Viewpoint: 'The holy grail is to get a John Lewis TV ad'

Former BBC Radio 1 DJ and founder of Good Groove Records and Upfront Media, Gary Davies, on why record labels are increasingly looking to partner with brands.

gary davies

For the artists we represent, the most difficult thing is always the route to market for that artist. How do you get noticed? A classic example is Gabrielle Aplin, whose song is on the John Lewis Christmas ad. Not many people knew about her before that and now she is number one in the charts. The right early association with a brand for record labels and artists can be invaluable.

We signed Corinne Bailey Rae when she was completely unknown, as are around 80 per cent of the artists we work with. Usually we work with an artist from a very early stage and develop them. Most people I’m signing have to be Radio 1 applicable.

Radio is still very important but the reality is that if you are a new artist, it is very difficult to break out unless you’re on the Radio 1 playlist. Commercial radio tends not to play new music; they wait until it’s a bit of a hit before they play it. Radio 2 does play new music, but it doesn’t really have the breaking power of Radio 1. Radio 1 is certainly the station that all the record labels will look to get their artists airtime.

Whether they can get them onto radio or not, all record labels more than ever are looking for brands to partner up with, be it on commercials or a marketing campaign. The holy grail is to get a John Lewis TV ad.

When it comes to breaking an act you can’t ignore anything. You’re not going to get famous just because you’re appearing on a couple of blogs but when you start appearing on a lot of different platforms people start spreading the word.

The record industry never used to be like this. Many artists were very fussy about whether they would work with a brand. It was also much more difficult to deal with record companies in the past. Now, because record sales are down, nobody is selling what they used to sell and synchronisation income [from ads, TV programmes, films, etc] has become a very important part of their profits and losses.

Selling out is just a thing of the past, because at the end of the day people are not buying your records, they are downloading your records for free. So, actually, working with a brand is an incremental part of your income.

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