The first deal, created for the Mariah Carey release Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel on Sept. 15, is a 34-page co-production with Elle magazine that includes lifestyle ads from Elizabeth Arden, Angel Champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Metier de Beaute and the Bahamas Board of Tourism. Providing the experiment goes well, the label is eyeing bigger brand deals for booklets of CDs by Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Kanye West and other artists. "The Monetization of Mimi: Mariah CD to Have Ads," Brandweek, 8/1/09The reaction has been very negative in most circles. Typical comments: Greedy labels. Crossing the line between art and music. Foisting ads on a public that doesn't want them and is already paying for the music.
Being the marketing person that I am, and a strong believer in sponsorship support of sports, music, art, and non-profits, I don't have a problem with the concept. But I see a lot of problems with how it has been presented in the media and, as a consequence, how it is being perceived among music fans and critics.
I'll point to this as the primary offending comment:
“The idea was really simple thinking: ‘We sell millions of records, so you should advertise with us,’” said Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group, a unit of Universal Music Group. “My artists have substantial circulation—when you sell 2 million, 5 million, 8 million, that’s a lot of eyeballs. Most magazines aren’t as successful as those records.”There is nothing being said about benefits for fans. How does this promotional package bring value to them? If it is being done well, it should be offering something to them. Discounts? Limited edition offerings? Unique content?
This is as close to fan value as it gets:
The mini magazine contains Mariah-centric editorial (“VIP Access to Her Sexy Love Life,” “Amazing Closet,” “Recording Rituals”) and lifestyle advertising along with lyrics and other CD booklet elements. Elle contributed the editorial and designed the layout.Granted this article was directed to advertisers and marketing professionals rather than fans, but even so, why is this idea being touted as a way to benefit labels rather as a way to improve the relationship between fans and artists? Why is it being sold as another form of print advertising rather than something else?
On the other hand, maybe we should give credit to Reid for being honest rather than trying to spin the story. In a world where product placement on TV and in movies is common, where there are weekly promotional tie-ins with fast food kids' meals, and where print magazines have long looked for added value packages to offer advertisers, this development is basically business-as-usual. He's touting the millions of eyeballs that these ads will reach, which has been the premise of mass media advertising. And perhaps the fan base for mass market artists is so used to non-stop ads that they aren't offended anyway.
Unfortunately, instead of being accepted by fans/critics as business-as-usual, the concept seems to highlight everything that is perceived to be wrong about major labels, celebrity culture, and mass marketing.
If this had been an independent artist or even one on a small label, the reaction might have been more favorable. Sponsorship and advertising have long gone hand-in-hand in action sports, so I feel the right pairing will be accepted in music as well.
And if this had been presented as a benefit to fans and as a way to support an artist and/or cause, I also believe the reaction would have been different.
Therefore, my advice to anyone exploring music-related sponsorships and advertising: Put the fans first. Don't bother to do it if they don't benefit. When you are touting the idea to the press, if you can't come up with a single fan-focused aspect to your promotion, this is not the right project for you to pursue.
@slainson on Twitter