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Shamir Tandon

With musical branding taking on the world by storm, one wonders what the market is for music and for brands in the scheme of things.

Shamir Tandon, Composer, JetSynthesys Music Boutique, said, “The beauty of having a brand on board is that it helps artists to create their repertoire without being disturbed by a record label. When you have a brand on board that is already covering your costs, then whether it will be a hit or will there be enough returns on it is not a point to worry about. So it’s a very beautiful thing when it comes to content that has brand support.”

JetSynthesys Music Boutique and Tandon are the faces behind the Grand Prix Glass Lion winner at Cannes 2017 — the very famous Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band - the Transgender series. That was Season 1. And for Season 2, it was launched with autistic children.

They also created 100 hours of content for Airtel five years ago. There was a series called ‘My Song, My Story’ they conceived and curated for the brand, where they played live song requests from people. Another project they are doing, for which they are very proud of wearing a commercial hat, is OnePlus Playback, which has popular non-film music by popular artists such as Guru Randhawa, Neha Kakkar, Divine, Jonita Gandhi and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

It isn’t commercially viable if someone wants to invest in an artist’s video. But that’s fine if the brand is taking care of the lion’s share cost. “So the artist needs to appreciate the value that a brand brings on board. It’s a symbiotic relationship — the symbiosis comes from the brand associating itself with the artist and the wonderful content. And the artists benefit from the fact that they can create their own music without being dictated by any record label. It’s very good for curators. We are like curators, we are able to join the dots between the brands and the artists. So it’s a win-win situation,” said Tandon.

“We try to do natural integration, which is very seamless, tasteful, elegant and non-intrusive. Seamless non-intrusive integration is paramount, because then it doesn’t affect the consumer viewership experience at all and is rich enough,” Tandon said.

Excerpts:

What was the idea behind an initiative such as the 6 Pack Band?

When we started 6 Pack Band, our objective was to change the attitude of the people towards this community, which is misunderstood, ignored and neglected. We wanted to achieve that through entertainment. Today, after releasing music videos, we have reached over 25 million views on YouTube, winning the Grand Prix Glass Lion Award and even performing at the Cannes main stage, performing at the Mirchi Music Awards and still counting. Our band members have become celebrities today and every time they perform, the love showered on them is immense. After the successful run of 6 Pack Band, we launched the 6 Pack Band 2.0, which focuses on a group and community that faces a social stigma – primarily driven by lack of awareness, understanding and, therefore, acceptance – the theme of Mental Health and Disability. The ‘Isspecial’ 6 Pack Band showed the world that no disability can hold you back if given the right kind of love and support.

Why don't we see more work like this?

It's not easy for a brand to associate with such causes due to years of being conditioned to market their brand through traditional means. Brands have started to experiment with mediums and kind of content that resonates with their image, we are observing a paradigm shift. HUL's tea brand Brooke Red Label was receptive to our concept with a simple thought of "tea doesn't discriminate, so why should we?" This thought led to culmination of 6 Pack Band and its 2.0. The brand teams were praised for taking such a bold step and received accolades globally. Even with LG, for one of their Diwali CSR campaigns, we created a song called Karein Roshni sung by visually impaired kids. They starred in the video too. We have seen brands evolve, take fresh, realistic approaches and are breaking the ceiling. The change is slow but there is a visible tilt.

What new projects do you have with the 6 Pack Band?

Six pack bands (Transgender and 2.0) are invited to various platforms to perform and showcase their talent in literary tests, woman empowerment programmes, motivation and leadership forums with me. We were on KBC with Big B and now performing for Economic Times Women’s Forum on February 8 in Mumbai.

What is the total music listening population? What are the numbers?

According to KPMG’s 2018 India Media and Entertainment Report, India’s music business is predicted to grow at an astounding 14.7%, which will outperform the growth of TV, print, and films in the coming year. Looking closer at the listening habits of this population, Nielsen’s latest India report found that 94% of online consumers listen to music throughout the year, spending an average of 20 hours a week listening to music. India out-consumed China, another major emerging music market, by nearly 25%, with music videos being the predominant form of consumption. Immense music produced daily, discovery of new music and interaction with these user-friendly platforms with smartphones operating in the era of cheaper data, i.e. post-Jio effect, are positive signs of music numbers growing.

