Just listening to the new songs by the ever-excellent Richard Hawley. He’s taken a different tack to releasing some new music by going full-on with the sponsorship of Scotch Whiskey (whisky?) maker Glenfiddich.
I’ve not read anything about his motivation for the partnership, but doubtless if asked it’d be something about the “changing face of the music industry” and “brand partnerships being a viable artist platform”.
This is a thorny line to walk – fans, especially in a new transparent area of fandom, do have a sensitivity toward brand partnerships, but there’s certainly not the vehemence against them there once was. The big question, I think, is what do Richard Hawley fans think? I can’t say many – who admire his heartfelt and “earthy” sound- would be too impressed by the clearly marketing-department-politico-spin of Richard’s “quote” that leads off the website –
“(I) enjoyed the time I spent in Scotland learning about Glenfiddich’s pioneering approach to whisky making and talking to people who have worked there for years. It has given me some wonderful ideas for new songs.”
I think there’s a line Richard’s crossed here with this partnership – it’s a subtle line but it leans too heavily in the brands favor (songs like “In The Barrel” scream of outside pressure on Richard’s creativity). I can see the logic from the brand’s point of view – leveraging Richard’s support of the product as heavily as possible. But is it all for naught if it FEELS forced, false? Who wins, really, when the brand and artist aren’t properly balanced.
This post over at MBV addresses the issue in an interesting way – that art is only art if we choose to engage with it as such, and we tend to be much more forgiving about music when it’s in the form of “content” – easily digestable, shareable links which pass us by daily and leave little impression. Art requires an effort to engage, content is throw-away.
But apply this to the Hawley example and you’ve got crossed wires – content trying to be art and vice-versa. Nobody wins.
Brand sponsorships still work – they always will. But getting the balance right, making the artist and brand message work in concert, is clearly as elusive as ever…