Friends with Benefits: Brands & Artists Need Each Other More Than Ever



In today’s media environment, brands have a tough time breaking through the clutter. To do so, they must create a constant stream of content that is authentic, engaging, and entertaining. However, most brands are in the business of creating products and services, not content. For these brands, the best place to look for inspiration and support in creating content is from artists.

At the same time, artists (musicians, writers, photojournalists, painters, chefs, fashion designers, and others) are faced with an equally challenging environment. They now have the tools to communicate directly with fans, but this democratization has made it difficult to stand out. They also have the ability to sell directly to fans, but the on-demand media world has made it harder for some artists to monetize their work. This means they are searching for new ways to gain exposure and to earn non-traditional compensation.

The confluence of these trends creates a natural fit and an opportunity for mutual benefit for both artists and brands.

Procter & Gamble sponsored AND produced many of the 1st televised soap operas.

Procter & Gamble sponsored AND produced many of the 1st televised soap operas.

While both sides might have certain reservations about entering into these partnerships, it’s clear the opportunity is too great to ignore.

In many ways brands and artists have been working together since the early days of media (‘Soap Operas’ were named for the cleaning companies that sponsored the content), but today’s marketing, media and technology trends have created a lot of room for innovation.

With this in mind, we’re launching an original content series dedicated to the artists and brands that are pushing the boundaries of creative collaboration. Our curator for that series is James Joiner, an accomplished photojournalist and the Online Special Projects Editor for Esquire Magazine.

According to James, “Brands and artists can absolutely have mutually beneficial relationships. You’re taking something that is inherently creative and powerful, some artist’s vision, and using a brand’s often great resources to see it to fruition, often with a budget that means the artist won’t have to make any compromises, which allows them to focus solely on the creative aspect. For brands, having someone create something that is exclusive to their story, and being a part of that creation story, is far more valuable form a marketing standpoint than taking out an ad somewhere. It’s inherently a more honest approach, and people, consumers, are going to trust it more.”

In addition to this content series, I’ve worked with James to propose a SXSW panel focused on the same topic. We’ll be joined by Brian Ziel, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Seagate Technologies and Sam Horine, an accomplished photographer who has been developing unique programs with brands.




If you’ll be at SXSW and would like to see our panel please vote HERE.

A few of the topics we’ll cover include:

  • How can brands leverage partnerships with artists to create compelling content?
  • What do artists want to see in the deal and how are they compensated?
  • How is technology changing these collaborations?
  • What does the future of collaboration between artists and brands look like?
  • What brands are doing it well? What are some common mistakes?

Don’t worry if you can’t attend. We’ll be tackling many of these topics in future blog posts, interviews and with the new content series.

Our goal is to create a dialogue, identify best practices and recognize leaders who are finding success with these partnerships.


Do you have a favorite artist and brand collaboration that we should review?


Thanks again for reading, and for your vote if you’re heading to SXSW!


Brady Sadler is the EVP of Growth & Innovation at GYK Antler. Connect with him on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn