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The future of the branded live music experience

Last October, Richard Branson announced that V Festival would no longer be sponsored by the brand that gave the festival its name. As one of the most notorious front-runners of the branded live music experience, does the termination of a 22-year association indicate the end of brands wanting to associate with live events?

With the future of the similarly long-running, Tennents-sponsored T in the Park also uncertain, you could be forgiven for thinking so. However, with British live music audiences increasing year-on-year and several surveys suggesting that attendees feel more positively about brands who engage with music, it’s no surprise that brand sponsorship of venues, tours and festivals continues to curve upwards.

Ultimately, while being a headline sponsor may look good, it’s a pretty blunt approach. As Ottawa Bluesfest director Mark Monahan recently explained to Eventbrite, brands are looking to identify specific audiences at festivals, preferring to “activate around artists” rather than events as a whole.

Brands are also cutting through by providing services at festivals, from State Farm providing essentials to forgetful fans at Bonnaroo, to Hunter Boots giving away free wellies to Glastonbury-goers (a trend encouraged by the latest Nielsen 360 report).

Brands aren’t spending less – they’re spending smarter

Technology is also opening up new avenues, from live-streamed events such as Boiler Room to exclusive, app-announced performances (see Toyota at last year’s Lollapalooza).

What’s in it for the festivals, though – not to mention our troubled small venues?

Ultimately, the same thing that encourages artists to license their music to adverts: money. Not only could a cash injection help attract bigger performers but at least one venue has been pulled back from the brink by a brand, when the 100 Club was effectively saved from closure by Converse. What was notable about the deal was that Converse didn’t attempt to plaster their name all over the venue; rescuing it provided all the good PR they needed.

As owner Jeff Horton enthused at the time: “They’re not interested in ownership […] The fact that the club will remain independent [is what] appeals to them so much.”

When it comes to ad-savvy millennials, brands increasingly seem content to sacrifice visibility in favour of authenticity. While you may see less headline branding of festivals and venues in 2018, brands aren’t spending less – they’re spending smarter.

‘Unlocking the Sync: A band’s guide to brands and a brand’s guide to bands’ can be downloaded for free at Musictank.co.uk.


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