Last year UK broadcaster Channel4 launched Mobile Act Unsigned with Orange and Sony Ericsson: an interactive talent show bringing together broadcast TV, online and mobile. The show’s format works as an A&R platform where acts must test their mettle in the live arena in front of an audience and panel of judges, comprising Blur bassist Alex James, Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley and head of A&M records Simon Gavin. The winning act Envy and Other Sins walked away with an album deal with A&M UK (part of Universal Music Group), marketing support, management, a booking agent and merchandising deal. It returns this year, with the (slightly less catchy) title Orange Unsigned Act with Sony Ericsson. The premise is largely the same, but the competition is opening up to include singer/songwriters and urban acts. A transmission date is yet to be announced, but it is expected to launch in autumn.Music Ally spoke to Simon Gavin and Sony Ericsson’s European head of music marketing about their involvement with the show, what they hope to get out of it, and what we can expect from the new series.Janosch Brengel is the European head of music marketing at Sony Ericsson whose brand tie-ins have included previews of material by Christina Aguilera, a pan –European marketing agreement with Sony BMG, Orange and Jamiroquai. Sony Ericsson are partnering with Orange once more for the second UK based, cross-platform music talent series. He tells Music Ally how Sony Ericsson became involved in the project and how it ties in with the brand’s ongoing music strategy.How did the programme get started?Sony Ericsson created the programme, it launched in 2006 in Switzerland as a trial with Orange. Even though it’s a small country it was successful so we decided to roll it out elsewhere. We drove the format across three platforms, online, mobile and TV.Which other countries are you taking it to?We’re in negotiations with a couple of stations in France and Germany though we can’t divulge any more details yet.How does involvement with a project like this benefit a brand?We truly understand this is a partnership with Orange. It’s a lot to do with reality: real bands, it’s aspirational and it’s creative, it’s where we see our Walkman sub-brand going. What you also have to understand is that it’s much more than a sponsorship: it’s about creating a platform for creating a more sophisticated mobile entertainment system. Partnering with Orange means we have a strong online interaction, this series there will be more interaction and we’re improving the format.Will your involvement with the unsigned acts end with a show, or do you hope to build a brand-band alignment that goes beyond the life of the series or mobile deals with the successful act?Exactly, our commitment is very holistic, obviously we have to comply with Ofcom but our intention is to unearth the talent and give them the opportunity to continue the partnership and integrate them into artist campaigns that we’re running with Orange. It’s about making the most compelling artist campaign, beyond the programme. We have seen long term partnerships with acts like Christina Aguilera. We want to work on long-term relationships with young bands too.The name change highlights the brands involved more heavily, did you feel you had less brand identity when it was called Mobile Act Unsigned with Orange and Sony Ericsson?What we did after the first series was to look at the constraints in technology and then learning from that has allowed us to amplify the content by creating a more interactive multi-media service. We’re looking to extend this beyond mobile so it’s fully convergent and across three platforms, so calling it Unsigned Act rather than Mobile Act was more straightforward with Orange; as the headline sponsor it reflects the trends I’ve described.Can you tell us a bit more about Sony Ericsson’s mobile music strategy going forward? Will it involve similar ventures of this kind?Let’s say this is definitely unique in the UK market. In 2009 we’re working on our Walkman strategy so it’s about the compelling experience you can have with streaming, peer-to peer and other means of interactivity. This will all be reflected in the marketing too. There are other areas we want to touch upon in entertainment: to have mass-relevance and TV is an important part of that. I don’t believe TV is going to disappear any time soon.Is Sony Ericcson keen to align with emerging talent as well as bigger name acts?Yeah, absolutely this is why we’ve done it. We’ll continue to work with bigger acts but the bigger challenge is to run a few risks, support newer bands and work on partnership agreements. It’s a great opportunity for our marketing to the consumer so that the band benefits and the community interacts with us as the provider of the platform.

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