Brands & music: top tips from Converse

Jed Lewis Converse

Jed Lewis ConverseBrands have been on the quest for authentic artist endorsements for years, but it’s become an increasingly crowded space, with major players such as Bacardi, Red Bull and Jack Daniels dominating proceedings.

What does this growing corporate interest mean for musicians? We caught up with Jed Lewis, global music marketing director at Converse, to get his take on the current situation.

Jed leads the company’s international Rubber Tracks programme, which took up residence in 12 of the world’s leading studios this summer to offer 84 unsigned artists free time to record.

We learn more about the initiative – which also encapsulates Rubber Tracks Live and an innovative new sample library – and get Jed’s top tips on what emerging artists should look out for when teaming up with global brands.

He also shares some important info about the latest UK pop-up recording studio, which is currently open for artist applications….

Brands and bands working together is nothing new – what’s your view on the current situation?
The music landscape has shifted so much and labels aren’t what they were in the past. Artists need to look elsewhere for patrons and supporters – and that’s where brands come in. We focus on true emerging artists, in most cases, unsigned talent. We figure out ways we can be useful to them.

How have your tailored your work to support them?
We identified some of the many pain points, obstacles and struggles that emerging artists face. Professional recording time was definitely one of them. It can be prohibitively expensive and although there are a lot of great alternatives – such as home studios – there’s nothing like going into a professional studio with an experienced engineer. We wanted to make that more accessible for emerging artists.

Converse has been engaging with musicians for a number of years – have artists’ attitudes to brands changed that time?
Yes, the relationship between bands and brands is definitely changing. But artists still have their radars up – and so they should. They need to be aware of what the relationship with the brand actually is and what the brand is looking for from them. So, while the concept of selling out is starting to erode, bands are still very aware when they enter into these kinds of partnerships.

With Rubber Tracks, we give artists access to the studio and the engineer and they decide what they want to do that day. They own everything at the end of it too. There’s completely no strings attached.

What do you look for in a Rubber Tracks artist?
We had over 9,500 applications and needed to whittle them down to 84. It was a huge process. We looked for all the things we normally look for across our Rubber Tracks programmes – artists who are dedicated to their craft. They’re actively playing shows; they’re active on social media; they’re passionate about what they’re doing. We also wanted to get a wide selection of genres and locations in there too.

Do you mainly work with artist managers or directly with the talent themselves?
We almost 100 percent deal directly with the artists. We’re talking about acts who are in the very earliest stages of their careers – some of them have never recorded in a studio before.

What tips do you have for artists entering into brand partnerships?
I think an artist always has to go into any relationship with a brand, label or manager with open eyes. They need to make sure they will be able to maintain their integrity and stay true to who they are. In the current musical landscape, they have so many options in front of them it can be overwhelming. They need to ensure they’re getting out as much ad they’re putting into the partnership.

Where are the biggest pain points for emerging artists?
Within the Converse Rubber Tracks universe there are a few pain points we really go after. We’ve talked about expensive recording time, which isn’t accessible to most emerging artists. Live performance is another area. Certainly, artists can go out and play live shows but we’re focussed on helping elevate these new performers – which can be hard for them to do on their own. With Rubber Tracks Live we ask headline artists to perform three shows and the one stipulation is they have to select their opener from an emerging artist who has come through our Rubber Tracks programme. This gives them the chance to perform in front of a much larger audience at a top notch venue.

But it’s not all about artists who want live performances and recording time. A lot of artists make music at home on their laptops using samples – but there are many perils to this. Proper sample libraries are expensive and free sample libraries are of inconsistent quality. And, if you borrow someone else’s intellectual property, you’re going to find yourself in some legal trouble. It’s hard.

We’ve built a library of samples that were created at Rubber Tracks studios by amazing artists who gave their time and talent to contribute to it. We now have over 21,000 stems and loops that are 100 percent safe to use, royalty free and of the highest recording quality.

How can emerging artists get involved? What’s next for Rubber Tracks in the UK?
We’re continuing our pop-up studio programme throughout boroughs in London. We’ve done two to date and our next one is in Tower Hamlets in November. You’ll see more Rubber Tracks Live events too.

How can artists apply to get involved in the next pop-up studio sessions?
We’re looking for 14 emerging artists to record at Lightship 95, a unique studio space on the Thames, from 14 to 27 November. Registration is open from 19 October until 2 November – visit http://www.converse-music.com/rubbertracks/london/ for more info.

To access the Converse Rubber Tracks Sample Library, please visit: https://www.conversesamplelibrary.com/

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