Yeezy Season 2 proves to be anything but Neutral


Vanity Fair / Karla Otto

The synergies formed when music and fashion intersect are influencing a new form of creation and consumption. While mixing fashion and music is not a new idea, many well known artists and brands (i.e. Puma x Solange, Rihanna x Dior, etc.) have started to capitalize on creating unique experiences that bridge the two worlds together, including potential candidate for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Kanye West.

His latest project Yeezy Season 2, which he presented last week at New York Fashion Week (NYFW), was anything but neutral.  A great example of how the music industry is disrupting the fashion world, Yeezy Season 2 was inspired by North West’s Play Doh creations and featured a breath of neutral monochromatic looks, urban silhouettes and many shades of human.


Vanity Fair / Karla Otto

…there’s something about the way clothes fit and feel and the emotion that they give you and the details of them that I’ve been passionate about and addicted to since I was five years old.

The central “human” theme of the line, as identified by Kanye in an interview with Vanity Fair, was bought to life not only in the clothes and new song “Fade” dropped during the presentation, but also in the way the show was shared with the world. Streamed in over 40 theaters across the world, Mr. West created a unique experience that has solidified him as a force to be reckoned with in both the fashion and music industries.

While it has taken a few tries for Kanye to get this right, we can definitely learn a lot from his goal of penetrating the fashion world and diversifying his talents as an artist. We can also expect exciting things from him in the future, starting with his mission of transforming sportswear through the influence of music.

Sportswear is less than 100 years old, so we are in the middle of the expression right now for what this will say for human existence. There’s something that the Romans, they presented, that the Egyptians, they presented. With us, we have a time now that’s a mix between music, the advent of rock ’n’ roll to hip-hop, the 808 drum machine, the concept of tennis shoes or the sweatshirt. Where can that go?

Also, check out this brief clip from the presentation:

2014. Brands. Adidas. Pharrell. Red Bull. Boiler Room. Spotify.

Looking ahead from the “Year in Review” series, I’d like to make a couple of predictions about next year and the music industry.


Adidas will continue to emerge as a real fashion brand in the music industry. They will boost sponsorship of events but maintain an air of ‘cool.’ I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Adidas Festival or an exclusive sporting and music show. Hats off (obviously Adidas ones) to whoever is currently doing the marketing over there.

pharrell-signs-to-columbiaPharrell will make one of the years best selling albums and cement is place as one of the ultimate collaborators and pioneers in the modern music industry. Having just signed to Columbia, we can expect something on the scale of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, only crossing more genres. Oh, he’s also writing the score to the Amazing Spider-Man 2.

red-bull-music-academyAs with Adidas, Red Bull will continue to cement itself as a major brand in the music industry that ‘helps out’ rather than ‘steals’ from the experience that corporate sponsors are often assimilated with. They are not encroaching and do a good job of minimal advertisement with maximum product placement. Slowly moving away from the extreme sports it built its brand on, I predict that music will be the new key target market.

boiler-room-logoAs the ‘The world’s leading underground music show‘ currently with other 550 thousand Facebook likes, Boiler Room is not going to stay underground for long. Providing a unique experience to be at secret shows in undisclosed locations, whilst hosting some of the worlds best up and coming DJ’s and artists, streaming all of this live online, I predict Boiler Room will aim to set up shop in Australia, the talent and opportunity for growth is is vast down under.


Not a prediction so much as a wish, I’m really not a big fan of Spotify. I think it’s an impersonal, music industry destroying, unstable, slow service. Johnny Marr the ex Smiths guitarist is of the same opinion. So does Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

So in 2014, I hope Spotify goes bankrupt.

Happy New Year.

