How to avoid working with the wrong brand

How to avoid working with the wrong brand

Versión en castellano aquí.

Many will regard the word ‘brand’ as an abomination in relation to music but if you’re a working musician then, like it or not, it already applies to you. Whether it’s the clothes you wear, the instruments you play, the genre you operate in, the venues you perform in, the things you say in interviews, your album artwork, tour merchandise, associated acts – all these things colour the perception that others will have of you. You might not view what you do in “brand” terms, but other people will.

Thus, if a large amount of people perceive you as cute, or edgy, or sexy, or family-friendly, then that might make you attractive to a brand looking to trade on these qualities. However, just because your image might be a perfect match for them, that doesn’t mean they’ll make a good match for you. The concept of ‘selling out’ may seem outdated in an era when most high-profile rappers have endorsement deals and once rebellious artists such as Johnny Rotten, Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop appear in adverts, but that doesn’t mean working with the wrong brand won’t potentially reflect badly on you. Just as a sync can make a career, it can equally break one.

One very simple way of working out whether a brand is a good match is by looking at their target market. If they’re trying to sell their products to the sort of audience that is also likely to enjoy your music, then that’s a good start. If you like and use the products in question yourself, even better. You should always research a brand’s track record in using music, and favour brands who have a reputation for promoting artists and treating them with respect.

Still, you shouldn’t necessarily rule out brands just because they target different demographics to where you see yourself. Not only might they be introducing your music to groups who would otherwise be oblivious to it, but those groups might have a much higher disposable income, too. The content of the advert in question is important too. In a highly publicised campaign, you need to make especially sure you know exactly what you’re going to be putting your name to before you sign that deal.  

Sometimes the political fallout of working with a brand that your fans deem ‘toxic’ can also be significant. Thus, before linking your music with a brand, it is essential that you run through an ethical checklist and do some research on who, precisely, your music is being associated with. Are their companies or industries whose products/policies you don’t agree with? That’s something you should consider before you even start searching for syncs (make sure anyone representing you for sync is aware of your preferences too).

There are several good sites that exist to do the heavy lifting and allow you to quickly gen up on a company and its background – and thus avoid working with the wrong brand. Find a full list, alongside insight from a variety of artists and music industry professionals, at Unblocking The Sync: A band’s guide to brands, and a brand’s guide to bands. Our very own eGuide to the often complex relationship between music makers and music users, written in an informative and plain-speaking style by two-time Music Business Writer of the Year Eamonn Forde alongside our Kier Wiater Carnihan. If you feel you need some guidance through the murky world of music licensing and brand engagement, then this is the book for you. 

Update: All proceeds will be donated to Help Musicians, an independent charity providing help, support and opportunities to empower musicians at all stages of their lives.

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