Celebrity Marketing and Music’s Biggest Night: What the Oscars Can Learn from the Grammys


A clear message and a celebrity might not be enough.

Though its ambitions may look more like the Super Bowl, the Oscars would be foolish not to learn from the successes and failures of its fellow award show titan, the Grammys. The show featured some of the most groundbreaking ad campaigns ever aired, and though some may have polarized the public, they left a lasting impression on the 25 million viewers.

After singer David Bowie passed away on January 10th, Lady Gaga teamed up with Intel to celebrate, not only the life of the legendary singer, but also the power of music as it entwines with the potential of technology. Her performance was considered a highlight of the show for many people, but having an Intel ad immediately following it drew criticism for capitalizing on a tragedy. Controversy aside, the campaign’s powerful message won it widespread attention, and with over 56 million followers on Twitter, Lady Gaga appears to have been the perfect partner.

Target took an even bigger gamble when they also sponsored a unique performance with a blonde pop star. To promote her latest single, Gwen Stefani appeared in an unprecedented four minute commercial in which she filmed her music video live. The entire campaign reportedly cost Target $12 million dollars, forcing the question of why they chose her for such a massive event. It has been ten years since she has released a hit single, and initial forecasts for her current effort do not appear very promising. With her Target-exclusive album due in March, only time will tell if the gamble pays off.

Sometimes, it is best to let the message take the foreground. In a collaborative new campaign titled “Music Makes it Home,” Apple and Sonos sought to inspire people with testimonials from the lead performers of St. Vincent, the National, and Run the Jewels. The ad did everything it needed to and nothing more, proving that simplicity often rings the loudest.

With music taking a supporting role to the stars of the big screen on February 28th, it will be fascinating to see which brands take advantage of the opportunity. Hyundai and Coca-Cola, former centerpieces of the Oscars’ commercial breaks, have both decided to sit out on the show this year, but even still the ads are sold out. With each 30-second spot costing nearly $2 million and 62% of viewers being women, the mission for those participating is clear. With a defined message and a relevant celebrity to get it across, the commercials themselves can feel like part of the show.

photo credit: www.youtube.com

Incorporating Your Brand With Music Via Celebrity Marketing

Corona kenney chesney

3 ways to sponsor music events and artists for building brand awareness

Sponsoring music related events and artists shows your audience that you care about the art of music, and it offers the opportunity to create new and engaging ways to reach your consumer, and the opportunity for massive exposure.

According to IEG LLC, North American based companies spent close to 1.34 billion on music venues, festivals, and tours in 2014. The most active sponsors of music related events are The Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo, Inc.

Sponsored music festivals. With music festivals becoming more popular every year, brands have a huge opportunity to see and be seen. The Chicago music festival, Lollapalooza, dedicates its stage names to its sponsors, such as Bud Light, Samsung Galaxy and Palladia. Brands say the biggest advantage to sponsoring music festivals compared to sporting events is that people have a lot of downtime. Besides just beverage and food companies, festivals are now attracting fashion, beauty and technology companies as well, according to Elizabeth Holmes of The Wall Street Journal. Coachella, a weekend festival in Indio, California, had many fashion and beauty brand sponsors this year including H&M and Sephora. H&M had a 360-degree mirrored “selfie station” and Sephora had a makeup station with a vending machine that dispensed free products. Coachella is also a big draw for celebrities including Kate Bosworth, Katy Perry, Kendall Jenner, Paris Hilton and Rhianna.

Sponsored music videos: “Trackvertising”  is a new trend in music videos where brands and artists collaborate.  Music videos are a great way to incorporate your brand because people voluntarily watch and share them, and your brand is likely to be remembered. The most successful example of “trackvertising” is Activia and Shakira’s La La La (Brazil 2014). The music video was for World Food Programme, an organization that brings school food to children in impoverished countries. According to mark tech firm, Unruly, it is the most shared ad.  Another example is the collaboration with Fiat and Arianna for the video Sexy People (The Fiat Song) ft. Pitbull. The video predominantly shows a Fiat in almost every shot, but it is still as entertaining as any other music video and has been viewed millions of times.

Sponsored artist tours. Sponsoring artist tours can be a bigger commitment than the previous options but there are many advantages. It can be very beneficial because the typical demographic of the audience reached is known and consumers are having fun while exposed to your brand. One example is Corona Lite sponsoring Kenny Chesney’s “The Big Revival Tour”. Corona knew that it was a perfect tour to sponsor because their slogan is “Find Your Beach” and Chesney sings about drinking beer and beaches, so they were confident that they would reach their demographic.

photo credit: posted by Kenny Chesney on Monday, August 20, 2012

4 Secrets to Saving Money When Licensing Music; Celebrity Marketing Made Easy


The steps in correctly licensing music and the inevitable price tag can be intimidating, but there are ways to save thousands of dollars on this process while getting the right song for your campaign.

