Guest Column: Creative and Corporate Collaborations that Made a True Impact

This week, Adam Taylor takes us on a historical journey of important artistic and commercial creative collaborations that proved to be outstanding to American culture. It’s great to have Adam give us a positive look at art combining with commercial organizations. As artists, there is going to be a point in your career where you will have the opportunity to work with or to be inspired by a corporate or commercial entity. It could happen to you and it happens to some of the most unlikely artistic icons. The only real way to make a living as an artist (I mean making your house payments, and feeding your family), is to sell your work to a large company for global distribution or creative collaboration. Working with companies that can provide global exposure for your work is a blessing, and there are times when companies look to work with artists who can bring a certain style and current cultural aesthetic to their brand. All of this is good. We at Think Like a Label want you to succeed with to the truest height of your potential. We hope this article opens your eyes to the possibilities of great accomplishment.

-Jordannah Elizabeth – Managing Editor

Written By: Adam Taylor

It’s always interesting to see persons accomplished in different fields — business and art, for example — come together to make an interesting impact utilizing their individual strengths in a synergistic and beneficial way. The simple, even conservative Campbell’s Soup brand, for example, forever became a symbol of poststructuralist high culture when it was utilized by pop artist Andy Warhol to symbolize mass technological breakthroughs and their effect on American culture.

This distinct use of art-as-cultural-zeitgeist was certainly the case when Volkswagen introduced an advertisement for one of their makes of car with a soundtrack from iconoclastic British folk singer Nick Drake’s solemn “Pink Moon” album. The commercial, which quietly shows a few friends who opt to take a nighttime drive while listening to music rather than attend a crowded party, immediately brought Drake’s music (Note to self: Not Cash Money’s Drake) to a much wider audience — perhaps most obviously because they found it extremely moving.

In fact it has even been said that Drake, who died in obscurity in 1974, sold more records in the months after the commercial began to air in 2000 than he had sold in the previous 30 years. It’s an example of business thinking where the estate of an artist combined with the marketing know-how of a major company for mutual benefit, and it’s one of the rare instances of a commercial which actually was deeply moving to its audience — and one that has set a major precedent in the intervening decade-plus since its original broadcast.

Take for example the market for musical spots in commercials, which has grown so much that many musicians liken it to a financial replacement for falling record sales as the music industry suffers from a tidal wave of downloading. The success of the musician Feist, for example, was greatly aided by the use of one of her songs in an iPod spot in the mid-2000s. Her material was strong on its own, and she would have likely succeeded without Apple’s help, but in this instance a collaboration between business, marketing, and artistic persons made something that brought credit to both. And many bands now view collaborating with marketing firms as a solid source of income in a post-record label economy.

I say post-record label economy because it seems like a storm of retribution is raining upon major record labels, and no undeserved copyrights to Rhianna’s “Umbrella” can save them either. Although the Internet has made it more difficult for artists to hit it big, unlike in the 90’s where it seems like everyone went platinum, the emergence of Internet and social mediums has cut out the middleman and allowed artist’s get in direct contact with fans, with the push of a button. Another added value of the Internet brings is information, which has helped artist’s research new ways to make money and better understand the trade off between signing to a major and going indie. Nowadays the coolest thing in the artist world is to have ownership. With branding at the forefront of the business economy and lifestyle marketing being a big part of that, music gives artists even more power through celebrity. As a result, artists are using their newfound power to collaborate with businesses and create new experiences.

For Instance, take Ghostly International, an indie creative arts record label. Ghostly houses artists/musicians, Dj’s, and Graphic Artists. The company is very progressive and is at the tipping point of the industry. They just teamed up with Warby Parker, an eyewear company that is pushing the envelope in their industry by branding niche eyeglasses and sunglasses. Together Ghostly and Warby have created new sunshades, “The Curtis”, which are said to be the “Official EDM” glasses. Now Ghostly has merchandise that their artists can promote to make some extra money while gaining recognition. Warby Parker has placed the Ghostly’s entire music roster on their site, with a music player to listen to music while you shop for eyeglasses and sunshades. It’s through collaboration that cross branding opportunities are popping up for artists more than ever.

The relationship between business and art has always existed. Yet, the relationship only benefited the major companies and labels that garnered those relationships. However, today we see artists going indie and finding new ways to open up revenue streams and to go around the major labels “Banks” that have stolen from them. The outcome so far, has made for better music, and some interesting collaborations.