As the weather gets warmer and we dream of summer fun, there’s hope in the air. Flowers have bloomed, vaccination numbers are rising and we can start to consider summer plans in ways that seemed impossible only a year ago.
People have a pent-up desire to be with one another again after the isolation brought on by lockdown. There’s a yearning for common connection, for communal interaction. The best way to experience that, in my mind, is through live music.
And as we’ve seen in the past, brands will be there to help. In fact, sponsorship revenue of live music is projected to hit $3.85 billion this year, following a massive dip in 2020 to $2.1 billion after 2019’s $6 billion haul.
This year, we can actually attend shows or festivals again because, unlike in 2020, there are live shows, tours and festivals happening, from Bonnaroo, to Outside Lands, to GovBall and, eventually, Coachella. After a year of disconnection, fans want to make up for lost time: 64% of music lovers plan on attending more live music events this year than they did before.
Artists are just as eager to get back to performing live. But so many factors determine the return to large scale arena tours. Top artists will need close to full capacity to make the financials work — which isn’t a given, since it’s unclear how many fans will actually commit. And with so many artists on tour, arena and stadium availability is another logistical challenge, along with pro sports schedules at those locations. Add in an extra level of security to make sure it’s done safely and follows COVID guidelines.
In the meantime, the music industry has crafted new ways for fans and artists to make virtual connections over the last year. From startups like Patreon or Bandcamp that created new ways to interact, to platforms such as Driift or YouTube Live that hosted live performances, to TikTok, which breathed new life into all kinds of music, music stayed alive and vibrant when in-person experiences weren’t an option. Even Peloton, which has exploded in the last year, uses music to drive users to achieve new personal bests, striking deals with artists like Beyoncé.
Brands have helped along the way. Most successful are the ones that can act quickly, but also have a strong purpose and point of view. Take Anheuser-Busch, which recently announced that Bud Light is giving away up to 100,000 tickets to sporting events and music acts nationwide — using current vernacular with the name Bud Light Summer Stimmy.
There are also more opportunities for creative and unique partnerships. They can be low-key, but socially important. Just look at Mastercard’s recent collaboration with Jennifer Hudson and Will.i.am, in which the pair recorded “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to promote and celebrate Black women-owned businesses. Or it can be as huge as Vans’ Warped Tour, which, sadly, is no more, but remains a classic example of brand association with music its customers love — the perfect mashup.
Passion burns at the heart of music, both artists and fans. It’s time for marketers to set their plans to be part of these unforgettable musical moments again — especially brands looking to connect with young fans, many of whom will be setting out to enjoy their first shared music experience — in person — in a year or more.
I don’t know about you, but I, for one, can’t wait to stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow fans to feel the pulse of music again.
Michael Dunn is EVP, music and entertainment, at R&CPMK.