I’ve just got back from 2 weeks of holiday during which time quite a lot happened in the digital music space. One thing that really caught my eye was UK dance act Faithless’ partnership with Italian car company Fiat for their single ‘Feelin’ Good’.  Brands (Converse, Bacardi, etc.) commissioning artists to record tracks for ad campaigns is a growing trend, but what Faithless have done here is different. No money actually changed hands, and no Fiat slogans or messaging appear on the video. So how does it work? Fiat paid for the video and in return had a Fiat Punto featured in the video. The car actually gets pretty prominent positioning (including extended dashboard footage), but Fiat’s creative agency have worked hard to ensure that it has been done in a creative and non-intrusive manner. (Well, maybe not quite that non-intrusive, but the intent is there and it’s leagues above much other product placement.)

The three-minute video will air across an entire ad break during the reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ to an audience of c 1.5m. 

This is a best-practice example of brands and bands exploring new ways to work together, delivering clear benefits both to Faitheless and to Fiat, and meets many of the criteria set out in our report ‘Music Strategy For Brands’ which clients can read here.

Faithless are no strangers to experimenting with brand partnerships and new revenue models. Their combination of mainstream audience reach and still relatively cool edge make them a perfect partner for big brands. And this partnership represents another step in Faithless’ current move to establish a post-record label existence. After leaving BMG, they self-released their latest album ‘The Dance’ and controversially struck exclusive retail deals with iTunes and supermarket Tesco in the UK.

I’ve written before about how non-label partners will increasingly become a career option for artists in the latter stages of their careers, but not at the start of their careers.  Brands cannot be expected to develop the expertise nor financial stomach for investing in discovering and developing content. But at the same time, they must focus on understanding artist-fan relationships and the creative needs of artists, in short to develop music product expertise. Which is exactly what Fiat have done here. If that path isn’t followed, brands risk simply becoming a retirement plan for fading artists.