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  • Paul Jankowski

Live Music Is Back—Brands Should Plan 2022 Artist Partnerships Now

2020 was a nightmare, 2021 is shaping up to be a bad dream, but live music should be full-on in 2022. Many brands have already begun the process of snapping up the best talent and tours for 2022. If your brand is going to play in the live event space next year, and talent is part of that plan, now is the time to start finding the right partnership.

Jac Marciano, AEG Presents chairman said, “The amount of stadium activity in 2022 is something I’ve never experienced. Over a dozen major artists are actively holding real estate for next year.”

Consumer’s Pent-Up Demand

“Will there be concerts in 2021?”

After so many disappointing Google searches—880 per month on average—the search results are finally giving us the answer we’ve been looking for: yes.

However, live music is coming back at no small cost. All in all, the concert industry took a $30 billion loss in 2020. Hundreds of tours were cancelled leaving 27 percent of musicians unemployed—that’s twice as high as the U.S. unemployment rate at the height of the pandemic.

Even with the $15 billion injection by the federal government into independent music and theater venues, nearly 100 have closed their doors permanently according to a partial list compiled by Billboard.

But recent news has me looking at the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Here in Nashville, country stars including Eric Church, Kane Brown, and Thomas Rhett told the Tennessean they would be hitting the road in late summer and fall of this year. After cancelling his Proud to Be Right Here tour before it ever started last year, Luke Bryan announced a redemption tour, which is slated to kick off in Syracuse, New York in early July.

Of course tour structures and venue capacities factor into all of these decisions and continue to place some restrictions on where and how artists can perform, but some of the top names in the music business are taking steps to make the return to live music both safe and enjoyable.

AEG Presents is part of an industry-wide coalition with goals to encourage fans to get vaccinated while also informing them of the changes venues are making to prepare for crowds. Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino believes large-scale concerts will resume this summer.

“With more artists than ever wanting to tour and fans eager to make up for lost time, all signs point to even more concerts ahead,” said Rapino in a recent tweet.

As the music industry begins firing on all cylinders again, brands need to be on their toes.

Talent is Going Fast

Music festivals alone attract 32 million attendees each year, and Nielsen data shows that 52 percent of Americans frequent live music events.

Brands are picking up talent fast, and talent is able to be more selective as they are approached with multiple deals from multiple brands.

If you’ve never considered a brand-talent partnership in the past, right now could be the best time to dive in.

2022 planning is now.

3 Things to Consider in Choosing Talent for Your Brand

The music industry as a whole may have lost $30 billion, but when you tack on the $50 billion that is usually invested into event sponsorships and talent partnerships, one can begin to put the cost of the past year in a broader perspective.

I’ve written about developing successful brand-talent partnerships extensively. So I’ll keep it brief here.

Here are three main points:

  1. Discover motivations. Brands are quick to assume that talent wants money or nothing at all out of a deal with them. More savvy talent will weigh both the monetary and non-cash value a brand offers. This could be access to new marketing channels like non-traditional retail or digital platforms, but may be entirely different after a year spent performing behind closed doors to silent audiences.

  2. Consider values. It’s more important now than ever to make sure your brand values align with whomever you decide to lock elbows with. Do some digging and then ask yourself, “does this person portray an image worthy of my brand?”

  3. Think long-term. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest celebrity flavor of the day or the most Tik-Tokable moment, but there’s very little space for spontaneity and superficiality in a brand-talent partnership deal. Don’t put a ton of work into securing talent with mass appeal only to have your message confused and limited by the absence of a multi-year partnership option.

What to Expect from Your Talent

Depending on your talent’s identity as either an influencer or celebrity, you’ll quickly discover that your partnership will be defined by their lifestyle and values.

The role your product will play in each relationship will be different. Brands should strive for more intimate/relatable relationships between talent and products.

In essence, they’ll want to incorporate your brand into their lifestyle.

Lastly, their values will most likely lead every decision they make. No person (or brand for that matter) can afford to compromise their values for a quick buck these days. Consumers have access to all of the same social media platforms you do and they can spot a fake or shallow business deal from a mile away.

It’s possible you’ll see more celebrities become more picky about the brands they partner with simply because they are seeking longer-term, committed relationships that could weather any storm like the slow-moving hurricane of a pandemic we’ve suffered through.

Live music and brand-partnerships are finally coming back. Are you prepared to connect to your customers through music in 2022?

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