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Brand New Thinking - SoundCity 2014 Bangs the Drum for Music Partnerships


Following hot on the heels of SXSW, music industry professionals have this week been focussing their attention on Liverpool as Sound City - the UK’s largest international music, digital and film festival - returns for its seventh year. Attracting over 40,000 Music Fan’s, the festival includes a series of conferences featuring some of the industry’s most influential people and this week, our strategic planning and insight department Fanatic have been on the ground uncovering what brands can learn about connecting with music fans.

The panel discussions we followed most closely this year was Brand New Thinking: Brands that Innovate with Music.  It featured representatives from Sky, Big Fish, IF Media and Sonic Network to discuss how brands are navigating the new music landscape to connect with fans and communicate their messages. Ear to the Ground's very own CEO, Steve Smith was also on stage armed with the latest stats and knowledge from our Fanatic planning and insight department.   

Key to the discussion was the shift in the music industry as a result of digitisation and online streaming services and how this is opening up a huge opportunity for brands as artists increasingly look for alternative revenue streams. Red Bull and Converse were amongst those discussed as leading innovation in this field with the panel questioning whether brands will fill the gap left by record labels in the not too distant future. Labels still have huge distribution and promotional networks but the panel could not agree on whether this was a strong enough asset to keep them as viable model and the major force in music creation and ownership.

Following on from this, the panel also discussed the shift from ‘badge and broadcast’ towards more integrated, collaborative partnerships. More brands realise that, to survive in today’s industry, simply paying for association with an artist isn’t enough. Rupert Vereker from Sonic stressed the importance of a more strategic approach in asserting that, for brand partnerships to be successful, they need to be based on a clear understanding of each party’s objectives.

In discussing the challenges faced by brands bringing music into their marketing strategies, 'understanding' fans and the importance of getting out of the “consumer mind set” was raised as a key point. Steve Smith talked about how irrational, devotional and ritualistic fans are a long way from rational consumers. Music fans are more passionate, emotionally engaged and connected than everyday consumers. One of the most repeated themes throughout the discussion was the importance of authenticity when looking to create a successful music strategy. Contemporary music lovers are particularly brand-savvy and key audiences will immediately switch off if they feel partnerships are inauthentic which is why the panel stressed the importance of finding artists who fit with a brand’s personality and ethos.

The explosion of branded content was also a huge talking point. The days of straightforward synchronization deals to score a global ad seem outmoded. Fans are hungry for content that they can interact with and the propensity for sharing quality content created and curated by a brand is massive. As Jeremy Patterson emphasised “It always comes back to what Fans want”. If brands can give fans access to content they would not otherwise be able to experience, that is relevant, fans will remember them for the right reasons. What is clear from the discussions at this year’s panel is that there are continued fundamental changes ahead for the music industry and exciting opportunities for brands support and curate.

Sound City was again another brilliant forum for discussion on how the media landscape is changing and how music can be used as an incredibly powerful tool in creating campaigns that really cut through the clutter. It was great for our Fanatic planning and insight team to sit in the audience to meet other like-minded experts and stay at the forefront of fan thinking.  It really was a fantastically organised conference and our thanks go out to the great team who made it happen. 

We have worked with numerous brands including Umbro, Doc Martins, Heineken, Halford’s and Phones 4u, to help them navigate the complexities of music landscape and make the most out of their music partnerships. For more info on how Fanatic & Ear to the Ground can help you connect with Music Fans give us a call…


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