Scott Crane talks about the new dynamics and relationships between bands and brands.
Hello Scott and thank you for talking with us today. All of our readers are music lovers but few of us think about the logistics involved in putting on a live show – let alone an entire festival. You are the Director of Business and Sponsorship for Noise Pop Industries. Before we dive into specifics, can you please tell us a bit about what Noise Pop Industries is? What festivals do you host?
In February we’re celebrating the 20th Annual Noise Pop Festival, which started with five bands in one club on one day in San Francisco. Since then, Noise Pop has grown into an institution, with over 100 bands at over thirty different shows in more than a dozen venues in just six days. We also have a number of film, art, and culinary events, and produce several weeks of our Noise Pop-Up Shop leading up to the festival. We calculated that we are producing about 80 events in the month of February alone, believe it or not. Our other big property is the Treasure Island Music Festival (produced in partnership with Another Planet Entertainment), which happens mid-October. So those are the two major events that anchor our calendar, and then we have a number of projects throughout the year: producing events at SXSW and other major festivals, programming for a few other partners, and creating bespoke programs for both emerging and established brands. We keep ourselves from getting bored pretty well.
So how do you even start to plan on organizing a festival? There must be a million moving parts….
Yeah, there really are. Fortunately, I get to work with an amazing team who handle all the heavy lifting on the programming and the production, while I focus more on developing and managing the brand relationships around the festivals. One of the great things about a company as small as ours, in organizing something as massive as a city-wide festival, is that everyone has a chance to get their ideas in at the planning stage. We all muse on about the bands we want to see on the bill, come up with new ideas for events… Honestly at that stage, few things are considered too absurd. The fun part is trying to figure out how to make it all happen, and seeing some of the most ambitious ideas actually come to fruition. But in between, yes, there are a lot of late nights and weekends involved. Fortunately, we all love what we do.
How do you go about choosing the line-up?
Well you know, it starts with the wish list. We all love music, from the owners to the interns, so we all have a short list of artists we want to see. Whether it’s a local band you just really love, or that dream gig that you think is actually impossible to pull off. And yet we have a lot of both on the festival this year! All of the booking goes through our talent buyer, and the two partners get very involved, the producers are very hands on with the programming, but we all get to chime in and pitch ideas. But then they deal with availabilities with tour routing, venue cooperation, financial realities, production issues, putting the right fits on the same bill. Again, I’m amazed with this team. They crush it. To go from joking over lunch that “we should get the Flaming Lips to play ‘The Soft Bulletin’ at Bimbo’s” to actually having that exact show as our opening party just a few months later is a pretty incredible thing to watch materialize.
OK. So your area of expertise is really interesting. You’re in charge of brands and sponsorships. Most people don’t think about this aspect of the industry. Can you please tell us a bit about what you do and how you involve companies that are outside of the music scene?
Sure. To keep it concise, my area of focus is developing and managing brand relationships and revenue streams for Noise Pop and all of our projects. So that means I’m managing and renewing business with former and existing sponsors, creating new opportunities for companies to be involved in, and also developing entirely new properties to plug some of these relationships into. There are also some instances where a brand can benefit from our expertise for a specific event or campaign that isn’t branded under the Noise Pop banner, which can also get really interesting. But I feel that in every case, the execution has to be clever, tasteful, subtle, and has to be on brand for us. Most fans really don’t understand or even think about what I do, if I’m doing my job right. If they do, I start to worry.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you face?
You know, it’s a funny thing. I remember when I was doing deals for artists and events back in the mid to late 90’s. I had artists turning down everything from tour sponsors to content deals to national commercials, because they were afraid of how they would be perceived. And not just artists — even the managers, agents, labels. Fast forward to now, just a decade or so later, and EVERYONE is fighting to be in this space. Look around. What was once a very niche and somewhat frowned-upon corner of the business has now become a very cluttered space. I see new “decks” every week for artists seeking sponsorships, music events seeking brand deals, see upcoming indie artists at every single brand launch… And yes, I’ve made a lot of that happen over the years for different clients as well, sure. But now I think the biggest challenge is that too many of the folks in this part of the business––which to them, by the way, is very new––are only thinking about how little they can do for the largest amount of cash, and simply don’t deliver value to the brands who are investing. I see major companies overpaying for talent, I see events and artists undervaluing their true worth to the brands, all of it. So there are a lot of best practices that aren’t being employeed, because the space is littered with the hunt for quick money to fund this or that, not an effort to create lasting relationships. The good news is, if you’re diligent on this side of the deal, and go above and beyond to give ROI to your brand partners, you can cut through all the noise. To this day, some of my closest friendships grew out of these working relationships over the last several years, so I see that from experience.
