Several years ago I pitched Camel on the idea of starting a record label. The idea was for the brand to “discover” emerging artists and support them by producing their first album, which would then be distributed via Camel.com and the brand’s event series, as well as through traditional merchandising channels.
There really ought to be a word for what it feels like to pitch the right idea to the wrong client at the wrong time. Don’t you think?
According to The New York Times, “lifestyle brands are becoming the new record labels.” Converse, for one, is investing in a 5,200-square-foot recording studio in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
Converse’s studio, called Converse Rubber Tracks, is the brainchild of Geoff Cottrill, the company’s chief marketing officer. After applying online, bands deemed dedicated and needy enough will be able to record whatever they want there. No need to prepare rhymes for “Chuck Taylor” — Converse says it will have no influence on the music, the artists will keep ownership rights, and, as with many brand-as-patron projects, the songs aren’t intended to be used in ads.
To run the studio Converse has hired Cornerstone, a media and marketing company in New York with a history of seeding corporate branding campaigns with hip music. It also operates Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound imprint, which releases free MP3s by blogger favorites like Neon Indian and Chromeo. Jon Cohen, a founder of Cornerstone — who is also an owner of The Fader magazine and its related record label — said his brand-run projects fill voids in the beleaguered music industry. “A brand now has the ability to really break an artist,” Mr. Cohen said.
Not every brand can play the record label/recording studio card, but Converse clearly can. My hat’s off to them.
In other sonic branding news, Portland’s Rumblefish, continues to bring it. Here’s an AdPulp article from 2008 that describes what the company does.