Tech + Human: How We Match Brands With Music Artists

As Artist Relations Manager at Music Audience Exchange (MAX), my job involves the process of selecting artists for brand/artist partnerships – which includes everything from analyzing the brand’s needs, to interviewing artists, to executing artist contracts, to just generally being the “go-to guy” for all of the artists we work with.

While each partnership is a little bit different, there are a few things I can tell you about how the basic process works…


Initially I rely on our tech platform for the first steps of the process. I input all relevant criteria into the platform, including the brand’s target audience demographics, plus any specific brand/artist/consumer profiles to generate an initial list of potential artists. Our platform then aggregates information about the artists’ listenership, downloads, streams, concert attendees, social followings/engagements, etc., and once the search is complete, the platform generates a list of artists who are a match for the brand’s objectives. This is where the tech side ends, and the human side of the curation process takes over. Now I start reaching out to artists directly.

When I contact an artist about a potential brand partnership, the first question every artist/manager asks me is always “How do you select an artist for a partnership?” followed by “What are you looking for?” The answers to these questions are multi-layered, but in general, I look for an artist who has a true affinity for the brand we’re discussing, the ability to generate maximum fan interaction, and availability of current singles that can be promoted.


After the initial explanation of what exactly the partnership is about, the first question I lead with is always “What are your thoughts about this brand?” The artist has to genuinely like the brand or the partnership will not work. When an artist cares about a specific brand you can tell – it shows in their voice and in their commitment. They are more engaged, more creative and they understand that this passion will help them get the best possible results for the brand (and themselves). This is why I tell artists that I would rather wait for the right opportunity with a brand they are passionate about, than to try to force a match. Authenticity is always key, otherwise an artist loses their individualism.


Fan interaction is what makes a partnership really take off. Artists whose fans engage, comment, and dive into what an artist likes, produce the best results. If fans are interacting with an artist’s unique content, it tells me that the artist really gets the power of interacting with fans. They understand their audience. Understanding their audiences equals fan engagement, which is the driving force of the social media side of our business. We The Ghost is a great example of a band we work with that creates genuine fan engagement, and better yet, reciprocates by responding directly to their fans’ comments:


As more fans engage, they create a “halo” effect, where more of their friends are seeing an artist’s name, amplifying exposure beyond just the artist’s existing fans.


The next question I think about is, “Does the artist’s current single make sense for the theme of the brand’s campaign?” If we are running a summer-time campaign, we want to focus on music that is high energy and matches the brand. Since each song we use becomes the backbone of a 60-second radio spot, I always want a strong hook. The goal is to make listeners want to know and hear more about the song, the artist, and the brand supporting the song.


Lastly, I always look at how the artist and their team interact with me -- are they excited? Do they respond quickly or will I be chasing them down for campaign assets? These are key factors I focus on when deciding who to work with. There are a lot of components that go into making a brand/artist partnership successful, and the whole process runs much more smoothly if everyone does their part.

As we continue to work with more artists, the curation process becomes more refined. And while we do rely very heavily on data to drive the initial lists of artists we recommend to a brand, there will always be that element of human interaction and curation that helps to solidify the organic bond between brands and artists. When all of these pieces align, everyone leaves happy.