Music and Brand Marketing’s Biggest Night

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

Next Wednesday, January 31st, is what I cheekily like to call “music and brand marketing’s biggest night.” It’s the annual Music Clio Awards aka the Grammys of music advertising. This year, the event has been folded into Grammy Week in LA.

I’m glad to see brand marketing and partnerships getting more shine since the people who devise them are, in many ways, the unsung heroes of the music business. This is especially true of the past decade and even more apparent since Covid, when tour revenue plummeted. The trend of brands and artists working together has continued to grow post-virus.

Grammy Week is missing a lot of its star power this year, with heavy hits like the Roc Nation Brunch and the Roots Grammy Jam Session absent. This, however, plays in the Clios’ favor.

I was part of the jury choosing the winners for this year’s Clios. It was an amazing experience to not only review hundreds of applications, but to be in the room where the decisions were made. I was honored to sit alongside distinguished jurors from record labels, management companies, brands, platforms, promoters, DSPs, and agencies as the Clios team passionately debated in detail who and what deserved to be recognized.

I picked up a lot of game from this experience and certainly understand more clearly what makes an award-winning campaign. I am a better marketer and cultural anthropologist as a result.

The voting focused on innovation and breaking new ground. The winners have been announced and you can find them here. The Grand Winners will be surprised with trophies at the show, live.

If you want to attend and hobnob with the top brand and music marketers in the world, tickets are still available. Use Nue’s offer code CM24NUE to score $50 off the ticket price.

From my experience as a judge, here are a few standout themes:

+Unexpected Collabs
Doja Cat: A “Contractual” Partnership with Taco Bell to Introduce Mexican Pizza

If you can surprise the audience with something they don’t see coming but ultimately love, you are more likely to cut through the noise and land a sticky campaign. Marketing awards celebrate clear, rational ideas brought to life in a highly surprising and memorable way.

+Social Media Amplification of Events
Spotify Presents: FC Barcelona x Motomami

One formula for success in music marketing involves an event, a celebrity, and a massive social campaign that goes beyond the people in the building. This was a great example of a three-way collaboration between Spotify, the Barcelona Football Club, and Rosalia that returned 10x on all levels. It not only delivered for Rosalia and her fans, it also resonated with millions who learned about it on earned media.

+Full Integration
We Transfer x Jungle’s Album Release

When artists can use a platform and all of its capabilities to fully express their art in a unique way, that’s a big win. WeTransfer’s 2023 marketing campaign with British dance/soul aficionados, Jungle, birthed an entire visual album, but the standout was the wholly original, interactive music video, “Back on 74.” Exclusively hosted on WeTransfer, the video merged music, art, and product demo, featuring 10,000 unique pieces of artwork by Jungle’s Joshua Lloyd. WeTransfer’s custom video player allowed users to interact with and transfer artwork in real time, creating a personalized viewing experience with each click.

+Bread Crumbs
Harry Styles’ Album Rollout

Sometimes, with long lead time and deep strategic thinking, the perfect rollout can happen. The marketing campaign behind Harry Styles’ third album, Harry’s House, demonstrated a masterful blend of mystery, engagement, and fan involvement. Recognizing fans’ willingness to delve into every detail of Harry’s every move, the campaign started with cryptic advertisements in local newspapers worldwide which lead eagle-eyed fans to a mysterious website featuring a closed door—an emblematic symbol representing the universal feeling of being at home. It was a stroke of genius that gave fans the chance to track bread crumbs in the newspaper to actual release events in stadiums. The campaign’s success relied on its ability to turn fans into active participants, fostering a community that transcend the boundaries of traditional music marketing.

+Meme Culture Integration
AAA x Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” Campaign

When brands can weave themselves into pop culture in a way that feels authentic, engaging, and genuinely funny, they win with audiences in a big way. Add a little music nostalgia and you’ve got a formula for cross-generational success.

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Also published on Medium.