It’s Time for Brands to Meet Fans at Music Moments


Mike Dunn, EVP of Music and Entertainment at R&CPMK, recently wrote a piece for Campaign US sharing his insight on what the music landscape will look like post pandemic, and how brands can seize the moment. As an expert in music partnerships, Mike helps brands connect with consumers through the shared passion of music, by developing innovative campaigns through artist partnerships, content creation, tour sponsorship and more.

We invite you to check out his article available now at Campaign US.


As we move into that part of Spring where the weather gets warmer, letting us all dream of summer fun to come, there’s hope in the air. Flowers have bloomed, vaccinated numbers are rising, and we can all start to consider summer plans in ways that seemed impossible only a year ago at the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s a pent-up desire among people to be with one another again after all the isolation brought on by lockdown—a yearning for common connection, for communal interaction. The best way to experience that, in my mind, is through live music. As we’ve seen in the past, brands will be there to help—in fact, sponsorship revenue of live music is projected to hit $3.85 billion, following a massive dip in 2020 to $2.1 billion after 2019’s $6 billion haul.

Unlike 2020, we can actually start considering attending shows or festivals again because, unlike 2020, there are actually live shows, tours and festivals in the works, from Bonnaroo to Outside Lands to GovBall and, eventually, Coachella. Though outdoor shows and festivals are a natural fit for a post-COVID crowd, I’m also looking forward to when the thousands of smaller music venues can come back to life and offer stages up for artists to connect with their fans in a way the virtual experience just doesn’t allow. 

After a year of isolation and disconnect, fans want to make up for lost time: 64 percent of music lovers plan on attending even more live music events than they did before. The good news is, artists are just as eager to also get back to live performance. But so many factors determine the return to large scale arena tours. Topline artists will need close to full capacity in order to make the financials work—which isn’t a given since we don’t know how many fans will actually commit. And with so many artists on tour, arena and stadium availability makes for another logistical challenge, along with pro sports schedules that occupy those locations. All with an added level to make sure it’s done safely and following COVID guidelines.

In the meantime, I credit the music industry for crafting new ways for fans and artists to make virtual connections over the last year when live shows were off-limits. From startups that devised new forms of interaction like Patreon or Bandcamp, to companies that brought live performances to life online like Driift or YouTube Live, to media platforms like TikTok that breathed new life into all manner of music (think of viral dance crazes based on popular songs, or even Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ blowing up because of a skateboarder video) —all these efforts kept music alive and vibrant when in-person experiences weren’t an option. Even an unlikely source like Peloton, which has exploded in the last year due to the home-fitness boom, thrives on the music that drives users to achieve new personal bests—and has gone so far as to strike deals with artists like Beyoncé.  

Brands have helped along the way. Take the Honda Civic Tour, which just livestreamed on Twitch on April 28 and was headlined by H.E.R.. Instead of canceling its 20th anniversary show, the tour promoters found an alternate solution—exactly the kind of adaptation, creativity and passion that I love about the music business. It also showed heart, as brands used their voices to show support for COVID relief, small businesses, social justice and more. Verizon, for example, was very quick to create Pay It Forward Live! and leverage virtual artist performances effectively (as well as entertainment and gaming). 

The most successful brands are the ones that can act quickly, but also have a strong purpose and point of view. Take Anheuser-Busch, which just recently announced its Bud Light brand is giving away up to 100,000 tickets to sporting events, along with free tickets to big music acts nationwide—borrowing from current vernacular with the name Bud Light Summer Stimmy.

There are also more opportunities to craft those partnerships in a creative, unique way. It can be as low-key but socially important as Mastercard’s recent collaboration with Jennifer Hudson, who rerecorded “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with producer to promote and celebrate Black-owned women’s businesses. Or it can be as huge as the Vans Warped Tour, which, sadly, is no more but remains a classic example of brand association with music its customers love—the perfect mashup.

Passion burns at the heart of everything to do with music, both for the artist and the fan. Now is the time for marketers to set their plans to be there to latch onto and become a part of these unforgettable musical moments. This is especially true for brands looking to connect with young people, many of whom will be setting out to enjoy their first shared music experience—in person—in a year or more. There’s just a strong desire for people to get back to normal, and associating with their favorite music offers a chance for your brand to take a bigger role than you’ve had before. And brands won’t just be part of this “new” experience, they have the opportunity to make it all possible.

If all goes well, we will hopefully see arena tours stage their comeback too. Promoters will have to figure out what levels of capacity are not only safe but also profitable. Several acts have announced 2021 tour dates, from Dave Matthews Band to Eric Church to Andrea Bocelli to Kane Brown.

So as these plans coalesce, brands need to seize the moment now to meet music fans (aka your customers) at these music moments they’ll never forget. Wait too long and either your competitor or another brand will step up, plug in and turn up the volume.

As the world slowly returns to some semblance of normal, music will be that connective tissue. What better opportunity to tap into that passion and desire than to leverage a partnership and engage with a receptive audience.  The time is now, because some other brand will step into that sponsorship soon, in hopes they will be associated with these music moments and elevated fan experiences.

I don’t know about you, but I, for one, can’t wait to stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow fans to feel the pulse of music again.