So silly question – but what’s in it for the companies? Why do they want to be associated with a festival or with musicians? (As a caveat, Logitech UE has been a sponsor of Noise Pop in the past so we actually are quite familiar with how this works…)
That’s a great question. And it kind of builds on what I was just talking about. On a simple level, brands want to be involved with music and artists because of the fans. Brands want––and really they NEED––consumers to have the type of emotional connection that fans do with music. Companies want fans, not customers. Fans are loyal. Even if you make a bad record, real fans know you still have another good one. Fans get depressed when your band breaks up and fans start message boards lamenting it every day. Fans hope and pray for reunion tours. Fans get tattoos with band names and logos. On the other hand, there are only a handful of well-known brands you can point to that have customers that loyal, and we all know who they are. So brands want that, for sure. They also want authenticity. And, hey, so do customers. This is why Etsy and the whole Renegade Handmade movement are so huge, why words like “local” and “sustainable” are so omnipresent. And when a brand achieves a certain size, they tend to become disconnected with their customers, and customers lose interest. This is what I tend to hear with the larger companies. The blue chips. With a lot of the brands that work with us at Noise Pop, though, they do actually really get it, they have a great product, and just really love supporting artists and music and independent companies like ours. And those are the best partnerships. Fortunately, I get to work with a lot of those. But these are also the brands that everyone else WANTS to be. So the others can look to us to help them get there. Personally, I love to be part of that process. Keeps things interesting and gives me a much better perspective from the other side of the deal.
How do you think this effects the music industry? Where do you think the brand/band partnerships will eventually lead to?
I think you’re going to see more and more where the brands are striking direct 360˚ deals with artists. There have been a few high profile deals like this of course, to varying degrees of success, and they get a load of press because of the dollars attached to them. But I’m talking about deals with independent artists, emerging artists. The ones that don’t make Billboard or Wall Street Journal. And even smaller brands. Local and regional businesses with local and regional talent. And think of the impact that can have, organically, on the music scene under the waterline of the Fortune lists and charting artists. It’s a scaleable model that so few have tapped into, but I really think you’re going to see more of it. I hope so.
And lastly, you mentioned before that Noise Pop Industries is moving beyond the traditional festival approach — that you’re moving into pop-ups, culinary events, and music series at museums and science centers. We’d love to hear more about this.
That’s right. We’re all excited about these things. Realizing that most music fans (and just residents) of the Bay are food geeks, and most chefs anywhere are music fanatics, Noise Pop started a series of underground dinners last year with a very talented young chef. They were wildly successful, received far more press than anyone had imagined. And we’ve built on those to do more and more in the food and beverage arena. We’ve curated music at local restaurants, started a new DJ series with Stoli, are doing more with programming music at food and beverage festivals, expanded the dinners to other markets, and created partnerships with wine and spirits companies to create pairing menus for each event. Then there’s our Noise Pop-Up Shop leading up to the festival, which features a few rising food stars in the Bay (and nationally in some cases), so we’re having a blast with all of that. And yes, we’ve also been programming a live music series at the California Academy of Sciences as well, and in the past we’ve done events at SF MoMa. We’ve got a number of other things up our sleeves along those lines for the next year. So those projects all keep it fun and exciting. Definitely be sure to keep watching our site a twww.noisepop.com for the latest developments.
Thank you Scott – see you at the next festival!
My pleasure. We have the Noise Pop-Up Shop February 2-18, then Noise Pop 20 is February 21-26. Come visit us in San Francisco!
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for Ultimate Ears