When Neil Young teamed up with Kickstarter to seek crowd-funding for a new high-end audio device, called Pono, it was obvious that fans would be keen to get behind him.
But this week it was announced that the campaign has quickly become the most-funded project in the history of the website with 18,220 backers pledging $6,225,354, an amazing level of funding given that Neil was initially seeking just $800,000.
With incentives including ‘dinner and a listening party’ with the legend himself it may not be all that surprising but once again shows the power that musicians have to gain revenue in other industries by harnessing their personal brand power.
As the ‘race to the bottom’ continues with digital download prices it is more important than ever that artists capitalise on business and branding opportunities, a few of which are doing this incredibly successfully.
At MIDEM 2014 Will.I.Am gave an impassioned keynote speech about how the music industry should be competing with the technology industry.
“Our music sells other people’s hardware, and it’s a hard pill to swallow,” he said, “Record labels should not compete with other labels – they should compete with Samsung, with LG. I challenge you to challenge those you think you probably shouldn’t go up against. That’s what Dr Dre did with Beats.”
Beats has been a huge success since its launch achieving estimated valuations of over $1bn. Even with all the success that Dr Dre has had in the music industry he could not have fathomed making that kind of revenue simply from music sales alone.
Rapper Curtis Jackson (AKA 50 Cent) invested seemingly randomly in Glaceau, a parent company of Vitaminwater. In return they created a grape-flavoured product labelled ‘Formula 50’ and marketed the product in his name.
Just two years later the company was purchased by Coca-Cola for $1.4bn, personally netting Curtis $400 million in the process. That same year his music sales only accumulated $40 million.
Bring Me The Horizon (BMTH) frontman Oli Sykes picked up on this trend aged 16, leveraging his relatively new bands cool to launch clothing line Drop Dead Clothing, which is now estimated to be worth around £2 million.
Oli rarely talks about the brand in music interviews saying “I don’t want to promote it. I’m just weird about it. There’s a lot of people that [have something similar] and they would want to talk about it and promote it, but I don’t.”
But in truth, he has never needed to as the 15 – 18 year old audience attending BMTH shows see Oli wearing his own products and automatically want to emulate that. They head to the Drop Dead website and the vast majority of the product line is modelled by Oli himself.
“As download prices leave very little in the pot for the artist,” said Ruth Simmons, MD at soundlounge “and streaming sites pay an absolute pittance per play, it seems logical that the most successful artists in the future will be those who leverage the ‘cool’ of their music and align with the right brands and products.”
“If executed correctly, these artists can stand to make ten times what they would from music sales and touring anyway, something perfectly exemplified by the likes of 50 Cent, Dr Dre and, I’m sure in the future, Neil Young. “