Once you know where the artists and their fans ‘draw the line’, you then need to know where you can add value. Because in this day and age unless you add value to the music experience that you are creating (or buying into) you are unlikely to gain any real value from participating.

One of the most popular sectors for brands to play in at the moment is the Unsigned sector, no-doubt spurred on by the success of the Myspace brand. But how many of the brands playing in this space are delivering anything useful to the artists, or the fans?

Let’s take a look at Red Stripe’s Music Awards contest, as an example. What might a band want from entering such a competition? The expectation from these sort of competitions is usually some sort of record deal, lots of media exposure, the chance to play bigger and better venues to bigger and better audiences, and possibly some chart success.

Red Stripe Music Awards 2007 poster

The reality for the artist, however, is often very different.

Let’s look at last year’s Red Stripe winner’s, The Runners. It seems that almost one year on from winning the award, that their career has hardly moved on. They are back playing small and predominantly local venues. The media coverage they got from winning the award seems to have pretty much dissipated. While the band, who already had a record deal with a small UK indie label prior to winning the competition, have failed to capitalise on their ‘success’, with neither of their two singles to-date charting. Hardly the big leg-up I’m sure the band, and their label, were no-doubt hoping for.

The brand laudably claim that “the award is about championing grass roots music and we aim to offer a genuinely talented band a foot in the door of that great big sod known as the industry”. But sadly these sort of competitions rarely deliver on their initial promise. Ask any A&R man. It’s pretty true to say that few bands ever got signed from sending out unsolicited demo tapes, it’s also true to say that few bands got anywhere from winning a Battle Of The Bands style competition.

But often the issue is even more fundamental. We’ve spent a long time talking to unsigned bands and grass roots organisations that provide help to young musicians; and the things they really NEED are far simpler, and are often lot more beneficial than winning a competition.

Yet brands always seem to fail to ask the simplest of questions. How can we help?

Artists, be they unsigned or international stars, really shouldn’t see working with brands as some sort of necessary evil. Brands can help – be it investment, marketing or distribution. So talk to them and find out how you can genuinely help them achieve their goals. The solution could be far simpler than you’d think.

And once you get involved you can’t just drop everything and expect everyone to remain happy. Sony Bravia provided information on their website about Jose Gonzalez, who soundtracked their award-winning TV advert, but stopped updating it as soon as their new advert appeared.

One top UK manager summed it up best when he said:

Bands will sometimes work with brands for the money and the exposure. But these sorts of programmes usually don’t have a significant impact on building artist’s careers, and that’s why they don’t feel beholden to the Brand. Brands simply didn’t do enough to really impact on our attitude towards them.

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