”
But that’s just part of it. Advertising has been around for a while; what might have recently changed are attitudes towards it. James Evans is with Interscope Records.
“A lot of the more credible artists would never put their music in television commercials or whatever it might be,” Evans said. He says now what used to be called “selling out” is part of a musician’s career strategy.
Austin musician Michael Nance spends some of his studio time writing ad jingles.
“That’s actually how I’m trying to get started; is get some money made or a record deal either through film or commercials and kind of go the reserve root,” Nance said. “Instead of you know, getting on the radio.”
Until he starts selling those, he’s even doing Public Services Announcements for free, as a way to get his voice out there and increase visibility as a band.
The decline in influence of the record labels has something to do with it. Musicians need new ways to reach the public and not starve. Advertising and branding fits that bill.
“And rightfully so,” says Anthony Livreri, who worked for a record label before going into advertising. “It’s about time that bands start to get paid, when labels would kind of get the majority of money that came in,” he said.
Meanwhile major labels can’t rely on retail sales of albums as they used to. So they’re seeing sponsorship and brand placement as a new way of making money. Sean Moeller is founder of the music website daytrotter he says what it all adds up to is a new take on the musician as businessman.
“They know exactly how their band is working, how their brand is working, and they’re better for it, because they can kind of take control of this career that they’re trying to build,” Moeller said.
Where that will take the world of corporate branding at South by Southwest in the future? Check back in another 25 years to find out.