Respect the Hustle, Mind the Medium: A New Era of Bands, Fans, and Artists

Revolt's Keith ClinkscalesBy Keith Clinkscales, CEO of REVOLT Media & TV

“Our freedom of speech is freedom or death. You gotta fight the powers that be” – Public Enemy

“A mind full of fire and a fistful of steel” – Rage Against the Machine

This was the heartbeat of music culture not so long ago – a passion across genres that screamed “damn the man!” Now, picture 1996 … the first Tibetan Freedom Concert held in San Francisco, a balloon that reads “$ can’t buy culture” bouncing through the mosh pit. A time when corporate America’s involvement in music culture was significantly less accepted and frankly uncool. And a time when standing in the crowd of a live music event meant holding up your lighter, not your smartphone.

Fast forward to 2007 and hear “One, two, three, four, tell me that you love me more” on your TV screen as a girl wearing iPhone headphones dances to the indie rock darling Feist. Catchy. Memorable. Effective. That moment in music and marketing history marked a major cultural shift where consumers welcomed brand/music integration on a whole new level. Just this past spring Pharrell sang “Happy” to a crowd of fans – and it was the fans who provided the audio, using their Sprint HTC phones.

The music industry is indebted to shows like HBO’s “Entourage,” MTV’s “The Hills,” The CW’s “Gossip Girl” and FOX’s “Glee” for breaking emerging artists and increasing music access of young adults – heavy music consumers – across screens. Media was seen as a means to discovery within music – a notion that powers the music app Shazam to this day. It also unlocked revenue potential for the music industry in a time when record sales were plummeting as consumers flocked to digital downloads. In fact, the iPod was the first to benefit from this notion.

Technology now allows consumers to share music without walls, and that’s been the driving force behind brands’ ability to lean into music.

Today’s young consumers value access as much as they value ownership. What do ZipCar and Spotify have in common? Everything. Access. A common complaint in the industry is that the millennial generation steals music, but that’s not accurate: Young music fans want artists to get paid – they just don’t want to be the ones paying. Enter corporations. Technology now allows consumers to share music without walls, and that’s been the driving force behind brands’ ability to lean into music. That’s also why our October conference is changing its name from the REVOLT Music Conference to the REVOLT Media Conference – because brand association within music isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessary one.

To stay true to REVOLT’s mission of being the No. 1 name in music for the Millennial generation, earlier this year REVOLT sought to find out how to best reach them from a marketing standpoint, investing in a cross-country ethnographic project and interviewing iconic shapers of culture – from music artist managers to brand marketers to agency executives. Our “Road to Truth” study found that 84% of 15-34 year olds said “I’d pay more attention if brands provided me with the ability to discover new music.” Young music fans want artists to get paid – they just don’t want to be the ones paying. Enter corporations.

In the same way brands have long tapped into the power of celebrity using stars from the film industry, it is now open season within the world of music. Through technology, the Millennial generation is the most super-served consumer group ever. Gone are the days of flipping through liner notes, physical album “thank yous,” and waiting in line for an autograph at the local record store. Social media has turned a passive consumer into an expert by default, able to know everything through Wikipedia, see everything on YouTube, and stay up to date on their favorite artist by joining their tribe via Instagram, Twitter, and beyond. “Music is like water, it’s everywhere, and free,” a 19-year-old recently told us.

At NYC’s Webster Hall, Pharrell sang “Happy” to a crowd of fans – and it was the fans who provided the audio, using their Sprint HTC phones.

Since fans aren’t starved for access to music, creating meaningful integrations between brands and artists looks less like finding a fit through a Q-score, and more like creating experiences that bridge the gap between technology and music. Just this past spring at NYC’s Webster Hall, Pharrell sang “Happy” to a crowd of fans – and it was the fans who provided the audio, using their Sprint HTC phones.

Access. This is the key link between music and media, and how brands will succeed with using artists to move product, inspire change, or excite.

Media veteran Keith Clinkscales is behind household names loved by music, lifestyle and sports fans for the past 20 years – VIBE, Heart & Soul, Savoy, Honey and ESPN. Chosen by Sean Combs to lead one of the largest, independent network launches in cable television history, Clinkscales took the helm of REVOLT Media & TV as CEO in 2013. An expert on the intersection between lifestyle and culture, Clinkscales oversees an aggressive strategy to make REVOLT the new #1 name in music by focusing on building a network that is real-time, multi-platform and fueled by artists & fans, available to 50 million young adults through cable, Web, social and mobile apps.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large.  In their own words, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn@cynopsis.com

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