Marketers creating music labels to promote products

July 8, 2008

As record labels struggle with file-sharing and record store closings, companies are getting into the music business to promote their own products, essentially becoming record labels themselves, The New York Times reports. Procter & Gamble, for one, is joining Island Def Jam in a joint venture called TAG Records (named after the body spray), that will sign and release albums by new hip-hop acts.

“I’ve never seen someone wanting to devote this much money to breaking new artists,” the paper quotes Jermaine Dupri, a well-known hip-hop and R&B producer, as saying. Dupri will serve as president of TAG Records while continuing to run Island Def Jam’s urban music division. “Nobody in the music business has the marketing budget that I have,” he says.

A decade ago, signing a record contract with a body-spray company would have been unthinkable for most artists, but with promotion budgets at record labels shrinking, consumer brands can offer valuable exposure in print and television ads, the Times writes. Tag might spend seven times as much promoting a release as a traditional label, the paper quotes Jeff Straughn, Island Def Jam’s vice president for strategic marketing, as saying. And for artists, deals with brands can be more lucrative than traditional record contracts.

But a brand has to make sure consumers know they financed a song without it seeming like a commercial. “We wanted it to be like they were making their own record,” the paper quotes Rob Stone, co-founder of Cornerstone, a music marketing company that has set up music deals for Converse, Caress and Smirnoff, as saying about a song that Kayne West, Nas and KRS-One recorded for Nike with celebrated producer Rick Rubin. “None of them had to mention the Air Force 1,” a Nike shoe. But as it turned out, the song, “Better Than I’ve Ever Been,” does mention the sneakers and the Nike brand. —Compiled by Greg Beaubien for Tactics and The Strategist Online


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