Brands were the focus for several of the panels at the MIDEM music conference in Cannes, with executives from Converse, NASCAR, Carhartt and PepsiCo revealing details of their music strategies.
Sonic branding agency Banshee Music, based in Wisconsin, has partnered songwriters and artists with sports clients such as NASCAR and the Dallas Cowboys.
Artist and composer Edsel Dope said that he "believe[s] so much in the business model" that he has taken on a role at the company. "I've jumped in the deep end and I am now acting as executive producer as well as an artist on the roster," he said, adding that the company works with 100 writers.
He added that it is about "capturing the essence of their [partner's] sport or brand to the best of our ability," stressing that full songs are created for the brands not jingles.
Banshee Music has released soundtracks "Party Up At The Downs" with the 2009 Kentucky Derby, and "Bristol Nights" on behalf of NASCAR's Bristol Motor Speedway.
Stephen Knill, president of Banshee Music, said the company previously worked with "unencumbered artists" but is now starting to work with acts affiliated to labels and artists. It also produces concerts for clients.
Jay Abraham, COO, NASCAR Media Group, said the company had a relationship with iTunes and had sold a lot of ringtones. But he added that music created for NASCAR could be a big seller, considering the official Web site's 6.5 million unique users a month.
"It's obviously a huge business which we haven't really capitalized," he said. NASCAR is associated with country music, he added, and noted that NASCAR events can attract over 200,000 fans.
In some cases, Banshee also gets its branded music releases racked prominently in Walmart. "There's a Dallas Cowboys display which is selling the official music of the Dallas Cowboys," said Knill, adding that such prominence would be harder to achieve for many traditional music releases.
"We are giving the brand even more motivation to go into business with us, they are going to own part of the copyright," said Edsel Dope, explaining these were often joint ventures covering master rights that could bring in future revenue for both parties.
"There are enormous opportunities for up and coming artists" to perform at NASCAR events, added Abraham. Dope said the sport had "extremely loyal fans" which could translate into music sales, and he believes artists feel "liberated" at not having to be part of the traditional promotional and touring process with a label.
Frank Cooper III, SVP Chief Consumer Engagement Officer, PepsiCo Americas Beverages, spoke about moving from "being a sponsor to a creator or curator." Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound, working on single track releases with acts including Chromeo and the Cool Kids, is part of that process.
Converse worked with consultants Cornerstone on its Converse Connectivity campaign, featuring Santigold, Pharrell Williams and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes on a track.
Although it was an advertising campaign, the song spread on blogs and received radio play - promoting the Converse brand. "It took off before any media was actually bought," said Cheryl Calegari, senior marketing director of Converse U.K.
She added that Casablancas had never promoted a brand before, "but he's worn Chucks [Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers] since he was 14."
Philipp Maiburg, head of Carhartt Music, took over the music branding of the streetwear clothing company 18 months ago. It has a dedicated Web site featuring interview with artists it partners with and staged a branded tour with Mayer Hawthorne.
Maiburg stressed that artist and brand relationships are no longer simply about handing money over to an act in exchange for their logo on a band poster.
"This has completely changed," he said.