MidemNet? Those days are long gone, my friend. It’s all about ‘Visionary Monday’ nowadays at the Midem trade show, with a day of sessions focusing on digital music, brands and other developments in and around the industry.

It kicked off with a panel titled Artists Leveraging Tech & Brands. On stage were Marcie Allen, president of MAC Presents; Lori Feldman, SVP of brand partnerships and commercial licensing at Warner Bros Records; rapper and producer Theophilus London; and Nokia VP and global head of entertainment Jyrki Rosenberg.

Allen kicked things off by talking about sponsorships. “You’ve seen sponsorships evolve probably the most that they ever have over the last five years. Now brands want to be fully integrated with artists,” she said. “That is a huge change. It’s definitely forced marketers and artists to make sure the partnerships are more authentic.”

Allen and Feldman talked about a campaign for Green Day, which worked with Nokia on its launch for Nokia Music in the US, with mobile operator AT&T also involved. The campaign doubled as a launch for Green Day’s ‘Uno’ album, with all manner of social networking activity around it. “185m social impressions later we both launched some pretty amazing projects,” said Feldman.

London chipped in with his own experiences working with whisky brand Bushmills, which was already running campaigns based around photography of people at music and film festivals. The partnership saw them launch a seven-storey billboard featuring London and a friend.

“I was literally looking at all my feeds and watching my followers by the second,” he said, of the ensuing uplift in his social network following. The conversation then turned to another brand partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

“Traditionally, when you put out an album, you put out a remix album,” he said. “I chose 12 producers to make a remix, and we also did a contest where 20,000 producers submitted to remix a song. It was tons of engaging things. It was cool to have an open conversation with Bing.”

“They fell in love with each other,” said Feldman, to the extent that Microsoft was even prepared to let London take over the official Bing Twitter feed.

Simon turned to Nokia’s Rosenberg, who talked about how his company is working with artist through its digital music services. “You really want to get rid of all that technology, you want to get the music first,” he  said, of the decision to leave any registration process out of the Nokia Music streaming app.

“When we removed that barrier, actually what’s really important is music. You’re only as good as your playlists are or your artist relationships are.” And he noted that “discovery drives it all… whether you’re a casual user or a music-maniac heavy user, there comes a point where you say ‘I’ve listened to this. What’s next?’

The conversation turned back to brands – and specifically risks for brands and bands when they work together.

“The most important thing is to do your research,” said Allen. “That’s why brands work with labels or sponsorship agencies like myself. It’s very important to know everything.” She noted that there are always risks, for example when musicians get arrested. “This is sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as they say. You have to be aware of what you’re getting into.”

London said artists also have to be cautious when working with brands, and think about how they conduct themselves. “It’s important that you really watch what you put out there,” said London. “Brands are looking, everyone’s watching.”

London also said he has more of a creative input into brand campaigns than simply accepting their money, citing his work with US shoe brand Cole Haan, which asked him to front a campaign for a new shoe, to which he responded he’d rather design his own shoe for them, direct the advertising, organise the launch party and write a song for it.

I was the first one to put an electric-blue sole on a shoe!” he chuckled, while moderator Simon literally punched the air in delight at the idea of an artist getting this hands-on.

What about money though? Allen warned that if artists come simply demanding a seven-figure cheque, brands will go elsewhere. Fees can also vary depending on what the artist is expected to do, with Allen citing the example of Green Day being asked to play three shows for a brand. “That’s a million dollars per show. So you can’t just say I’m going to give them $700,000…

Simon asked about Taylor Swift’s Diet Coke deal, asking if this is appropriate. “Does she drink Diet Coke?” he asked Allen, who gracefully deflected the question, noting that Taylor Swift probably does drink Diet Coke, so it’s not a cynical cash-grabbing exercise for the star.

“I personally don’t know if the demographic is dead on,” she said. “Taylor’s fans are mostly younger girls, and Diet Coke to me wants more of a broader reach, so that’s something you have to address – making sure you’re marketing towards your target demographic.”

London was asked what the next brand he’s dreaming of working with, and why. “It would want to capitalise me on a tastemaker level, where I’m designing the inside and outside or a Fiat, or designing the interior of a Lamborghini, and in some way my music is installed in the car, and when you get in the car you can feel like me.”

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