Why a Music Lion will mean more than a Grammy

The convergence of music and branding has never been more relevant, writes Grey's director of music and president of Cannes' first Music Lions

I live in Brooklyn, arguably the music capital of the world and the place to be for bands and artists. I’ve pretty much always lived in Brooklyn, since I was 8 years old. As a teen and twenty-something, I would perpetually tell people, "Come to Brooklyn and hang. It’s a great place to be," and not many people would. It kind of made me sad. Now look at the place!

I’m in Music and Branding, arguably the space to be in to build a music career.  I’ve pretty much always been in music and branding, ever since I got my first "real" job. I would perpetually say to the press, "Come and check out Music and Branding and hang. It’s a great place to be," and not many would. It kind of made me sad. Now look at the space!

I am a long-time attendee of the Cannes Lions, arguably the place to be for music people looking to monetize their creativity. I’ve been attending the festival for 12 years, ever since I became a not-so-junior ad exec. I would perpetually say to music folks, "Come to Cannes Lions and hang. It’s a great place to be," and not many people would. It kind of made me sad. Now look at the place!

I was lucky enough to be chosen as the inaugural president of the Entertainment Lions for Music jury. We’ll convene, debate and coalesce for several days, while people are partying on the beach, in villas, on boats and in the beautiful nearby environs. The jury is a composite of important folks in the music-meets-marketing-meets-artist-meets-branding-meets–technology-meets-live-meets-social-meets-production nexus. Pre-judging started weeks before the event, as entries have exceeded expectations.

I have been lobbying for this kind of jury for years because music is a part of culture that is as profound as it is simple. It is a persuasive and pervasive language that connects the dots between brands, marketers, and consumers. It’s the feeling of an execution, the emotion, that invisible impression that is paradoxically quite noticeable in everyone’s day-to-day experience.

Music will be in full force at Cannes this year: the Music Lions; the Lions Entertainment two-day festival; appearances by Iggy Pop, Brian Eno and Mark Ronson; and tons of content that defines forward-leaning, modern entertainment.

Considering how often people in the music industry talk about Brands, Impressions, Social and Streaming, the Music Lions can be classified as nothing less than super relevant. The honeymoon between music and brands is certainly over, but the marriage has never been more vital, sexy, energized and mutually beneficial. Impressions on social media are more important, at times, than album sales, and so are streaming numbers, powered mainly by Spotify, the sponsor of the Music competition.

The Music Lions promises to be deeply seeded in the modern music business, and will become the most important and most sought-after music award out there.

In contrast, major music awards like the Grammy Awards and the like will become less relevant each and every year, as they continue to cling to traditional models. They will become backward leaning or downwardly mobile.

The Grammys are certainly lacking in relevant honors. There are only three awards for "music for visual media," and nothing for streaming and social media.  

It seems their voting members have always been out of touch with modern music culture. When Herbie Hancock’s wonderful tribute to Joni Mitchell, "River: The Joni Letters," won album of the year, music fans gasped. Same, when Metallica lost to Jethro Tull for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. And the same thing happened when Lionel Richie’s "Can’t Slow Down" won Record of the Year over Prince & the Revolution’s "Purple Rainand Bruce Springstein’s "Born In The USA." 

Steve Stoute said it best in an open letter to the Grammys in the New York Times a few years ago:

"As an institution that celebrates artistic works of musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and technical specialists, we have come to expect that the Grammys uphold all of the values that reflect the very best in music that is born from our culture. Unfortunately, the awards show has become a series of hypocrisies and contradictions, leaving me to question why any contemporary popular artist would even participate."

Quite humbly, I was spot on with Brooklyn. I don’t think it’ll be long before a Music Lion is as proudly displayed on the next great artist’s mantle as any other long-established entertainment honor. Maybe even more.

Josh Rabinowitz is EVP/director of music at Grey.

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