Influencer Interview #7: The world of brands and music according to Emily

Got a chance to interview a real music expert and pop culture maven in Emily Copeland – we met the other week and she gave me some great insight into the world of music and some great examples of what brands are doing right to connect with young people (and how they’re fucking up too) in the brand saturated space that is music.  Em  works at MCN and also hosts a music program on FBI radio. Check out her blog here.  She’s got amazingly deep insight into youth culture and how brands and ‘playing’ in the music space.

Em Copeland from   youth music guru

Em Copeland from youth music guru

Here’s here perspective on brands and music, music tribes and what’s coming up this Summer.

Which brands are doing well to leverage music? Maybe a few different examples

I love seeing brands do something a bit different in music. The ideas of giving away tickets to have an ‘ultimate festival experience’, running an unsigned band competition, and setting up your own branded music event have been done to death. More importantly, there are brands that now ‘own’ these spaces (Festivals – Smirnoff; Unsigned Bands – Tooheys Extra Dry; Branded Music Events – Bacardi) , so it is incredibly difficult for anyone new to try to play in these areas, or to do it better than those existing brands.

 Ted Baker leveraged music well this year, with the creation of the ‘Gig Race’ to promote a new clothing range. Entrants had two weeks to attend as many gigs as humanly possible, whilst blogging and twittering about their experience as they went. Ted Baker used something their consumers were already doing (going to gigs, blogging and twittering) to promote their brand. And more importantly, they found a way to credibly link their brand with music – by having consumers do it for them! Every tweet and blog post that went out in relation to the competition mentioned music and Ted Baker – and came direct from the target demographic. (FYI – the winner was a 29 year old guy from Kent, who went to 27 gigs in 14 days. He now holds the Guinness World Record for most concerts attended!)

 Are there any ‘must do’s’ when considering using a music marketing strategy to engage youth?

There are two major ‘must do’s’ that I would recommend every brand look at before trying to engage youth through music:


You need to do something that makes sense to your audience, in relation to your brand. Just simply deciding that you want to be ‘aligned with music’ isn’t enough. Nike are a great example of a brand that does this well. Nike are all about sport – so rather than trying to put on a gig, or use a band in their advertising, in mid-2008 they teamed up with A-Trak to create a mix to help people “Keep on Running’ – which adds a music element to their sporting brand. A few months back they also helped De La Soul to release their first new album in five years – which was designed to play as a workout soundtrack, and was produced by Flosstradamus. Nike found sneaker wearing musicians, who had massive credibility, and helped them to do their thing (release music), while still retaining their core brand focus (helping people to exercise).


Don’t just look for trends within your target demographic and try to copy them (like Taco Bell did in the US, when they tried to take an ironic look at white boy hip hop with their ‘Roosevelts’ campaign .  Look to do something unique, or look to support an artist or sound that is emerging (like BMW have done with The Presets and Empire of the Sun The support of an emerging artist will almost always be looked upon favourably, as everyone knows that these independent artists can’t pay the rent with just hipster cred!

 Youth music tribes.. what tribes are popular at the moment?

Back in 2004, the British Council compiled a document that identified 9 youth ‘tribes’ – Townies, Goths, Nu-metallers, Soulstrels, Indie Kids, Pop Princesses, Clubbers, Grungers and Skaters. The interesting thing about this study was that every tribe was partly identified by a particular musical artist, or a genre of music they were all into.

Music is incredibly important to young people, primarily because it is something they all use to create their own identity. Music also helps define their other choices in life – from who they hang out with, to the clothing they wear, the bars they go to, the media they consume, and even the alcohol they drink.

In Australia, we have seen a rise in the popularity of Indie Kids over the past few years – and the music at festivals has reflected this. There has been a move away from techno and hard house, toward more indie electro sounds at major festivals. Even more traditional ‘rock’ festivals have seen an increased number of indie bands and indie electro acts in the lineup.

You will also find multiple sub-tribes within each tribe. The 9 youth tribes defined in the UK are massive generalisations. If you are looking at identifying youth by the music they listen to, then everyone who listens to electronic music would be a ‘Clubber’. However, when you drill down into the electronic music genres, you get everything from Disco, to House, Jungle, Trance, Nu Rave, and Garage. Then, if you look into sub-genres, you find styles such as Baltimore Club, Industrial Rock, Fidget House, Glitch and 8 bit. It will probably be hard for you to find huge similarities in lifestyle, fashion and speech between someone who passionate about Juke (similar to Booty House – think Kid Sister), compared to someone who is crazy about Psytrance (think something from Infected Mushroom) – even though both styles are in essence ‘electronic’.

 What do you feel will be the bands/artists which will gain traction with Aussie youth this summer?

There is a huge amount of female electro-pop currently hitting the mainstream. From the horrible (Lady Gaga) to the more interesting acts including La Roux, Little Boots, (both of whom we just saw performing around the country as part of Parklife) Ladyhawke and Bat for Lashes. I’m sure these sounds will continue across summer, particularly with Ladyhawke having just received five nominations in the 2009 ARIAs.

There are a few tools that I use to look at current trends in sounds and artists. One is Shazam (see Shazam’s picks for 2009 here:, another is Hype Machine’s ‘popular’ feed. I also RSS feeds from around 150 different music blogs, of all different genres, and from right around the world – and keep an eye on these for hot tracks, and musical trends. Young Aussies are also getting better at supporting local talent, and we are seeing huge support for local artists in both the commercial and indie scenes.