Miles & MEC focus on delivering value through music brand partnerships

To coincide with the 2nd edition of MEC Music Week, Mark Knight from MEC Access and Pierre-Jean Sebert from partnership agency MILES spent some time considering what the future will look like for brand involvement in music. 


Mark kicks things off….I remember talking to someone from a record label at the height of the recession I asked him how business was.  He shrugged his shoulders and told me “We’ve been in recession for the last fifteen years, this is nothing new.”

It was a reminder that ever since Napster and Peer to Peer file sharing services showed up in the late nineties the music industry has been struggling to play catch up. Physical sales have been in decline ever since. Although iTunes and subsequently Spotify created a legal and more reliable alternative to file sharing the new revenues could never quite make up the short fall caused by the continued decline of physical.  Music fans are buying less and accessing more. The 360 deal was conceived as a way to secure revenues from beyond sales alone, but that was just the start. So what about brands?

Mark and PJ share their thoughts on what’s next.


Evolving partnerships

The term ‘partnership’ is frequently banded around in the sports marketing world, but often it remains a lofty ambition with rights holders all too happy to receive the cheque written by a brand – true partnership is minimal. However, when it comes to music and brands it feels like there is a genuine opportunity for both parties to benefit – they need each other, like never before. The new generation of artists have been raised in a branded world and increasingly consider themselves as creative brands. They benefit from brand support and income, and really engage when campaigns are creative. Meanwhile brands benefit from ‘emotion-sparking’ content through the association with music, access large fan bases/committed audiences, and harness celebrity cool. Both sides are learning quickly to work with each other. O2 doesn’t just sponsor a venue it promotes it and sells it out. Value for them, their customers, the promoter, the artist, the agent, manager and label. When partnered correctly, the value will ALWAYS outweigh the spend.


Music, a pillar of content marketing

Music has always been in pole position to reach out and engage 16-25yrs olds, with great successes in traditional advertising via ad sync. It now has a new format: branded short form content. Music has a key role in the creation of engaging content and brands are slowly recognising that they need to pay for the music. The 2014 IFPI Report shows an 8% increase in global sync revenues in 2014 and that growth is set to continue.


Fans, fans, fans

The YouTuber phenomenon has shown us that you don’t need traditional celebrity associations to shift products and drive engagement. While owning the conversation on Twitter is increasingly more important than owning the rights. Official means nothing and brands are realising this, look at Copa 90, the fan powered football channel or All Things Hair on YouTube. Peer influence and supporting the fans provides brands with a new route. In the absence of an abundance of official music rights, expect the focus to be increasingly directed towards the fans and the celebration of their fandom. Improve their experience and win their hearts.


Making music special

Nobody is interested in a functional product, music has become a commodity and it needs to be repackaged or bundled. It’s telling that Vinyl sales are on the increase (55% increase YoY globally, albeit from a small base) as when you package music as collectible art, people want it. You can see the same in live music with events like SOFAR Sounds repackaging a small live gig to become a magical mystery night out. There is an opportunity for brand partnerships that take this trend to the next level. Likewise, music partnerships have often been confined to basic campaigns (ad soundtracks, product placements, ambassadorships). With artists now more brand-aware and willing to collaborate, and a more structured music environment, brands and agencies have the opportunity to work on more creative, deep and long-term partnerships. They can do this by associating further artists and representatives in the design of their communications. Music is now well equipped to offer 360 communication platforms and experiences that the consumer wants.


Music packages and platforms

About 70% of brand spend in sponsorship goes towards sport, and surely a big part of the reason is the vast number of established and reliable assets. In football alone you have a World Cup, European Championship, then European club tournaments, domestic leagues, cups and clubs in addition to players. Building a multi-market partnership strategy in sport is relatively easy. Try doing the same in music. You have few global artists, and even fewer global artists that have longevity and appeal to youth audiences. You have single market festivals that disappear as quickly as they arrive, and music TV offers little beyond the odd award show or talent contest – most of which are already sponsored to the hilt. It’s hard to ever see Music rivalling football, but as brands and labels crave partnerships we’ll see more attempts from brands, agencies and music rights holders to create events with global reach and scale. We’d also expect to see more brand created platforms like The Creators Project from Intel & Vice.


From music to music culture

There is a quote we like that says ‘music can sell everything but itself’ and we think that is a really astute observation. Music is way more inclusive when it is part of a lifestyle not the sole focus. There is a reason why MTV stopped music only programming or why TOTP ended. Music is increasingly enjoyed with other things. People go to music festivals and watch comedy or theatre. How many people could name a Rita Ora song, yet you can’t escape seeing her on the X-Factor or in Samsung commercials. Brands want alignment with an always on culture not a finite, short-term musical moment. Music culture provides a much richer narrative for brands to align with.


Involving the artist

Successful campaigns have a clear purpose and understand the needs of all stakeholders. Brands and their agencies should look to tap into the creativity of the artists. Delivering a platform that the artist believes in and one that helps them achieve their own personal ambition is likely to result in a decrease in rights fees.


Rights simplification

Music rights are important, artists need to be paid for their art. However, rights complexity continues to put brands off getting involved with music. Labels, publishers, live promoters and managers need to be better aligned if they are to attract brands. If a brand sponsors a festival, they want access to artists and their music. Imagine a time when a fan can leave a festival with access to a stream of the live show they have just attended, having just met their hero backstage. While rights simplification is unlikely to happen overnight we are starting to see a centralizing of conversations, which can only be a good thing.




About MEC Music Week

The second edition of MEC Music Week will ran from 14th-18th September, during the course of the week MEC hosted daily panel discussions including: An artist panel discussion hosted by Love Live discussing perceptions of brand partnerships, a presentation from music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins, a discussion around data and insights to inform campaign planning with representatives from Sony Music and The Echo Nest; A discussion on the future of music and TV with ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Spotify.  The week ended with a discussion about the ever increasing role for social media in music with representatives from Facebook and Twitter

There was also daily live music performances with a different musical programmer each day including Love Live, DIY Magazine, Miles, and Nettwerk. Performers included: James Arthur, SHEL, High Tyde, Sam Duckworth, Theo Verney, and Gengahr.


About MEC Access

MEC Access is the dedicated partnership, sponsorship and content division within WPP media agency MEC. We provide a full service from research / insight, strategy, creative ideation, campaign management, activation and evaluation. A partial client roster includes evian, Marriott, Vodafone and  Henkel.



MILES is a music & brands specialist agency, which combines experience from three distinct sectors – music, broadcasting and brand-marketing – to deliver music-related partnerships for brands, agencies and rights owners. This includes exhaustive access to talent & IPs, creative planning, rights negotiations and music strategic consultancy.

MILES also serves and represents music artists and their management, and provides them with revenue-driven partnerships leveraging their art, their fame and their fan base.

Current MILES clients include Moet & Chandon, Red Bull Media House, Linkin Park, Janet Jackson, Ella Henderson, StubHub/eBay, Bauer Media Group, Miss Kittin, Cats On Trees, BMG Rights, AllRightMusic.

Artists We Work With