AT­LANTIC RECORDS’ MONEY MOVES

Fast Company - - Contents - By Claire Dod­son

Camille Hack­ney, who over­sees brand part­ner­ships for the mu­sic la­bel, has learned how to make cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tions suc­cess­ful.

When it comes to ad­ver­tis­ing, brands have tra­di­tion­ally needed mu­si­cians more than mu­si­cians have needed brands. But as the pop­u­lar­ity of stream­ing con­tin­ues to drive down al­bum sales, more artists are seek­ing out lu­cra­tive cam­paigns and li­cens­ing deals. At At­lantic Records, home to Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Kelly Clark­son, and other stars, EVP of brand

”YOU’RE IN A MUCH BET­TER PO­SI­TION WHEN YOU CAN SAY, ‘MY ARTIST LOVES YOUR BRAND. HOW CAN WE WORK TO­GETHER?’”

part­ner­ships and li­cens­ing Camille Hack­ney helps both sides nav­i­gate this new ter­rain. Here’s what she has learned about blend­ing art with sales.

IM­PACT STARTS WITH SIN­CER­ITY

Early in her ca­reer at At­lantic Records, Hack­ney watched as a hip-hop artist trashed a brand part­ner in an in­ter­view and quickly learned the con­se­quences of a forced re­la­tion­ship. “The artist has to truly love the brand, or you’re go­ing to be on pins and nee­dles the whole du­ra­tion of the con­tract,” she says. Now, each time she meets a new At­lantic artist, she asks a se­ries of ques­tions: “What do you wear?” “What de­vices do you use?” “What do you eat and drink?” The re­sponses serve as start­ing points for outreach to cloth­ing la­bels and tech com­pa­nies. For ex­am­ple, when “Jar of Hearts” singer Christina Perri an­nounced in her first meet­ing with Hack­ney that she had a Mini Cooper tat­too on her driv­ing foot, Hack­ney knew im­me­di­ately whom to call, and BMW ended up spon­sor­ing sev­eral of Perri’s mu­sic videos. “You’re in a much bet­ter po­si­tion when you can say, ‘My artist loves your brand. How can we work to­gether?’ ” says Hack­ney.

LEAVE ROOM FOR GROWTH

When new artists join the la­bel, they’re of­ten open to any part­ner­ship op­por­tu­nity that might come their way. That’s fine in the be­gin­ning, when pub­lic­ity is a pri­or­ity, says Hack­ney. But as mu­si­cians de­velop their im­age, she leads them to­ward part­ner­ships that can ben­e­fit more than just their wal­lets. For body-pos­i­tive rap­per Lizzo, li­cens­ing deals with com­pa­nies like Ap­ple and Cadil­lac have been sig­nif­i­cant—but a 2017 spot with plus-size re­tailer Lane Bryant proved even more ef­fec­tive for con­nect­ing with her fan base. Some­times, Hack­ney has learned, the po­ten­tial lies not in the mu­sic it­self but the method: Grammy-nom­i­nated R&B singer Kehlani is known for her highly phys­i­cal per­for­mances, which won her an en­dorse­ment deal with ac­tiv­ity-proof beauty prod­ucts from Make Up For Ever.

TELL IT LIKE IT IS

One way Hack­ney builds strong re­la­tion­ships is by de­liv­er­ing bad news fast. If, for ex­am­ple, an artist gets ar­rested, “you don’t want [the brand] to read about it on TMZ,” she says. Her straight­for­ward rep­u­ta­tion has helped draw com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Coca-cola, Pepsi, Sam­sung, and the NFL into the At­lantic ecosys­tem, where they have be­come reg­u­lar part­ners. It’s also helped her land deals for newer artists with smaller fol­low­ings. She re­calls bring­ing NFL rep­re­sen­ta­tives to Bruno Mars shows in 2013 and sell­ing them on an artist who, while pop­u­lar, wasn’t yet iconic. His 2014 Su­per Bowl half­time gig ended up break­ing view­er­ship records. “They have to trust that we can read the tea leaves,” she says.

HUMANIZE THE AR­RANGE­MENT

Hack­ney has one re­quire­ment dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions: The brand rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the artist have to speak di­rectly with one an­other, either in per­son or on the phone, be­fore they sign a deal. “Both par­ties are build­ing brands, and each needs to talk about who they are, their goals and strate­gies,” she says. She’s learned that when mu­si­cians have a chance to put a face to what can oth­er­wise seem like an anony­mous cor­po­ra­tion, they’re more likely to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of their ac­tions while they’re un­der con­tract (and less likely to flake on en­gage­ments). Brands, mean­while, are less likely to make un­re­al­is­tic re­quests, like a “no change in ap­pear­ance” clause once sug­gested for an artist fa­mous for al­ter­ing her hair color daily. Un­der­stand­ing one an­other’s val­ues, she says, “al­ways makes a part­ner­ship stronger.”

Hack­ney helps At­lantic’s mu­si­cians strike mean­ing­ful deals with brands like Pepsi, Amer­i­can Ex­press, and Sam­sung.

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