Moderator Panos Panay (founder/CEO, Sonicbids) opened the panel posing the question: Are brands the new record labels and curators? Yes and no, but what was undisputed is that the music industry is opening up in a whole new way, with brands becoming an increasingly important voice in the conversation. Jason Miller (SVP of national ad sales, FuseMusic) relayed that, as a passion point, music is more powerful than ever before, with the ability to connect with consumers in broader and stronger ways than art or fashion.
 
Emerging bands are appealing to brands in part, said Jon Landman (owner, the Syndicate), because younger artists “are hungrier to take the first plunge.” It’s a good look for brands to be ahead of the curve in terms of taste, and as Ron Faris (director of brand marketing, Virgin Mobile) explained of his company, “We want to move at the speed of pop culture.”
 
The emphasis is on brands and emerging bands to connect in a way that’s authentic and organic. Faris believes that a brand should be a fan of the artist in the same way that a fan is a fan of the artist. To keep things “real” and appealing, there should be a natural link between the product and the band it’s being aligned with, all pushed by the right inspiration and ideas. John Davies (Shazam) impressed the importance of having a unique idea, and Faris agreed, saying that the mark of that is that people will want to share it and ideally, this will push it to go viral.
 
Instead of measuring ROI, the relationship or outcome of a partnership can be measured by Return On Objective, and the extent to which consumers and fans are engaged in a lasting conversation. Ideally brands should be interacting with bands and fans through behavior that those two groups were already doing before the brand came along—a practical example of this is Taco Bell’s Feed The Beat campaign, assisted in part by the Syndicate. Taco Bell found that touring bands were eating its products after late-night gigs across the country. The resulting Feed The Beat campaign capitalized on this and gave 100 bands 500 Taco Bell dollars to use however they wanted.
 
While some despair at the state of the music industry, the panel agreed that today’s scene presents a period of great change and opportunity. As Panay said, brands are living, evolving things, and there’s no greater way of connecting with consumers than through music. Consequently, there’s no reason why both brands and emerging music can’t find this to be a mutually beneficial partnership.