Music Dealers: ‘Brands are picking up the pieces of the music industry’


dealersYou’d be surprised at how many Russian songs there are about cheating lovers. There are hundreds in the database of Music Dealers, for example, and that’s a tightly-curated catalogue of tracks for use in advertising, TV shows, films and games.

I discovered the glut of unfaithfulness music during a demonstration of version 3.0 of the company’s Discovery Tool, which is used by the likes of MTV, Sony Pictures and Coca-Cola to source music for their content and campaigns, with detailed filters to sort through material from more than 20k artists around the world looking for sync deals.

“We help brands act as a filter to find the most relevant bands or artists anywhere in the world,” says CEO Eric Sheinkop, in an interview with Music Ally.

“We’re providing a similar service to the jingle houses and production studios that supply a lot of music for commercials and television shows, but in our case all the music comes from real bands that are gigging.”

Its catalogue currently contains nearly 200k pre-cleared songs, with clients able to use the Discovery Tool’s filters to dig down by genre, mood, subject and other characteristics. It’s an interesting example of how metadata fuels music discovery not just for consumers, but for B2B use with brands and media.

Clients like Coca-Cola can also get shortcuts into the system based on the “musical identity” of their various brands: Sprite, Fanta, Coke Zero and so on, with filters automatically applied to serve up suitable artists and songs.

“You can go anywhere in the world and Sprite looks like Sprite, Coke looks like Coke. You can still know what it is by the can,” says Sheinkop.

“But the sound of the commercials has been different in South Africa, Germany, Vietnam… Coca-Cola employ 700 agencies around the world to make everything from TV commercials to webisodes, and before this existed, they were just using whatever music they wanted to.”

Detailed tagging of tracks in Music Dealer’s platform, and then the application of brands’ musical-identity filters, is an interesting solution to this problem, with the aim of creating “a stronger brand identity with music” for the various brands.

“Brands are the best distribution system for media that exists”

Sheinkop says the platform is also good for the emerging artists who are accepted to join it, in the hope of securing one or more sync deals with brands, as well as live shows and other opportunities.

“It can help artists really launch their career by getting them in front of the appropriate demographic. If a brand is in line with them and the music they offer, they’re going to get a lot more fans,” he says.

“The music industry has evolved so much, and what a label has to offer is still important. But brands are the best distribution system for media that exists. A Coca-Cola can distribute an artist to the masses faster than any label has been able to do in the past.”

Music Dealers turns away around three quarters of music that’s submitted to its platform, with Sheinkop saying it also looks for proven momentum from the artists it does sign up.

“We specialise in emerging and unknown acts, but we want to see they’re getting some buzz, writeups and attention, or have the potential to do so,” he says. “We want to make sure every artist we put in front of somebody has a story behind them.”

Sheinkop says Music Dealers’ clients are as keen as ever to uncover emerging, unsigned artists, even when this sits alongside a strategy of also partnering with the Beyoncés and Biebers of the music world.

“When people see a commercial featuring a song they’ve heard 100 times a day, they don’t pay the same attention. When it’s a new artist and they don’t know who it is, it sparks curiosity and discussion,” he says.

“We encourage brands to give away the music, so they can find value in being a destination where people can find fresh new music. But a lot of brands are monetising their musical assets too.”

“The old systems aren’t able to provide the same success for artists…”

Digital projects – apps, online video and websites – currently account for around 20% of projects going through Music Dealers’ platform, although that has “grown tremendously over the past couple of years” especially among bigger brands.

“Almost all the work we’re doing with Victoria’s Secret, for example, they just want to engage people online,” says Sheinkop. “It makes sense for them to interact with people on the web or through their apps.”

In 2013, the arguments over artists working with brands have shifted. It’s much rarer to see artists accused of selling out simply by working with a brand: the discussion is more about appropriate partnerships versus clunky, inappropriate ones.

“It’s almost not cool if you don’t have a brand behind you. If somebody doesn’t think you’re valuable enough to put in a commercial, it’s almost an insult to a band these days,” says Sheinkop, unsurprisingly given his business.

But he comes back to the claim that brands are fulfilling an increasingly important role for music discovery, and the wider industry.

“With labels not able to function in quite the way they used to because of digital distribution, they need extra support,” he says.

“The old systems aren’t able to provide the same success for artists, so there need to be other players in the industry. Brands are picking up the pieces of the music industry and supporting labels, and what artists do.”

Stuart Dredge

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