UTA's brand partnerships team have revealed how the number of artist tie-ins have exploded since the onset of the pandemic.
Led by Toni Wallace in the agency's LA office and Alisann Blood in New York, the department has closed more than 300 deals for over 270 clients such as Post Malone, AJ Tracey, Bebe Rexha, Jonas Brothers, Chance The Rapper, Princess Nokia, Jason Derulo, Arlo Parks, Katherine Jenkins and Bad Bunny since March 2020.
“We grew the business by 25% despite Covid and we’re up 400% in 2021, which speaks to the momentum we’re having in the space,” said Wallace, speaking in the new issue of Music Week. “The core business of any musician is creating great music, and the way you share that music is through touring, so that will always be the foundation of our business.
"But in the last decade, branding has become one of the most critical aspects of an artist’s career. With the democratisation of music and technology, they have more access to their fans than ever before and that is creating so much more connectivity. It was not always the case that artists wanted to partner with brands back in the day, so it’s been great to see the evolution.”
Everything Post does is authentic to him and that's how we're able to unlock the potential of the partnerships
Toni Wallace, UTA
Post Malone has been in particularly high demand, with the rapper linking with a host of partners including Monster Energy, Bud Light, HyperX, Crocs, Doritos and Madrinas Coffee.
“Everything Post does is authentic to him and that’s how we’re able to unlock the potential of the partnerships,” said Wallace, UTA’s co-head of music brand partnerships. “He loves all the partners that he works with and you can see and feel that in everything that he does. We work collaboratively with his teams and it is quite a magical process.”
Wallace built the brands team from the ground up after joining from Columbia Records in 2017, with fellow branding expert Blood coming on board as co-head two years ago.
Blood added: “It always helps when we sit down with our talent from the get-go and ask them, ‘How do you like to engage with your fans?’ It is not, ‘X brand comes to us and we slot a person in,’ we build a strategy and a roadmap based on our client’s interests and passions, so we can then go out and help them connect dots on the brand side.
“The biggest challenge in terms of what makes a brand partnership not necessarily the right fit is when you’re trying to put a square peg into a round hole – where a brand wants an artist to do something that doesn’t feel natural."
Last year, UTA expanded its brand partnerships team into Europe with the appointment of Cleo Thompson from Burberry. Thompson, who works out of the company's London office, has secured link-ups such as AJ Tracey and Versace and Katherine Jenkins and Vodafone.
“Brands can help emerging artists reach new and often large audiences, and help grow their fanbases at all stages of their career,” she said. “The shift in focus from live touring has helped us get even more creative in identifying and developing new opportunities for our clients.”
Subscribers can read the full interview here.