Article in Relix Magazine
A guest column I recently did for Relix Magazine about the current state of music.
Soapbox: Converse’s Geoff Cottrill “How Brands Can Help the Music Industry (Really)”
Years ago, I found myself having a conversation with a legendary music producer and record industry executive. During the conversation, he pulled outRolling Stone magazine and started to flip through the pages. On one page, there’s a story on Eminem, and on another, there’s Bono and, a few pages later, Gwen Stefani.
In between one of the stories, there was an ad for the global brand I was working for. He says to me, “See this? You’re in between my stuff. People buy this magazine because of these artists and you are in between them. You’ve got to get in it. ” It’s a conversation that has helped guide my career ever since.
Earlier this year, I attended a conference where some of the world’s biggest brands were seated alongside music and digital start-ups in a conversation where we were all trying to figure out how we can do our part to support creativity. While the world’s economy continues to fluctuate, we’ve always known that in the toughest of economic times that creativity is always what brings us out of it. It’s creativity in music, business and thinking that always saves us. Just look around, there is music playing everywhere. Those of us with the means must bring it to light.
Access to studio time, mentoring, marketing support and a platform—these are areas where emerging artists need support and this is where we can help. At Converse, we make footwear and apparel, we’re not a label and we’re not interested in becoming one.
Instead, we’ve found that if we can be useful and bring value to our core consumers who are artists, then we can find meaningful ways to connect with them and contribute to the culture.
This summer marks the one-year anniversary of the opening of Converse Rubber Tracks, a state-of-the-art recording studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., where musicians can register for studio time and record for free. Converse Rubber Tracks helps new artists overcome one of the biggest hurdles in their career: affording studio time.
The project gives emerging artists of all genres the opportunity to record original music that they will own and use to launch their careers. Music, mind you, that is recorded in a high-quality studio alongside a team of experienced engineers without cost to the artist. In this first year, we’ve had more than 300 artists record at the studio.
In June, we launched a bi-monthly, free concert series held at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg, headlined by established artists and featuring opening slots for Converse Rubber Tracks recording artists—handpicked by the headliner.
These efforts are our way to give back to the community, which has given so much to us, and to help foster a new generation of musicians. Most important, we want to give artists opportunities and allow them to unleash their creative spirit.
With the music business evolving daily, less money is going into developing new talent and studio time. If brands begin to shift their thinking, lose the idea of what’s in it for them and begin to value community and expression of their core audience, then a halo effect will form around the brand.
Musicians and creative people are our core audience, and we need to do everything possible to foster this community. We want to be useful to the community and never take advantage of it or overstep our place. It may sound cheesy for a sneaker company, but we want to bring cultures together and celebrate music. In other words, we want to be in it, without getting in the way.
The traditional advertising/sponsorship model of a brand has had very little to do with music, community or fans. Traditionally, brand “X” has sponsored artist “Y” (or paid an artist handsomely for an appearance or commercial) in the hope that the artist’s credibility would make their brand seem cooler. That model feels antiquated in the era of social media, where consumers can see right through any marketing campaign.
In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to try to be useful when you can. In the end, Converse saw a need in the marketplace to help emerging artists by giving them a top quality recording experience. We ask for nothing in return and as a result we have built strong, on-going relationships with a lot of new voices. That’s good business.
Geoff Cottrill is the chief marketing officer for Converse. For more information on Converse Rubber Tracks, please visit www.converse.com/rubbertracks.