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Bloodshot Records: An Indie Music Label’s Take On Sponsorship

By William Chipps Sep 17, 2009

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying the cash and marketing power than brands can bring to independent record labels and other types of content producers and distributors.

I recently spoke with Rob Miller, co-founder of Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, about his take on working with corporate partners, concerns over commercialization and the label’s current partnership with Rolling Rock beer. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

As co-owner of an independent record label, what's your take on sponsorship?
It’s a necessary evil. Given the collapse of the retail component, rising fuel costs, a grim economy, iconoclasts like us find it beneficial to find partners in our ultimate goal: having people hear our artists.

How do you allay concerns over commercialization?
You kind of have to accept it to a degree. You try and educate your audience about the connection between illegal downloads and an empty tank of gas. We’re not talking about Don Henley or the Jonas Brothers here, our artists are struggling. You also, hopefully, are in a position to work with the sponsor in a way that will not make you uncomfortable, or seem pushy and forced.

Is sponsorship playing a bigger role with Bloodshot, and perhaps other independent record labels, as a result of the economy? If so, are you perhaps putting more focus on securing and working with corporate partners?
Yes and yes. While we don’t seek it out aggressively, we no longer hold a holier than thou attitude and turn it away.

Cash is obviously king. That being said, do you look for any other marketing benefits from corporate partners, such as marketing support? If so, can you provide an example?
Yes. One of our bands is being supported by ad buys in print and radio in the markets they are touring.

Bloodshot teamed up with Rolling Rock earlier this year. What's the gist of the partnership, and how's it going?
Overall, it has been a boon for the fans. Rolling Rock has provided the means to put on festivals across the country that we could never have considered on our own. The fans are getting a whole day of music (5-6-7 bands), cheap or free ticket prices, beer specials and, in some cases, some free food component. Rolling Rock has not pushed us on signage or stage announcements and there has been no influence on musical content and presentation.

There have been some rough spots as they deal with a bunch indie minded wise guys, and as we learn how to deal with a behemoth bureaucracy, but overall the goal of exposure to music fans has materialized. Our recent Chicago date had approximately 4,000 people.

Can you provide any tips for other independent record labels, or indie bands, on securing and working with corporate partners?
First off, don’t own a label. Do something easier, like find needles in haystacks.

My personal suggestion is choose wisely and establish guidelines early. No one wants to be surprised by the old “hey, could you NOT do THAT song” or “hey, could you incorporate our logo on your album” scenarios. You want them to help you, but not at the expense of your freedom and creativity.

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Comments

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Amy Vercruysse 9/17/2009 10:09 PM
Nice article. Glad to hear that indie labels & artists are opening up to the "necessary evil" of sponsorship to offset costs of touring and help put some money in their pockets. It's critically important for corporate sponsors make sure the match fits and they remain sensitive to the artists' and labels' creative needs, and to their relationship with the fans. If not, it can blow up badly. If so, it can be a big win-win.
 

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