Artist Strategy: “Story Time”


What separates Deadmau5 from Dyro, or Rihanna from Rox? Why do we recognize certain names – certain brands – so well and others maybe not so much? It’s safe to say that talent wise, these artists are comparable; their production or vocal chops alone aren’t enough to propel them to the front of the minds of music consumers. So what is it? What makes Joel and Robyn different and what leads listeners to go to them first for a music fix? If it’s not all about the final product, then why do we as independent artists tend to lock ourselves away in dark bedrooms, littered with discarded bags of Doritos, painstakingly self-producing an EP that embodies months or even years of deliberation and practice, only to post it online to a tepid-at-best response from friends and family? What can we do differently?

We can strategize, of course!

Artists are quick to consider independent and major label business practices decidedly incompatible – but there’s a lot to be learned from the success of the stars and it doesn’t mean lip-syncing or dressing up in a space suit [unless you’re into that].


Intro To Consumer Choice 

The kind academic community of marketing scholars offers an analysis of consumer decision-making that we can apply to the music business. It’s a series of educated guesses regarding why buyers buy what they buy. They have identified a “need,” either functional [serving a practical issue] or psychological [satisfying a perceived desire], as the origin of purchase decisions. These needs include anything from hunger to clothing, sleep to self-actualization and the majority of which can be satisfied quite easily and simply. That is hardly ever the case; what’s known as a ‘want’ complicates the equation and it is that ‘want’ position that music competes for. Since, statistically speaking, the reclusive approach to professional artistry doesn’t tend to achieve that position, it takes strategy.


The main problem lies in artists’ product-centric vs. buyer-centric approaches towards strategy. Ever since Henry Ford’s mantra of ‘any color, so long as it’s black’ dissolved into a sea of possibilities and customizable options, consumers have had the final say. Competition between businesses [or in our case, between artists] encouraged the development of ‘different’, of ‘unique’. The pool of options grew and grew and correlated with a growing importance of consumer choice considerations. Consumers are more empowered than ever. As a result, a savvy business [and a savvy artist] looks just as much to what consumers want as to why they want it.

Strategists that understand this are able to do some very interesting and effective things. For now, I’ll discuss a creative approach to pro-consumer strategy that’s been quite successful for those who have pulled it off.

So, relax. It’s story time.

Trent Reznor

In 2007, Trent Reznor began an incredible promotional campaign for the Nine Inch Nails album, Zero. To begin, he circulated a concert t-shirt [seen below] with a hidden URL included in the shirt’s lettering; his clever fans quickly found the website – “”.


The dilapidated looking site, which portrays a world in which the government sedates and controls the population by invading the water supply with a psychoactive drug called “Parepin”, initiated an extensive network of “eerie voice mail, Web sites, Morse code clues hidden in MP3s and messages buried deep within music videos” all leading up to the release of the band’s record. The promotion brought together fans, created an entirely alternative reality, garnered a massive amount of “earned media”, and made Year Zero one of the most memorable experiences a Nine Inch Nails fan could have.



If there’s to take away from Reznor’s creativity, it’s a lesson in creating value through telling a story. As an independent artist, one may not be in a position to stage an extravagant movement, she can work to engage her fans and involve them in what he or she does whether it be consistently live streaming rehearsals or sharing updates on recording projects. There needs to be something to carry the music – a story, a mindset, a video [ahem… Psy/Baauer] – and augmenting the hard work of a self-produced EP with something more tangible can be the difference between two choices. It can be the difference between Deadmau5 and Dyro.

Recognizing The Value of Community

Artists in today’s music industry are a brand.

It seems we in the industry are hearing that phrase thrown around on a daily basis. It’s clear this knowledge is becoming increasingly widespread as case studies on Lady Gaga’s success are as trending as she herself. But while brands are worth developing, it is important to understand how they can be effective – only as part of a larger initiative. The most impressive examples of commercial entertainers are not successful because they are a good brand, but rather because they are leaders of a lifestyle and most importantly – of a community. Gaga’s success is attributable to her faultless positioning and unwavering commitment to her ideals of originality, expression, and confidence. But only by embodying these qualities and establishing her brand with authenticity has she become the industry’s most effective example of a leader of a community.



Branding is only a part of the picture. 

