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While teaming up with an artist can be beneficial for both the brand and artist, there is a certain risk, at least to the artist, that such partnerships will be harmful to fans’ perception of their authenticity. Here we look at how partnering with emerging artists can help make the connection between brand and consumer seem more authentic.

Photo: Pearls Negras (ABRONCA). Check out out Artists & Brand Case Study with Melissa (Grendene) and ABRONCA at Glastonbury Festival > here <

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Brands align with artists to tap into the genuine relationships artists have with their fans. But the bigger the artist, the harder it is to be real. By becoming part of an emerging artist’s story, brands can build authentic connections with consumers at the same time that artists are building authentic relationships with their core fans.

Something special happens when you’re early

Individual fans are key to discoverability for emerging artists. We all understand this on an emotional level. Think about how it feels to be the first person in your friend group to discover a cool new artist. It’s a special feeling—one that makes you, the fan, feel as though you’re a part of the artist’s career.

The same thing is true for brands that work with emerging artists, but the impact is even greater. Emerging artists need support and resources. When brands provide that support, they’re literally helping the artist break. In turn, that support will be repaid by a grateful artist who is going to share a genuine appreciation for the brand with their audience. Just as important, fans will pick up on that authentic connection, forming a powerful three-way union between artists, audience, and brand.

Quality is the new quantity

The more popular an artist becomes, the harder it is for them to respond to every Tweet, comment, or Like. This isn’t about ego, it’s a question of time. Eventually, a successful artist won’t have enough hours in the day to give every single fan a personal response—no matter how much that artist loves to connect with their fans.

That’s why engagement actually goes down as the follower count increases. Influencers with more than 100,000 followers average 1.5 percent engagement on Instagram and only 3 percent on Twitter. The reason? Social media is about making personal connections. The bigger you get, the more impersonal that connection feels.

Arguably, Instagram is as sensitive to this paradox as the individual influencers who use the platform. With one billion active monthly users generating 4.2 billion Likes each day, the ‘Like’ isn’t all that special. In fact, as a social currency, the Like decreases in value the more Instagram grows. That’s one reason Instagram has been testing the idea of hiding Likes in order to shift the focus from a meaningless metric onto the platform’s real value proposition—sharing authentic content with engaged audiences.

But brands don’t have to wait for Instagram to figure out what emerging artists already know—quality is the new quantity. Emerging artists hit a sweet spot for brands because their fanbase is incredibly passionate, but the size of that fanbase remains manageable enough to make authentic engagement possible. In other words, the relatively small fanbase is a critical advantage for the emerging artist and the brands that work with them.

3 Step for brands to work with emerging artists

It starts with audience data

Data is at the core of influencer marketing. But instead of thinking about how many followers an artist has or how many Likes they can generate, marketers should think in terms of granular audience data. The goal is to define, as precisely as possible, the consumers you want to reach, and then identify the emerging artists that speak to those audiences.

Time your engagement

A partnership between a brand and an emerging artist should be a mutually beneficial media opportunity. By timing the engagement to correspond with the emerging artist’s tour or music release, marketers not only maximize their media and promotional dollars, but they also increase the relevance of the brand’s message. After all, fans are fans year round, but they’re more engaged and passionate when the artist has something to offer like new music, a new video, or a tour.

Understandably, marketers have their own timing needs that are dictated by business considerations. But remember, a single emerging artist isn’t going to carry the weight for an entire campaign. And thankfully, marketers don’t have to choose between forcing the timing of an engagement or missing out on an opportunity. The solution is to build a roster of emerging artist partners so that the brand always has an artist to work with.

It’s all about values

Consumers can smell a fake a mile away. Conversely, when consumers see something real they know it immediately, not in their heads, but in their hearts. That’s why even granular audience data, perfect timing, and marketing dollars can’t deliver engagement without authenticity. So, how should brands think about authenticity when working with emerging artists?

The key is for the brand to look for an emerging artist who shares the brand’s values. Of course, that takes hard work—and real conversations. Brands need to have internal discussions about what they stand for. Artists need to do the same thing with their team. And most important of all, brands and artists need to align around values before they work together. When brands and emerging artists form a partnership around values, they create an authentic relationship that will draw consumers in for a meaningful conversation.

Guest posts by Maxwell Zotz, the Director of Artist Relations at MAX