Rock Bands’ Hottest Tour Stops: Ad Agencies

Marc Roberge sings at an O.A.R. concert in Maryland last year.

From Adage:

It’s not listed on their official tour T-shirt, but in February rock band O.A.R. played an important venue in Richmond, Va.: the Martin Agency.

As free streaming music and video make it tougher than ever for musical artists to earn a living, they are increasingly forging relationships with agencies in hopes of striking a commercial licensing deal. Acts are squeezing into their schedules intimate shows at shops in adland, and making time not just to perform for agency staff but to chat with creatives who may be hunting for music to include in campaigns. That was the motivation for O.A.R. to stop off at Martin before four nights of performances in nearby Washington. Also on the docket was McCann Erickson, New York.

In short, ad agencies — a group unused to being courted — now have groupies.

“The idea of doing this is to create a presence in the agency and get the key players to know you as a brand yourself,” said Adam Zengel, director-branding and partnerships at Wind-up Records, O.A.R.’s label. Mr. Zengel’s position was a first for the label; his job, which he’s had since September, is to ensure that musicians are making their way into the Rolodexes of agencies and brands.

“As the music business has gone in an alternative direction, [building agency relationships] helps musicians find better ways to generate income,” said John McAdorey, executive producer at Martin Agency. “There’s a lot of money and a lot of exposure to be had.”

It could mean hearing from throwback bands or unexpected groups, too. Another band that recently stopped in at Martin was ’90s sensation Toad the Wet Sprocket.

“Bands see ads as the new MTV — a great way to market their music and get great exposure,” said Paul Greco, JWT’s’s director of music. DJ troupe Swedish House Mafia, for example, worked with TBWA/Chiat/Day and Absolut vodka to create a custom song, “Greyhound,” as an ode on the cocktail made of vodka and grapefruit juice. The tune wound up in a TV ad.

Musicians traditionally have been averse to “selling out” — or licensing music to marketers for money. But declining record sales resulting from online file-sharing has forced artists to turn to other revenue streams.

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