While Country radio is partying North of Broadway, Pollstar has brought patrons to Nashville’s Omni Hotel for the annual Pollstar Live! conference through Friday (Feb. 21). International patrons – a majority promoters – joined SVP, AEG Live/The Messina Group, Ali Harnell, on Thursday (Feb. 20) for a panel discussion titled “Bands, Brands and High Finance.”
Executives contributing expertise included Holly Bell (SVP Entertainment Division, City National Bank), John Frankenheimer (Chairman Emeritus, Loeb & Loeb), Martha Ivester (Music Sponsorship Agent, CAA), Ken Levitan (Founder and Co-President, Vector Management), AJ Niland (Founder/CEO, HUKA Entertainment and Co-Founder, Hangout Music Festival), and Jay Williams (Partner, WME).
Giving credit to independent labels who he says sign as much or more than majors, Frankenheimer noted, “Record deals are not standard, every major asks for 360. As the CD era slowed, labels have sought to profit in revenue from the road they feel having contributed. There is less upfront cash to offer, which gives a chance for artists to negotiate.”
Bell noted her relationships have changed in recent years, providing equity lines to even unsigned bands. “We’re spending money differently than 10-15 years ago, I see these changes from the ground up,” she said.
Williams contributed advice to agents assuming the role of A&R more often. “Because there is no barrier to entry anymore, it’s a very crowded space,” he said.
Levitan frankly said, “Artists used to tour to promote a record, that has switched to putting out a record to tour.” Of his responsibilities, which he says is to over-turn “stones” for new artists and make opportunities practical, Levitan continued, “We need any outside help from brands that we can get. The standpoint of many sponsorships is measured by social media numbers.” But fulfillment is key, he said, “As a small business you want to over fulfill for a renewal. Artists have to ask what gives you a leg-up to win the tie?” He suggested remembering names can solidify the business relationship, for example, even that of the decision-maker’s pet dog.
Niland mentioned, “One of the biggest things brands are looking for is exclusive content. This can help artists throw dollars on top of a guarantee.”
With her background with brands like Nike, Nashville-based Ivester cited statistics with an increased intent to do business for artists backed by brands. “Small steps bring an artist close to a brand,” she said referring to playing shows in a hotel lobby or hosting after-parties for room comps. She stated that brand partners allow an artist to mold images or even cater to new demographics.
The session concluded with a discussion of sync placements, to which Levitan anecdotally commented of Michael McDonald‘s partnership quite a few years ago for an MCI commercial. After accepting a lower upfront offer for a sync, the album – which he noted, sold 100,000 units prior – became multi-platinum because of the multi-million dollar “promotion” budget.
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