Do a rerecord. If you need or want a particular song but don’t have the budget for the celebrity version, opt for a song rerecord with an unknown artist. So long as the publishing rights are secured (the written words to the song – the composition), a rerecord can be just as effective getting the necessary recognition and emotional response from the target audience. However, be sure to be careful about any clause in the sync agreement that might mention no use of soundalikes. This over site could result in expensive litigation.

In 1990, Tracy-Locke, an advertising agency, used a rerecord of artist Tom Wait’s “Step Right Up” altered significantly to avoid paying for rights in a Frito Lay commercial. Waits sued for four million dollars, winning two and a half million for his voice theft.  This lawsuit didn’t stop other agencies from trying the same. Waits later went on to win cases against Levi in 1993, Audi in 2006, and Adam Opel Ag in 2007. So make sure to acquire the publishing rights and find a non-sound-alike artist to rerecord.

Ask who owns the master. Getting a typical song licensed means paying publishers who represent the composers/writers and the record label who owns the master recording of the song itself. A Most Favored Nations (MFN) clause will likely be in place between both rights owners. An MFN is a contract clause that states whatever party quotes the highest price the other party follows suite as neither license can have more favorable terms. For example, if the label quotes the master rights at $100,000 firm and the publisher quotes $75,000 MFN, the publishers quote will then bump up to $100,000 to follow suite due to the MFN language.

If the artist has a version they own (outside of any ownership by a label), they could waive the MFN fees and you avoid paying the label all together.

Incentivize the artist to rerecordIf the artist doesn’t own a version of the master, it is a good idea to provide some sort of incentive to record their own version to avoid MFN costs with the label. For example, if getting the rights for the original recording of a song costs $400,000 all-in, half ($200,000) goes to the publishing rights, and half ($200,000) goes to the master rights. Offering the artist an extra $100,000 to rerecord the song would mean saving $100,000 for your client/brand should the artist agree as you now will be paying $200,000 for publishing and $100,000 for the rerecord.

Reach out to the artist in question. If the artist is going to appear on camera in a television commercial along with one of their songs, they usually will be open to waiving their publishing fees if they have ownership. If they are not the sole publisher (if their band mates helped write some of the song, etc.) ask the musician to contact them. More often than not, you can acquire the remaining publishing rights at below market cost, due to the help and leverage of the on camera artist.

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Celebrity Marketing: What You Should Know About Music Clearance

music and brands

To remove the mystery, avoid common mistakes, and save time, always use a professional for music clearances.

Music can be used to emotionally connect consumers to a brand. But music clearance is a time-consuming, detail-oriented process. Experienced brand marketers know the value of using a professional to help.

Music clearance consists of five areas:

  1. Determining what permissions are needed to make use of a piece of music
  2. Ascertaining the owner(s) of the music
  3. Contacting rights owners and negotiating an appropriate license
  4. Administrating written agreements
  5. Handling other functions related to use and licensing of music.

Music Clearance obtains permission from the owner of a song (the people who wrote it) or a master recording (the people who recorded it), which you would like to use.

For every song written, any number of artists may have made their own recording. As an example, “White Christmas” has been recorded by Bing Crosby, The Partridge Family, Randy Travis, Tiny Tim, John Tesh, Burl Ives, or perhaps even some guy named Herb that you just hired to make a recording. This means that song rights are separate from recording rights.

You cannot use any master recording without getting permission from the publisher(s) to use the song. Conversely, if you gain permission from the publisher, but are denied use of a particular master recording, you can always use a different master recording or record your own master with the publisher(s) permission.

Clearing a song

Any number of composers can be involved in writing one song. Each of these composers may be represented by their own publisher. A music publisher, to generalize, acts as the representative of the composer for their individual rights in regards to anyone using their song.

In order to clear a song, it is necessary to locate and contact the representative of each composer, confirm their ownership or administration percentage rights (i.e., do they own 50% of the song?), and negotiate a fee for use of their share of the song.

Negotiating a fee for use of a song is based on the type of production you have (such as a film, television show, corporate meeting, trade show, commercial, CD-ROM, web site, compilation record, etc.) Other factors involved in the negotiating process are how much of the song is used, and the manner in which it is used. There are a number of rights within different media, that can include synchronization rights, mechanical rights, performance rights.

Clearing a master recording

If you would rather use the Sid Vicious version of “My Way”, than the Frank Sinatra version, you can locate the proper record label and negotiate a use. Different artists will have different record labels and some artists have recorded on several different record labels during their careers.

Clearance of the master recording has nothing to do with clearance of the song. Publishing companies and record companies are almost always are totally separate entities. “My Way” was recorded by Sid Vicious, Frank Sinatra and many others, but was originally composed by Jacques Revaux, with French words by Gillis Thibault. Subsequently, English words were written by Paul Anka.

