A Conversation with My Love Affair’s Renaud Skalli
In April 2011, Cathy Guetta (wife of musician David Guetta) and ad exec Raphael Aflalo launched My Love Affair in Europe as a way to connect artists across the globe with branding and licensing opportunities. MLA is a music marketing agency that advises brands on everything music-related as part of their marketing and communications strategies. On the flip side, they also work directly with artists in order to bring both sides (art and commerce) together. That can take the form of endorsement campaigns, product placement in music videos, licensing deals, co-branding arrangements, and more – basically any and every form that a possible relationship between a brand and an artist could take. We spoke recently with Renaud Skalli, Head of Artist & Label Relations about the company and how bands should approach branding and licensing opportunities.
Can you explain why indie and DIY bands should be partnering with brands, and how it can help their career?
The two key reasons why indie and DIY outfits should be, if they’re not already, focusing on enhancing their profile so that brands would be looking at them as potential partners, are: one, because whenever you do something with a brand – this could be a private show, this could be a product placement, this could be a full 360 campaign – you get the brand’s power and consumers behind you, which in terms of exposure means investments, promotions and media campaigns that the artist may never have been able to achieve otherwise. So that’s one key thing: exposure, promotion, and everything that’s related to these points.
Now the second aspect is in terms of a revenue stream. I think right now is probably one of the greatest times for indie acts to be looking at brand partnerships as a completely new, and very open, revenue stream out of which they’ll be able to use that revenue to do whatever else they still like doing [without selling out]. You know, for an indie band to go on the road and tour is very expensive, and doing even one small opportunity with a brand is something that could lead to them being able to reinvest that money into that tour, future recordings, etc.
How do bands position themselves to catch the attention of these brands? How do they differentiate themselves, and what are some marketing steps they could take?
I guess there’s no recipe, but, I mean, in terms of how to be able to put yourself in one brand’s vision, it’s still about the same things; I think having a [compelling] story about yourself is very important. Whenever a brand is looking for a partner for an opportunity it’s always based on some kind of story, some kind of product, obviously, and an audience. Brands, and people in marketing in general, know that without the story or something special to talk about, you will not be [connecting with] their consumers. I think that’s something that brands are and will always be looking at.
Now there’s another great and key thing, probably point two, that’s very important in this matter: the fact that brands are looking at artists that they partner up to reach out to consumers. So if you’re a DIY act, the Internet is probably – and has been for a while at least – one of your greatest assets. Both points lead to one very simple thing: that a brand will always rather partner up with an artist who’s only got three thousand or five thousands fans on Facebook, if they know that they can connect with these five thousand fans in a lot stronger and more powerful way than an artist with fifty, sixty, seventy, or a hundred thousand fans who are probably not as dedicated to their act, or to their artist, as the other [smaller following].
What’s a creative branding opportunity that smaller acts can take advantage of?
I was going to bounce back on a very specific way of looking at brand partnerships, which is product placement in music videos. Look at an indie artist right now, a DIY artist, who doesn’t have, let’s say, any sort of budget to make a video. Both you and I very much know that having a video, being able to post the video online, is something of incredible value in terms of content for the band, because this could create buzz, this could create attention and so forth. So, you know, if the artist doesn’t have any sort of budget but has got some very creative idea that’s worth – I don’t know – $1,000, $2,000, $5,000? Well the idea of thinking that someone may be able to come in, finance this idea through, in return, what we call a product placement, is something of amazing interest. So in many ways, product placement in music videos is something that both the very famous – the Gagas and Madonnas do this all the time – and indie acts should have in mind. This is one of the reasons why we have set up a platform called “My Product Placement” that you can find at myproductplacement.com, which allows any artist (major or indie) to upload an upcoming video project with details on who you are, your digital profile, what the video is going to be about, a treatment for the video if you have one, and so on. On the other side you’ve got all brands and agencies that we already have registered to the platform, who can search through this database of upcoming videos and find one they may find of interest, and may want to – in a sense – invest in.
We have worked with many smaller indie bands over here in France and indie labels abroad. I think that at the end of the day, it’s not really about how many fans you have, or how big you are; it’s about how creative, intelligent and refined the campaign or the idea can be. It’s always going to be about the idea at the end of the day. If you’re artist X, and no one knows about you but you’ve got an incredible idea, people will get to know about you, that’s just a fact.
What do you see as the future for My Love Affair and where do you see the company’s direction headed over the next couple of years?
I think step one, in the next year or so, will be to confirm all the great and amazing things we’ve been lucky to be able to do in the last year, you know, doing more campaigns, reaching out to all sorts of artists, from huge to small – just artists in general, I think; again, it’s just got to be about the idea rather than the money or the name of the artist that’s on the table.
Point two would be to bring this model throughout the rest of the world. In many ways we are already speaking to U.S.-based brands, but right now we haven’t been very much talking to – just mentioning one example out of the blue – South American based brands. We haven’t really been speaking to them, and everyone knows that the Latin market, especially when it comes to music, is a very, very strong and connected one. So this next year will be about bringing our model to the rest of the world, whether it’s Asia, South America, even Africa – in many ways, again, it’s not about money, it’s about the idea, and when you know the people in Africa are very much connecting with music as a whole, there are many, many great things to be doing there as well.