Ever since its origins on cattle farms, branding has encompassed anything and everything done to clearly and quickly differentiate one thing from another. In the frozen pizza industry, branding efforts allow us consumers to make decisions based on expectation. In the music industry, however, it’s how we convey the most information about an artist in the shortest amount of time through coordinating every aspect of his or her presence in hopes that we’ll get a listen [and hopefully, a second listen.] Effective branding is imperative in our attempts to stand out amongst endless competition – but is only a part of what needs to be done to flourish as an artist. In order to effectively construct our own strategies or those of the artists with which we work, we have to consider our branding in terms of how it can establish community. As we understand, a brand means nothing without a loyal following and the most effective means of creating a following is to adopt a position that resonates with a group of people. When this group of people is able to rise through social ranks, whether through size or passion, the artist grows as well. To lead these supporters, an artist needs to be as much a member as she is a leader. As such, her ideals are understandable, communal, and inherently authentic. In terms of brand partnerships, which are quickly becoming more and more prevalent to combat dwindling record sales, there are only a handful of thinkers getting it right. More often than not, overt brand sponsorship agreements do not promote idealistic resonance with the increasingly discerning marketplace. We, as those responsible for marketing these values, need to pay attention to the potential effects of brand affiliation before accepting such deals.

Communities & Music

Community must not be considered only an artist-centric phenomenon. If the industry was really based entirely on artist branding efforts, there would be little explanation for the rise and fall of genres such as Electronic Dance Music or Indie Rock, which have far too much depth and complexity to be effectively branded. The surging popularity of both genres have coincided with a growing and developing family of fans. Forums for aspiring producers and illustrious electronic festivals have spread throughout the United States, establishing the required network of support for the EDM genre to creep its way into pop music and the country’s aural lexicon. Similarly, were it not for the a growing awareness of and interest in the quirky lives of hipsters, their lo-fi soundtrack of indie music could not have become a genre of choice for our nation’s youth and the speciality of 2013’s best new artist, fun.

Wait - I'm pretty sure we were making fun of those glasses last year. Why do I now own a pair?

Wait – I’m pretty sure we were making fun of those glasses last year. Why do I now own a pair?

Communities are powerful.

While Lady Gaga commands one of the most extensive and passionate families of little monsters, Justin Bieber’s legion of beliebers just may be the most devoted. Despite one of the most vehement slander campaigns from a horde of naysayers a million strong, Bieber’s fan-base has thrived and grown. The adversity has only served to create a tighter, more exclusive community of fans – one that new members are excited and proud to join.

The passion and support of a community is the driving force of success in our modern music industry. From local artists to the superstars, an artist’s family is a source of inspiration, creativity, sanity, happiness, and, of course, the money to continue creating. Thus, it is not the branding we need to focus on, but how the branding relates to and serves our over-arching efforts to lead a population of friends and fans. If we can succeed at that task, we can survive in the volatility of the music business.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #2 P. DIDDY

The purpose of this blog is to inform the class of America’s “Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012” and the various business ventures in different industries that contributed to their individual successes.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #2 P. DIDDY

Name: Sean Jean Combs

Stage Name(s): Diddy, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy

Age: 43

Forbes Hip Hop’s Top Earners List: #2 of 9

How Much??? $45 Million

As you can see, as we get closer and closer to #1, the list of business ventures of these hip hop entrepreneurs start to increase exponentially; P. Diddy is no exception.

P. Diddy, the CEO of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group and last year’s #1 hip hop entrepreneur, again had an very lucrative year in 2012.

