How music videos create brand connection

Even after a generation of technology has radically changed the landscape of the music industry, music remains where it always has been—at the center of culture. However, more recent technological innovation and consumer behavior influenced by demographic changes as well as the pandemic, violated the television and advertising industry.

Amid content overload and competition from social video for younger viewers, the market is transforming its content and advertising strategy to address the rapid growth of streaming TV and especially the potential of free ad-supported streaming TV (also known as FAST ). One example: During the recent CES conference, Vevo announced a partnership with TikTok to produce a weekly “Trending on TikTok” show for Vevo’s FAST network.

On January 6, LaTrice Burnette, executive vice president of Def Jam Recordings and president of 4th & Broadway, and Steve Rifkind, music entrepreneur and founder of Loud Records and SRC Records, joined Dan Perez, president and editor-in-chief of Ad Age, for an exclusive fireside chat at CES. The three discussed the history and state of music videos, specifically how videos are still key to launching new artists, as well as a proven solution for brands looking to align with the cultural conversation.

A successful collaboration between an artist and a brand

Both Rifkind and Burnett are music industry veterans with years of experience overseeing lucrative collaborations between major labels and artists. At Loud Records, Rifkind discovered the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and Three 6 Mafia, and his firm, the Steven Rifkind Company, helped pioneer street team marketing in the hip-hop community. During his career, he launched successful marketing campaigns with brands including T-Mobile, Adidas, Nike, Pepsi and Levi’s.

“Videos are still the most important factor for artists breaking through,” Rifkind said, noting that Vevo has replaced older channels as the main place fans can watch music videos.

During her time in Epic Records, Burnette has overseen marketing campaigns for artists such as DJ Khaled, Travis Scott, Ciara and Diddy. One of the main lessons of the pandemic era is that disruption, technological or otherwise, can lead to innovation and opportunity for artists and brands. Burnett pointed out that this is not a new development.

“When I started in the music industry, digital was new media,” she said. “Back then, we were starting from Napster and illegal file sharing. Today we have to look at the disruptive models and figure out a way to use them to position our artists and translate that into our existing marketing.”

DE&I drives authenticity

Another major disruption of the past few years—the movement for more diversity, equity, and inclusion in society and in the media—also has to do with a base of people who have historically been ignored or underrepresented.

Increasing diversity is vital, Burnett said, both as an African-American woman and because she believes it’s important to know your audience.

“I’ve always been that person in the room who, if I see something that’s off target or off brand, it’s my responsibility to step in and say, ‘We need to look at this. This is not right. That’s why it can be problematic once it’s launched,” she said. “More of these conversations need to happen because they can save people so much time, money and heartache.”

Authenticity is key to connecting with an artist’s fan base when pursuing the right brand partnership deals, Rifkind added, whether it’s Levi’s and Lauryn Hill, Helly-Hansen and Mobb Deep or Nike and Wu-Tang Clan.

“When you’re working with artists and doing brand deals, if it’s not authentic, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all,” Burnett said. “Record executive and rapper DJ Khaled’s partnership with the Jordan shoe brand, for example, is an authentic brand partnership because they listen to him and he’s super involved in every step of the creative process. That’s what resonates with his audience.”

“It’s about knowing your audience to a T,” Rifkind added. “Back in the day with the street team, we knew what bus or train they could take to school, what sport they played, what their GPA was. We knew everything about their lives.”

Continuous innovation

For Vevo, the next step in capitalizing on the authenticity of partnerships between brands and music artists and their fans is moving from on-demand digital to longer-term content through its growing FAST network of genre-specific music video channels. With wide distribution across platforms including The Roku Channel and Amazon’s Freevee, Vevo’s network has grown to nearly 150 channels, making it the largest FAST network in the world.

Vevo’s rich catalog of content gives brands the ability to reach music fans where they are, as viewers continue to migrate from traditional linear to streaming and especially with the rise in popularity of ad-supported streaming.

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