Senior VP, Def Jam Recordings • New York
Jeff Burroughs is an industry veteran with 25 years experience in music and entertainment. A pioneer in leveraging the power of brands to amplify activations in the music business, he’s currently Senior VP, Brand Partnerships at the home of Hip Hop - Def Jam Recordings. His illustrious career has seen him hold senior positions at Columbia Records, Bad Boy Recordings with Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs and Simon Cowell's Syco Entertainment. As well as being a serial entrepreneur, he also has two labels under his belt and a management company called Rise Entertainment.
This episode is for music lovers and marketers alike. Jeff speaks to the power of brands to amplify activations in the music business, and on the flip side - the important role that record labels play in decoding culture for marketers.
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I'm Jeff Burroughs. I'm the senior vice president of Def Jam Recordings.
The amazing thing about technology is that there’s no way to slow it down. And while the traditional major labels thought that they could fight downloading and the advance of how people would receive their music, they were sadly mistaken in terms of attempting to stop it.
But thank god for streaming. The advent of streaming really saved the traditional model of the music business in terms of the majors, and completely shifted the way that people digest their music and keep their libraries, and we couldn’t have a more exciting time in the music business than right now.
Everything’s changed, and changing. I guess the most seismic shift would be the power of radio. Where radio was our number one, two and three marketing and promotional output - radio is now perceived as 3rd base. There’s so much more that needs to happen before you can get an artist ready for radio.
So we’re looking to invest in artist socials in a major way. We love when artists walk through the doors with a couple of hundred thousand if not millions of followers or millions of views on YouTube, so that we have an understanding of who the audience is and how this artist engages with their audience - and what we can do to amplify those things that are already working for the artist.
Timing of records has completely shifted. Now records come out on Thursday night. And we’re looking to position them on playlists - and that’s the new radio. So how are we marketing playlists and how are we manipulating playlists? Can we manipulate playlistsing? When do we start? Do we start at Soundcloud or Apple, or Spotify or Tidal?
I would say that even from a few years ago, the music business has completely revolutionised its approach. And I don’t think that anyone has it all figured out. Some things work for some artists and you knock it out the park, and you try the same thing next week with an artist that looks the same and you get your ass handed to you.
Video is without question a tremendously important part of our revenue modelling - all content - because we monetize the majority of the content that we put out, we used to look at in this strictly promotional, but now they are, they are commercial products, and they all have a skew and a code to generate income, and they live on well beyond the initial release of an album. So we're always looking to collect on the longtail of videos.
I think content is like the Wild Wild West. And as a creative, I'm always interested in the variety and different ways of telling great stories. So now you can make whatever you want. You can make a three minute video, or you can make a 17 minute video or you can make a video that is half of the song and half of another song, you can make a lyric video, you can make lyric video with animation, you can make a live video with lyrics on top, you can make a mini-movie.
So there's an unending amount of options to create content that is going to make the audience excited about what the artist is kicking, and how they're kicking it.
I think that during my tenure as a marketing executive, I always realised the power of brands to amplify any activation that we might be doing in the music business. We saw huge deals with the Backstreet Boys or Madonna or Michael Jackson or Jay Z and Sprint.
And these activations were the size that a traditional record company could just never afford. We might spend millions of dollars on a superstar release, when that’s something that Pepsi might do in an afternoon. And now I think that pretty much every major label has multi-million dollar deals with brands that are bringing in tremendous amounts of revenue - but beyond that, it’s critical to helping us break new artists. And putting artists in places that we wouldn’t be able to, in the way that a major brand can.
Record companies have evolved from purely being a record company to being entertainment companies. Beyond them being entertainment companies, they've become experts in culture, because what they do is sell art to the very front line of those consumers. So that knowledge base is now being sold to brands, right? Record companies and people that sit in partnership roles are consulting brands, consulting agencies, building out full marketing activations, and campaigns in music, for brand's. Now that's a different idea.
I think you'll see more and more of that kind of thinking, as brands start to realise that they need experts to decode culture. And there isn't anything that you can read on a data report that will help you to understand soulfully how I connect to music and how I understand the energy of humans.
I love data points, and I love research, but they're actually telling you what happened, not what's going to happen. So being able to prognosticate the future - sounds like witchcraft to a lot of marketers. But I think for people who've worked in art, and are fitting out what will occur next, what they do is practise every day.