An Expert in Partnerships Weighs in on Bands and Brands

Kacie Lehman at Co.Lab: Revenue Streams
Kacie Lehman at Co.Lab: Revenue Streams

Artists and companies are telling their own stories, but how do they come together to share that objective? Here’s some insight from a SVP of Partnerships.

The relationship between brands and artists has evolved radically in the past few years alone. There are more opportunities for musicians to collaborate with companies that truly understand the power of good art, and brands are more willing to take creative risks in the name of making something unique. Kacie Lehman, Senior Vice President of Partnerships for MAC Presents, has seen that evolution first hand. We talked to her about artists asking for more, building things together, and why accessibility is a blessing and a curse. At a recent Spotify for Artists Co.Lab event covering Revenue Streams, we sat down with Lehman to pick her brain on how these relationships come together.

Spotify for Artists: What has changed about the relationship between artists and brands?

Kacie Lehman: Whenever I meet with an artist for the first time and I explain to them what a brand partnership is, I tell them it's not just slapping a logo on a stage. That used to be a lot of what it was. But there's a lot more customization in partnerships now. People are wanting to get more entrenched in the partnership. Artists are being asked to be creative directors at brands and brands are giving them that ability. It's really more about the story now.

It seems a lot more symbiotic.

Yes, and not to say that there weren't some partnerships being done in that way over the course of time, but I think people are landing a lot more on the story. They're building things together and making sure that it's customized and really focusing on what's the benefit of us together. Brands are requiring a lot more and expecting a lot more of partnerships, as well.

Fans are getting more comfortable with their favorite artists partnering with brands. Can you speak to how that's developed?

I think it all comes down to access, and a lot of that is driven by social media. It's being able to give fans an inside look into what artists are doing on a daily basis. We were talking about this in our office the other day. When we were growing up listening to some of our favorite artists, we wondered what they were doing on a Tuesday when they weren't on stage or in a music video or something. Now, I can easily do that. And so, as a progression of that, the main thing that fans want is access and brands are trying to achieve that by making aspirational moments attainable. Fans have come to expect that.

Kacie Lehman (right) Speaks with an Artist at Co.Lab: Revenue Streams
Kacie Lehman (right) Speaks with an Artist at Co.Lab: Revenue Streams

Has this brought some new, complex challenges to your work?

Well, it depends. People always want more. But it’s also about keeping a good balance, I feel, as far as making sure an artist isn't being overexposed. You're still keeping those moments special. There is some mystery. There's still something driving it forward.

Speaking of strategy, I'm wondering what your strategy is for matching artists and brands when you're building those relationships for the first time.

I spend a lot time getting to know the people, their stories, and what their own different objectives and priorities are. Whenever I meet with an artist, we just talk about what they like.

And then it's figuring out, okay, what's your white space? What are your problems? You're wanting to hit this demographic at this time, or tell a story about this to really engage people in this way. It's really just putting all of those pieces together. We spend a lot of time on building out the story because we know that if you don't do that, the fans are going to be the first ones to call BS.

If you had one tip for an artist when it comes to creating a brand partnership, what would that be?

Be strategic about building your own brand story. Whenever you're first starting out a lot of the big players in the branding game, especially in the lifestyle space, are going to start feeding you products because they know that artists will get excited and they're going to post them on social media and tag them. If you do a lot of that, all the other brands in that category will take notice and know your preference. If you're tagging pictures and you're wearing brands, that's cool, but if you're not getting paid for it, you risk digging yourself into a hole. Someone who might want to pay you can see that you've been investing in this other brand. If you're an artist who's just starting out and doing some of your own pitches or coming up with ideas, remember that brands get pitched one million artists per day. There are so many artists that have an album coming out. There are so many artists that are going on tour. You have to have some sort of story, some sort of point of view, something to go into a brand partnership with that can cut through all the clutter.

- Spotify for Artists

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