The road to stardom has long been paved with radio visits and media rounds, now artists are adding advertising agencies to the mix. Musicians are courting ad agencies in hopes of scoring coveted placements in commercials, which boost exposure and the bottom line.
Brands pairing with music artists is nothing new, particularly when it comes to tour sponsorships. But as music sales have decreased, artists are more actively seeking these partnerships.
Tom Lord, VP Marketing at UMG Nashville, said he’s seen the agency-visit trend grow in recent years, particularly in the country world. Citing the major cross-genre success of Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift and Sugarland, he explained, “All of the growth outside the format has made the agencies more aware of country artists and made brands interested in partnering with them.”
Television shows have also given country a nudge into the spotlight. Ratings magnet American Idol created stars Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina last season, and both landed on the UMG roster. Meanwhile, Blake Shelton’s career has been significantly elevated in the last few years, thanks in part to his coaching gig on hit show The Voice.
Another factor that makes licensing country music attractive for advertisers is its percentage of physical sales, which is higher than other genres. “Country has maintained a decent foothold with regard to physical sales,” added Lord. “And that’s appealing to brands who want to attract in-store shoppers.”
When an artist is touring in a city that is home to a major agency—Dallas, Chicago and New York, for example—going to visit is a natural step in the introduction process. Laura Bell Bundy and David Nail are among the UMG artists who have wooed real-life Don Drapers. Bundy’s visit didn’t include a performance, instead the team was invited to her concert and the office meeting was so the staff could get to know her personality and interests.
“It’s all about relationship building,” said Lord. “You may not get an opportunity immediately, but you hope they will call the next time they are looking for a country artist or song.
“Agency visits help bury the preconceived notions about country music. You bring in an artist like David Nail—who I’d put up against any male vocalist—he performs and blows them away,” summed Lord. “That’s where we win.”