Musicians + Luxury Brands = Match Made In Heaven?

There's been a significant up-tick in the number of well-known recording artists -- among them Lady Gaga, the Ting Tings and Lou Reed -- lending their names, music and public persona to brand-name designers' promotional campaigns. And while the strategy can be lucrative and beneficial for both parties, such a match requires mutual respect for and understanding of the value each brings to the relationship.

Beyond the traditional concept of celebrity endorsement or paid-spokesperson status, today's musical marketing marriages bring a much deeper level of creative influence to the message and the campaign.

What's driving the trend? Not long ago, musicians made the lion's share of their revenue from record sales and tours, with little worry about generating additional streams of income. At the time, partnering with a brand might get an artist or band labeled a "sell out." But, the advent of MP3 downloads and a peer-to-peer sharing networks has changed the game for many musicians, forcing them to look at alternative business models. Meanwhile, most artists have awakened to the reality that every product they use and location they frequent becomes "endorsed" by them by default in the eyes of their fans.



Today, such partnerships manifest in musicians crafting an original soundtrack to support a brand launch or multimedia campaign. For example, Lady Gaga's "The Fame" provided the soundtrack for Michael Kors' Very Hollywood fragrance launch before she became an international sensation and Lou Reed's "The Power of the Heart" was conceived for Cartier's Love collection.

These arrangements, if carefully negotiated with mutual respect from both parties, can offer significant mutual benefit. For marketers, it provides an opportunity to create an overall brand lifestyle experience for their target audience that captures their attention, cuts through the clutter and garners an emotional connection that permeates the consumer psyche beyond the "buy now" response. The integrated brand story becomes as much a part of the attraction as does the quality of the product.

For musicians, partnerships with luxury brands can help raise artists' profiles and expose them to an entirely new audience demographic than they may have otherwise been able to reach (the same is true for the brand, as well). It also provides much-needed support for cultural and creative development with brand partners in essence becoming the benefactors to finance the creative process.

As with any good marriage, the musician-brand relationship requires an appropriate pairing. This involves not only careful consideration of the DNA of both parties and a comparison of shared values, but also a mutual respect for and understanding of the flavor each brings to the mix. Often, brands must relinquish control of the creative process and allow the artist the freedom to give tangible life to the shared vision -- a notion that can be difficult to accept for typical creative officers and agency types.

To be true, it can be a risky proposition given the public's fascination with celebrity scandal. However, the results can be magnificent. The right pairing can be an immensely effective blending of two very different worlds to achieve common goals. When expertly matched and negotiated by an experienced mediator well-entrenched on both sides of the aisle, a match made in heaven can be transformed into a lasting, satisfying relationship.

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