Licensing music for advertising campaigns can be a tricky business. Recording artists risk turning off fans if they pair up with the wrong brand or star in a poorly executed campaign. And brand marketers can be vulnerable to the unpredictable behavior of their celebrity clients, as Wrigley's recently found out with Chris Brown (Billboard, Feb. 21).

A leading player in the music branding market is recording industry veteran Steve Stoute's Translation agency, which has brought together Justin Timberlake with McDonald's, Beyoncé with Samsung Electronics and Jay-Z with Reebok and Hewlett-Packard. It also brokered the Wrigley's deal with Brown and other artists.

Prior to joining the ad industry, Stoute managed the careers of such artists as Nas and Mary J. Blige and served as executive VP and president of urban music at Interscope Geffen A&M Records, where he produced recordings by U2, Eve, Limp Bizkit and Eminem's debut album, "The Slim Shady LP." In the late '90s, Stoute partnered with branding guru Peter Arnell to start a company called Pass, which matched brands with celebrities, a preview of the work he would do at Translation, which he founded in 2004. Translation's knack for knowing what works for artists and brands caught the attention of advertising giant Interpublic Group, which acquired the firm in 2007.

Stoute, who remains Translation's chief creative officer, has gone on to partner with Jay-Z to form Translation Advertising, an agency focused on multicultural marketing.

Describe how Translation matches artists to brands.

I can identify what the artists' needs are, what the consumer groups are who buy the material and how the brand seeking to tap into the audience can use that partnership to create consideration for the product. The company's not driven by hooking up artists with brands. We're in the artist brand management business. It's about finding corporate partners and matching them with artists to tell their brand story. There has to be some mutual benefit. So it just can't be all about the brand saying, "I'm going to put artists with my brands and not care about the artist's pre-existing brand value."

You brought in Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Julianne Hough for a Wrigley's marketing campaign. Are there any risks when artists put a brand's name or jingle in their song?

Not when it's done correctly or with honesty. I learned from the record business that artists working with corporations on projects that are seen as selling out are nothing more than a bad marriage. When artists do it right, it's a perfect marriage. When you look at Run-D.M.C. and their deal with Adidas, it did not look wrong. When Bob Dylan is selling Victoria's Secret or MC Hammer is selling chicken, then it's a bad marriage.

There's a whole seduction behind having a corporation say they want to be your partner. Sometimes artists do things to be more popular, not because it will help them be more of who they are. You're seeing that with reality shows or guys being in movies just to be in movies. They're just doing things to be popular. How you avoid that is by knowing who you are and who your audience is.

Wrigley's suspended its Doublemint TV ads with Brown following his recent arrest. Is there anything Brown can do to salvage his marketability with brands?

I think...

Click here for the full Q&A including his thoughts on Chris Brown's career at this point, common mistakes made by brand marketers, what a Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger means for agencies and more.