This is a perfect example of how complicated an apparently simple music clearance can be.

photo credit: Horia Varlan via photopin cc

Celebrity Marketing: How to License Music and Avoid Being Sued

How to avoid having music pulled from your advertising because approvals weren’t secured.

Music licensing is complex and has many approval layers.  Fees for licensed songs will typically range from five to six figures. The cost depends upon factors including song popularity and the performer.

If you find yourself responsible for music licensing, here’s a list of the definitions, key players and industry tips that you might find helpful.


  • Master Use License & Synchronization License: If you want to use a song in a TV or radio commercial, you need a Master Use License from the label and a Synchronization License from the publisher.
  • Publishing Rights:  These are the rights the writers hold.  There can be multiple writers for one song in which clearances are needed for each and each publisher to agree to same terms and fee.
  • Master Rights: These are rights the labels own…the actual recording of the song.  Often one song is associated with many labels.

Key Players:

  • Record Label: The label owns the actual sound recording — the performance of the song as recorded in the label’s studio.
  • Publisher: The publisher works on behalf of the song’s composer (the person who arranged the music) and songwriter (the person who wrote the lyrics). The composer and songwriter own the actual copyrights for the song, and the publisher represents them in all business dealings.
  • Music Publishers and Writers:  BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) an advocate for the value of music, representing more than 8.5 million works of more than 600,000 copyright owners. ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Artists and Producers) is another industry advocate.

 Industry Tips:

  • Re-record: You cannot do a re-record that sounds like the original Artist.
  • Negotiation: You can negotiate music; however, there is not much room to negotiate the standard license once issued.
  • Internet Exclusivity: Most publishers/labels will not agree to exclusivity for internet.
  • Exclusivity: Be sure to add exclusivity to your fee request for an accurate amount.
  • Usages: For one 30 second commercial usages could include:  unlimited lifts, edits and versions thereof (including without limitation, any foreign language versions), in the following media: TV (network, cable), In-Cinema, Internet, Industrial, (including without limitation, in-store, kiosk, trade shows, point of sale, client sales meetings (insert others which are of importance to the campaign).
  • Paying Musicians: Musicians and back-up singers are compensated.  Knowing when the song was recorded, and where and who is listed as vocalists is extremely important. SAG (Screen Actors Guild) standard rates apply. 

photo credit: David Paul Ohmer via photopin cc

Celebrity Marketing: The Danger of Negotiating with A Celebrity Directly

celebrities and brands

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client” – Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln’s quote is true in a court of law, yet is it true in the marketing world with celebrities?

Many marketing executives believe it is as easy as calling an agent and negotiating a deal similar to any other project they might work on. Unfortunately, this mind set is hazardous to a marketing budget and hiring the celebrity a brand wants.

 If you or your brand is involved in litigation with thousands or millions of dollars at stake, do you represent yourself, or do you hire a litigation attorney who specializes? When your company seeks a new senior executive, does it scan the want ads or hire an executive search firm who specializes in your industry? 

Even when companies work on specific projects, expert consultants are frequently used.  With any celebrity endorsement, how many companies have essential inside information on competitive conflicts, other contract fees, and their fair market value?

The answers are obvious, so why do brand marketers continue to personally negotiate celebrity contracts? 

In many cases, the lure to negotiate and ultimately befriend a star is irresistible.  Sometimes this “star-blinded” marketer assumes negotiating with an agent should be straight forward and even is some cases, easy.

Negotiating directly with celebrity agents without knowing the fair market value and estimated fees for other current contracts grossly exposes marketers to serious problems, especially overpaying. The money issue then turns into the question of perceived value versus actual value, not a very good point to be at in the decision-making process.

Why would it cost me more money to negotiate with a celebrity directly?

Let me answer with the following real example:

One ex-NFL Pro Bowl quarterback was paid $500,000 for a one-year campaign by an ad agency representing a new client eager to break into the sports industry. Why did the client overpay by up to $375,00.00? Because the agent played hardball and gave them a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum and the client was afraid that all similar names would be as expensive. Unfortunately for the client, the athlete had signed another spokesperson deal within the year for $375,000 less less than what the eager company paid.

Not knowing fair market value is dangerous and could even cost a brand its first choice. No one should settle for second, third or even fifth choice and risk not meeting brand objectives.

So what is the best way to proceed?

With billions of dollars spent on celebrity endorsements annually, it will remain a fixture in mainstream advertising.  Yet, even as the task becomes more daunting with ad budgets and sales revenues at stake, many marketers continue to blindly negotiate with celebrity agents.  To avoid this trap, many brands use an expert to step up to the plate.

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