Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, right? Wrong — for Shawn Lee, anyway. The hip rock musician is a devoted husband, dad, and vegan. Married for 13 years, the American ex-pat living in London takes his kids to school five days a week and is an avid drinker of soy milk to fuel his busy life recording and producing albums and film scores. And his music is both prolific and acclaimed: since 2000, he has released nearly two dozen albums, contributed to movie soundtracks such as Ocean’s 11, created music for brands such as Louis Vuitton and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, and scored soundtracks for games such as Rockstar’s Bully.
The rock ‘n roll life takes its toll. He makes no bones about the fact that going on tour makes him miss his children and makes him feel guilty for “turning my wife into a single parent.” The demands of recording and touring made him miss his daughter Mela’s first birthday.
So here’s my challenge: check them out. Give them a fair listen. If you don’t like them on first listen, try them again — remember, sometimes your ears need time to get accustomed to fresh music. See them on tour (here’s where you can find them — and you won’t need to fork over hundreds of dollars to experience their music as you would with the Rolling Stones). Their future is in your hands.
Well, I did not exactly hang out with will.i.am and the Black Eyed Peas – just with the scores of fans who responded to will.i.am’s open invitation to participate in a Black Eyed Peas Google+ Hangout at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time before a September 30 show at Central Park. The experience promised to give fans backstage access to the Black Eyed Peas through the power of the Google Plus Hangouts feature (through which people can schedule the equivalent of video chats with their Google Plus friends). After the Hangout, you could witness the actual concert through a webcam onstage. The September 30 Black Eyed Peas Hangout, although imperfect, was an intriguing approach to using technology to build brand in the entertainment world.
As will.i.am commented during the Hangout (which I watched on a YouTube replay), “I don’t think anybody has had a one-to-many webcam interactive experience like this with fans before and during a show.”
Last year I blogged about how Twitter was a catalyst in the forming of a co-branding relationship that I formed with indie musician AM and Razorfish (where I was in charge of marketing). Since then, digital has once again helped launch a relationship – this time between AM and musician Shawn Lee. On the strength of a trans-Atlantic collaboration formed entirely in the digital world, AM and Lee have launched a new album,Celestial Electric, which was just named one of Yahoo Music’s “Ten Utterly Fantastic New Albums” of the week.
Seeing AM succeed is satisfying on a number of levels. I have been captivated by his sophisticated style of music since hearing him in concert in March 2010. But I’m also glad to see a genuinely likable and cool guy like AM and his collaborator Shawn Lee get the attention they deserve. AM’s personal warmth is evident the moment you meet him, and I’m lucky to have worked with him.
Even though he is not yet widely known, AM has garnered critical acclaim among journalists and bloggers. His most recent recording Future Sons & Daughterswas cited as “one of the pop albums of the year” by the U.K. Sunday Express and given a 4-star rating by Q magazine. And at Razorfish he has a huge fan: me.
I was personally smitten with the beauty of his laid-back yet smart songs one night in March when I saw him open for the French rock band Air. After the concert, I sent him a Tweet to let him know how much I enjoyed the show. And to my surprise, he replied with a heart-felt thanks. We began communicating more frequently, which led to my visiting with his manager Mia Crow of Visionworks while I was in Los Angeles for a Forrester Research conference.
From there, a client relationship between Razorfish and AM took root. Razorfish saw an opportunity to build our brand by associating with a forward-thinking artist who plays in the same social media sand box we do; and AM’s management recognized the value of Razorfish applying our own marketing and PR skills in a client capacity.
Fast forward to October: AM and Razorfish are creating the kind of co-branding relationship that you often see between emerging artists and business-to-consumer firms like Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew (the latter via its Mountain Dew Green Label). Our relationship is based on the three pillars of experience, technology, and community. To wit:
On October 13, AM will perform at the 10th Razorfish Client Summit, where Razorfish and our clients discuss the state of the art in marketing, technology, and design. He’s customizing a set list for nearly 700 Razorfish employees and clients including Axe, Best Buy, Levi Strauss & Co., and Mercedes-Benz. We’ll also make his music available to attendees via a specially created StickyBits application and mobile site.
His music is being streamed to 2,000 Razorfish employees around the world as well as a StickyBits download, hence fostering word-of-mouth marketing amid a highly social employee base.
Razorfish and AM are sponsoring a design-a-poster contest on Creative Allies, which invites artists to create poster art to promote the vinyl release of Future Sons & Daughters. Razorfish Vice President of Experience Andrew Crow will help judge the entries. The winning entry will be used in the actual promotion.
Razorfish has been using forms of social media to build awareness for AM’s brand, helping him boost his presence on Facebook and Twitter.
So what does Razorfish get out of the relationship? We benefit in a number of ways. We give our clients and people access to great music, and, through the Client Summit, an experience they’ve never had at our event. We also associate ourselves with a creative, up-and-coming artist who aligns well with the forward-thinking nature of the Razorfish brand — which is ideal for relationship building with clients and job seekers (we recruit actively at SxSW Interactive).
Our relationship comes at at time when it is acceptable for musicians to find corporate partners. Gone are the days when a corporate relationship meant “selling out.” As discussed at the September Billboard Music & Advertising Conference in Chicago, artists like Zac Brown find companies like Ram Truck to be essential conduits for their music and causes. As Zac Brown said at the Billboard conference selling out means doing something you don’t believe in, a sentiment AM shares. In many ways, companies like Mountain Dew and State Farm are little different from record labels in that they distribute music for the artist. With Razorfish, AM gets access to sources of potential deals (e.g., by performing at the Client Summit), and our employs act as brand ambassadors if we like what we hear.
By letting his music speak for itself through the power of live performance, AM does what Razorfish likes to do: build a brand through an experience.