Exclusive: UMG Appoints Mike Tunnicliffe as First U.S. Head Of Brand Partnerships

Mike Tunnicliffe first interviewed for a position with Universal Music Group in 2009, when he pitched a vision for UMG as a company that could create artist-agnostic marketing campaigns for big brands. The interviewer’s response? “That’s really interesting, but the music business isn’t ready for this yet.” But come Jan. 1, Tunnicliffe will take a crucial step in fulfilling that goal as UMG’s first executive vp business development and partnerships U.S.


An advertising veteran who most recently served as the chief growth and marketing officer at WPP’s GroupM, Tunnicliffe will be based in New York and report to UMG’s U.S. executive vp recorded music, Michele Anthony.

Operationally, what will your role at UMG look like?
I see it as three buckets: one is working with each of our labels for artist-specific opportunities; third is what I consider low-hanging fruit, which is commercial licensing, bartering content for advertising inventory. But the second one is the one I consider most difficult, which is creating new platform opportunities in partnership with brands.

What’s an example of bucket two?
The Budweiser Made in America festival with Jay Z is a very interesting example of a brand almost acting as a patron -- putting the money out to allow the development of a new [event] that created revenue for artists who played, but without wanting to be property owners.

Where do you see brand-music partnerships heading in 2015?
Artists are some of the most creative people in the world, and what do brands want? Access to that creativity. We’ll look to develop experiential opportunities and big live platforms as well. One of the key takeaways is that money can’t buy experiences. So, if brands can offer to their consumer some access to artists — whether it’s a competition to appear in a video or go to an artist’s sound check -- that has great appeal to brands.

This article first appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of Billboard.


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