In addition to Making the Band MTV shows, here are some of his other business ventures that have been instrumental in building his empire:

  1. Sean John Clothing, own by Christian Casey Group which is owned by Bad Boy. The clothing line created in 1998 and was been has reportedly making $100 million a year with numerous fashion design nominations. In 2011, they made an exclusive contract with Macy’s . Link:
  2. Sean John fragrance under Sean Jean Clothing. In 2005, P. Diddy made a joint venture with M.A.C., an Estée Lauder company. Sean John’s fragrance, Unforgivable, reached No. 1 in the U.S. department stores in 2006. The line expanded to Unforgivable Woman and I Am King, which are sold in more than 35 different countries. Links:
  3. In 2003-04, Diddy teamed up with Reebok to design Dallas Mavericks’ (NBA team) alternate jerseys. The players still wear this jersey today. Here is the link:

  4. In 2007, Diddy and Diageo partnered to manage all branding and marketing initiatives for Ciroc Vodka together. Through this venture, Diddy was in charge of all the brand marketing strategies for Ciroc, while sharing 50 percent share of all profits. Here is the link for this alliance:
  5. In 2008, Sean Jean buys Enyce clothing line from Liz Claiborne for $20 million. Here is the link:
  6. In 2010, announced to develop a business school for entrepreneurs: (I wouldn’t mind enrolling!)
  7. In 2012 announced deal with Comcast to launch cable music network channel Revolt in 2013. A show targeted for the African-American audiences. He will own the channel outright. Here is the link:

Here is a YouTube clip of the “BLACK JAMES BOND”: . Show’s P. Diddy on a more personal level.

Although some were obviously more profitable than others, I believe every single of these ventures contributed to the diversity and growth of his business portfolio as a businessman – making him the 2nd most successful and influential hip hop entrepreneur of 2012.

“I’m not just a celebrity endorser, I’m a brand builder. I’m a luxury brand builder” – P. Diddy

(Please tune in next time to find out this year’s #1 hip hop entrepreneur! Hint: Our #1 mainly invested in just one venture that proved to be very, very rewarding.)

By: Aaron Kim (Duke)

*Exra sources:

Other sources are provided within the post.

The X Factor Brand

How did the X Factor come to be known as one of the biggest brands in the world? How did this talent show turn into a giant brand? The answer to these questions would be valuable information to anyone, gold dust even. It would unlock the power to unlimited fortune and success. But the answer is not something that can be written down and replicated. It is difficult to recognise the intangibility of its popularity, the role of chance and a million other elements that have contributed to the X Factor status. Let me attempt to explain over the next couple of blogs how X Factor has become the brand that it is:

1. Understand the audience

Chris Hackley, professor of marketing at Royal Holloway, and co-author Stephen Brown, professor of marketing research at Ulster University, conducted a study on the popularity of X Factor and what they came up with was that fundamental to the current obsession with the hit TV show is its ability to “tap into a human need for rituals of change and transformation.”

In other words who doesn’t love a rags-to-riches fairy tale sort of story. The stories that people grew up hearing, where someone “just like you and me” makes it big and gets all the glitter and glamour that comes along with being a superstar etc. The X Factor fulfills the audience’s wish to see this happen to someone ordinary and they experience the journey with them.

X Factor producers know their target audience and what they want to provide them with as effectively as possible. Creating this emotional connection with audiences is part of it. Auditions have become a place where people can talk about how hard life has been, the personal issues and inner battles that they’ve dealt with etc. It’s a bit over done if you ask me but it works.

X Factor is the like a master manipulator and knows how to create this emotional connection very well through the dramatic tension caused by contrasting the tragic stories of the contestants with possible fame and fortune. By pitting “rejection and failure” with “acceptance and success” the audience recognises this, feels a powerful sense of commitment towards it and falls for it year after year.

2. Stand out from the crowd

Rylan pops to mind! But forget that. The best voice doesn’t necessarily win the X Factor. It’s about the performer who has “something special” which can range from look, to a likeable personality, personal singing style, to a beautiful face. If they have all those factors and more, the act has a guaranteed top 3 finish. The producers will ensure that!

These differentiating factors need to matter to the audience in the same way that a product or a company stands out from its competitors. This continual and evolving process changes as competitor’s change. Central to making a brand unique and successful is identifying what makes it different, likeable and most importantly remarkable!

In the next blog, I’ll continue explaining my ideas on how X Factor has become this massive brand that has dominated TV for almost 10 years.