How can brands incorporate music in their strategy for long-term branding and even short-term activations?

Realising the potential of music content, various brands have joined the bandwagon, which has become a common practice in the ad world today. Gone are the days when an advertiser’s focal point was only to sell the product. Now, it goes beyond just making a sale. A brand needs to understand the channel of communication it would like to engage with its consumers; the medium helps define the piece of content that can be weaved around it. Also the need to promote the brand; if it’s a festive need or the launch of a new product/service or just building a community of strong followers. This narrows down to the narrative in the content created. In a country like India where 70% of the population is youth, young people are getting less engaged by traditional marketing. Authenticity is one of the important things that a brand needs to keep in mind. So investing in music and supporting great musical creatives is a way for brands to achieve both — being authentic as well as gain big enough attention.

How can jingles and theme songs be made more interesting and captivating?

As a music composer and brand strategist, when sound and music are designed to evoke a brand persona and values, the connection with your audience works at a far deeper and emotional level. Music can be a shortcut to win the hearts of a new audience by providing relevant content at the right time. It has a language of its own and the power to make your brand bigger than words, hitting the emotional nerve that is within us all. A piece of music is a combination of profound lyrics, storytelling (brief), solid music backed by powerful vocals. If one of this is missing, you will land up with a piece of weak content.

What makes brands facilitators of musical branding?

Music content is short format, binge worthy and easy to share. Music cuts across various age groups and has the potential to reach across geographies. Jingles were the format used to establish a brand, and the kind of sound and artist a brand associates with today has lot to do with the kind of audiences they would like to appeal to. We have seen a rise in music properties over the years as digital content in terms of music videos, branded stories, IPs like Coke Studio, Royal Stag Unplugged or King's Mix Tape or reality shows like Indian Idol are the longest-running shows on television today because there is an audience that loves music.

Our country has seen mushrooming of music festivals with each passing year where brands like Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Redbull's Gully Fest or Nesco's Paddy Fields or Johnnie Walker's Mahindra Blues Festival are a testament to the brands using music as prime tool to promote themselves. We aren't confident of any other genre to pull eyeballs as much as this segment does.

To what extent does song licensing help in musical branding?

It’s especially important to pair the right music with the right audience if you’re introducing a new segment with a new market. A common mistake in music strategies are brand managers pushing the music they like and not necessarily what their audience likes. Music provides the value that brands need to connect on an emotional level, turning loyalty into advocacy, as well as differentiating themselves among competitors. Music is a universal language, so brands that are able to find the right sound will greatly improve their results and reach a bigger audience than comparative marketing tools.

A worldwide survey by the Havas media group proves that a relevant and meaningful music strategy has an overall positive impact on the marketing approach of any brand — 73% of people think that music partnerships improve brand image, while 70% think it makes a brand stand out from its competitors.  62% say it encourages them to engage with the brand.

How far does online platform co-operation like paid ad placements go in terms of musical branding?

Over 84% of millennials do not trust traditional advertising and hence data-driven approach to find the right artist to partner with is crucial. Paid ads help to give content an initial nudge to improve visibility and reach out to brand's TG. Surge in product placement referred as brand integration in the advertising world has been a game changer. Integration of the brand that can lift brand recall, brand recognition and brand choice lead to increased purchase intent and overall product consideration. Product placement has carved out a solid niche in the music video scene; it should be memorable and have a purpose.

Understanding audience data will help align brands and influencers, creating an even stronger platform for product placement. A study found that when an audience identifies with a brand, after music video exposure, they will like that brand even more.

We as curators of OnePlus Playback property on YouTube have integrated India's premium hand phone OnePlus in a series of videos with artists like Guru Randhawa, Neha Kakkar, Divine, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Jonita Gandhi. The idea is to capitalise their fan following across social media and YouTube platform and organically weave the brand in the storytelling of the video. Subtle integration of the phone and the merchandise doesn't make the viewer feel a brand is being pushed at them but is visible enough to have a recall value.