Microsoft's Bing and Warner Bros. Records rapper/singer Theophilus London are teaming up for an upcoming remix album, due in April and sponsored by Bing. The team-up began Tuesday with an online contest that will let aspiring beatmasters remix London's song "All Around the World," with one winner getting the chance to re-record their mix in the studio with London and secure a spot on the album's tracklist.
The unique pairing is believed to be the first sponsorship of a major-label album by a brand, and was orchestrated in part by Talenthouse, an online collective that pairs major artists and brands with its database of 1 million-plus users in the creative community. As part of the deal, Bing will have final input on the name of the album - a privilege that Bing's general manager Eric Hadley doesn't intend to abuse. "I don't think either of us would want it to be called 'The Bing Album,'" he says. "This is about Theophilus saying, I'm a fan of Bing, I want you and the fans of Theophilus to customize the songs on my album.' It's more than just us putting our name on something - it's his fans and our fans working together to create something really cool."
Talenthouse hosted a similar online music contest that yielded tangible results earlier this year when it teamed with deadmau5 to encourage designers to submit their own design for the DJ's signature mouse helmet. After 2,500 submissions and 25 million social media impressions, one designer saw their helmet actually worn by the DJ himself at a deadmau5 gig. Talenthouse CEO Roman Scharf sees significant value for brands to play a role in enabling these creative experiences. "What Bing gets out of this is an association with an album without taking a risk on how popular the album will be - their money is directly converted into engagement," he says. "They will see their name promoted through a large amount of people on Facebook by people they would not otherwise be able to reach, and they get the association with a very cool artist."
Lori Feldman, Warner Bros.' senior VP of brand partnerships and commercial music licensing, said the contest will also bring vital exposure to "All Around The World," which will be featured in a series of TV and film syncs around the time the contest ends in late January. "The good thing about a contest like this is the engagement with the fans and the artistic community in general - they're the early adopters and trendsetters. It's more than just an impression - that they're making a mix and submitting it so their friends can vote and make other friends aware of a friend's vote, there's a real engagement with that song that you don't necessarily get just by sending something out."
The contest and album are the latest in London's ongoing relationship with Bing, which began earlier this year with a performance at the brand's showcase at South By Southwest and continued with an appearance at Bing's Art Basel event in Miami. London himself even asked to meet with the Bing team at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. headquarters to coincide with a late October gig in Seattle. "We walked away with 10 big things we thought were cool," Hadley says. "He just really liked the Bing brand, and we had a shared desire to bring something to life in a unique, cool way."
As for the contest's potential success, the Bing team got a preview of London's impact at Art Basel, after the musician tweeted the email address of a Bing exec from his own account and the exec received 1,000 responses within an hour. "We're confident he can get people who are passionate about things we like to do with ideas we like," Hadley says.