Guest Post: Five Ways Brands Can Make An Impact With Music Beyond Coachella

Bebe Rexha
Photo Courtesy Ketchum
– Bebe Rexha
Betcha Can’t Eat Just One: Lay’s Potato Chips teamed with Bebe Rexha pairing an original song by the Grammy-nominated singer and three music-themed flavors of potato chips for an experiential taste and listening event that was an integrated sponsorship with NBC’s “The Voice.”

For the mammoth festival’s two weekends, a record 17 official sponsors descended upon Coachella Valley, trailed by many other marketers that hosted unofficial pool parties, showcases and mini-festivals, all in an effort to capitalize on the groundswell buzz surrounding the music festival. Yet, beyond these six days in April, there are plenty of other ways brands can integrate music into their campaigns. 

Music has never been easier to consume than it is right now. On-demand song streaming was up a whopping 49% in 2018, with the average share of time spent listing to music per week up 28%, per Nielsen Music. Likewise, concert ticket sales had their second-largest year in 2018, with 59.8 million tickets sold globally.
Music, when embraced the right way, can deliver big, measurable results for brands, and create passionate connections with fans and target audiences that go deeper than any other media. But with numerous entry points, it can be challenging to know where your music activation should begin and where to place your bets. Here are five helpful tips to navigate a successful music strategy.
 Place Small, Early Bets. The best way to enter an authentic music partnership is to work with a break-out artist with a strong career trajectory and a personal brand that aligns with your brand values. Consider Maggie Rogers – who became a viral sensation in 2016 thanks to a NYU video with Pharrell – but who is just now touring with her debut album, nearly three years after the initial clip. She smartly took her time to build a real following and hone her sound, rather than riding the short-lived waves of viral success. Now, with sell-out shows, key slots at major festivals (including Coachella) and a slot on “SNL” she’s established herself as a leading contender for 2020’s Best New Artist Grammy. Savvy brand North Face quickly recognized the authentic synergy between their brand and Rogers’, debuting a campaign in fall 2017, more than a year before her commercial breakthrough. As a result, North Face consumers got an early glimpse at an artist who shares their core passions of the outdoors, and Rogers got meaningful exposure to the brand’s highly engaged fan base (including 3.8 million Instagram followers).   
Think Long-Term. Music is most commonly used by many brands as a one-off tactic rather than a long-term strategy. Yes, having an A-list artist play your SXSW party is a great way to drive short-term buzz, but how are you engaging that artist and their fans after? Programming ongoing, smaller activations can lengthen the value of your dollar. Look at Vans, which has become a trusted presence in music over the last 20 years with an audience that is otherwise highly skeptical of corporate marketing. Last fall, Vans expanded its House of Vans venue concept to create a traveling series of pop-up music events in major cities worldwide. This allowed them to maintain their foothold and consumer base at a hyper-local, but still critically acclaimed level. The company recently reported its strongest quarter in two years.
Do Your Homework. Sure, doing a big campaign with Post Malone will impress your CMO’s 13-year-old, but sometimes the best way to cast a music marketing campaign isn’t by looking at the top of the Spotify 50, but digging deeper. Engaging a third-party consultant with long-term relationships and expertise can make sure your brand’s investment has the desired effect. They’ll do your homework for you by identifying emerging, breakout or well-established artists and platforms with strong professional reputations.  

Maggie Rogers
Andy Kropa
– Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers makes a sold-out stop at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom on March 29 with her “Heard It In A Past Life” tour.
Build Experiences. Countless studies have shown that the majority of Americans (especially Gen-Zs and Millennials) value experiences over products. This has fueled the growth of brand engagement with music even outside the crowded summer festival market, and created entry points for brands that may be less endemic to the space. Take Lay’s Potato Chips, which  took a multi-sensory approach for its first major music play by pairing an original song by Grammy-nominated singer Bebe Rexha with three music-themed flavors of potato chips for an experiential taste and listening event, as well as an integrated sponsorship of NBC’s current “The Voice” season.  
Don’t Forget The Song. There’s an important difference between working with musicians and working with music. Not only are the costs of licensing music totally separate from contracting with talent, the impact can often be just as successful by utilizing one over the other. Consider Lizzo, a cult favorite R&B/pop singer who secured high-profile TV show bookings and sold-out tours this spring on the strength of having her music synched by brands like WW, AT&T and, just last week, MillerCoors’ new brand Cape Line. On the flip side, pairing an iconic artist with an equally well-known – if unexpected – song can reap just as many rewards. During this year’s Super Bowl, Dorito’s scored one of the most engaging ads by pairing the Backstreet Boys and Chance the Rapper for a 2019 remix of the former’s “I Want it That Way.” 
In short, music can be a great way to enhance your brand’s creative expression. 
When Apple teamed with Gen Z superstar Billie Eilish in November for an original song that soundtracked the company’s holiday campaign, Eilish looked to more esoteric sources than her iPhone for inspiration. “I feel like every song I know sounds like an emotion I’ve felt,” she said in a behind-the-scenes clip for the campaign. “It’s like, how could I make a song that sounds like the way that this light looks? I know it’s really weird to think about, but it’s more interesting for me.” The result: one of the most successful songs ever to be commissioned by a brand. Harnessing the power of music can sometimes be as simple as letting the creative process take its course, and letting culture do the work for you.
Joe Killian is an Emmy-Award winning producer, brand partnerships consultant and founder of entertainment agency 
Killian & Company.