A few months ago I came to a decision to start my own firm after years of working for large labels. It's kind of scary setting off on your own with nothing but your own faith in yourself and the encouragement of the colleagues and clients that know you well.
That being said I took a look at the music landscape to see where KOHAN MUSIC GROUP could find its niche. In the special markets world in the record industry you have to know how brands intersect with music in their marketing efforts. You also have to know how to squeeze every drop out of a catalog of music. Masters and copyrights don't just act as annuities for labels, artists, songwriters, and publishers. They have to be actively worked and pitched to realize their own, individual "long tails" of exploitation revenue and profits.
So, as you can probably see just from checking out my MySpace friends, I'm making a heavy bet on Country music. This may seem an odd choice for a guy from New Jersey who got his start working in jazz, but I'm a firm believer in having broad horizons and big ears... that, and some of Country's biggest stars are from Australia or Canada, so geography shouldn't be part of the initiation rites.
Some of what I see happening down in Nashville with the labels and publishers I've been speaking to is creative and exciting, while I see other parts of the business lagging due to inattention and, mostly, a nagging perception of what Country music is and is not in the eyes of the people I normally call my customers.
Country music is a pervasive radio format (even as radio's importance lessens in our cultire) and CMT and GAC, unlike VH-1 and MTV, actually play music videos and develop programming promoting artists. So corporate brands support these media channels through advertising and marketing programs on a consistent basis. But it is all too rare to hear a TV or radio commercial spot featuring a major country artist, much less the artists beneath that rarefied strata.
I did some informal polling with some friends of mine at ad agencies and music placement firms. There is definitely an uphill battle for Country music as it stands vis a vis other types of music favored by creatives and agency clients, especially those in urban centers.
People in marketing, in general, don't see Country artists as individuals as much as they see them as "COUNTRY." We all know there are big artistic, personality, and image differences between Brad Paisley and Toby Keith, or between Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain, etc... There's pop Country, twang Country, big hat Country, Southern rock Country, gospel/inspirational Country, Texas Country, tiki bar Country, singer-songwriter Country, R&B Country, etc..., but it usually all gets painted with the same broad brush by some agency creative choosing some piece of high energy techno rock for their :60 regional car dealer TV spot, and that brush carries a negative connotation, or at the very least a connotation of being a "less sophisticated" genre of music. Bullshit - complete and utter bullshit. And remember, these are the guys charged with being "creative."
KOHAN MUSIC GROUP is hoping to be part of the driving force behind changing these misperceptions. The collaborative, competitive, and powerful creative forces in Nashville should be getting more than their fair share of opportunities in the advertising, special markets, and film & TV markets.
NOW... I want to hear some comments from you all. What have your experiences been in working with the advertising/marketing community related to Country music? Do you get proper support in your business if NY and LA are the main offices dealing with these communities? I realize it's hard for some people here to make a public comment because it would be visible to all here on the blog, so if you feel more comfortable responding to this post in private please send me an e-mail message with your thoughts (click on the ABOUT section in left-hand column for my e-mail address). DON'T HOLD BACK! I want to hear from my readers! Thanks.