WMG launched Warner Music Expertise (WMX) in late 2021 and described it on the time as “a next-generation providers division” to “join artists with followers and amplify manufacturers in inventive, immersive, and fascinating methods”.
WMX, which additionally claims to be one of many prime 5 leisure media corporations on the planet, was born after WMG axed its historic WEA model, and consolidated its owned media corporations underneath the management of Maria Weaver.
The brand new division united WMG’s owned media publishing properties with plenty of different artist-servicing models, a few of which used to function underneath WEA.
These capabilities included Warner’s international merch and e-commerce operations like Germany-based merch large EMP (acquired by WMG for $180 million in 2018). It additionally included a variety of providers designed to develop and amplify artists’ personal manufacturers but additionally to attach artists with industrial manufacturers.
WMX’s divisions right now function throughout Business Companies, Media Enterprise, Artist & Fan Experiences, E-Commerce & Retail, and Viewers Technique.
“WMX is an thrilling portfolio of verticals which might be designed to drive fandom and fan engagement,” explains London-based Bob Workman, SVP, Worldwide Model Partnerships, Warner Music and Basic Supervisor, WMX UK.
“We’re the engagement engine of Warner Music. It’s the place we create the fan expertise round our artists, in music but additionally past music. We recognise that our artists exist with or with out their music in a lot of completely different settings.”
“We recognise that our artists exist with or with out their music in a whole lot of completely different settings.”
A latest instance of a high-profile mission exterior of an artist’s core music actions was the corporate’s work with Ed Sheeran to create a scorching sauce model referred to as Tingly Ted’s. Launched through WMX’s new ‘Ventures’ providing, the marketing campaign, devised by Sheeran, noticed WMX herald meals large Kraft Heinz to assist develop the model.
“It’s a mission that could be a testomony to what’s potential for an artist once they’re given the proper help community to deliver their concepts to life,” says Workman.
Along with its highly effective model partnership and inventive capabilities, WMX is a content material powerhouse that operates varied genre-specific editorial properties.
WMG acquired properties like youth media model Uproxx (1m Instagram followers), which WMG purchased in 2018, and hip-hop publication HipHopDX (800,000 Insta followers), which it swooped for in 2020. WMX additionally owns and runs content material publishing manufacturers specializing in extremely engaged genres like steel and laborious rock (The Pit), nation music (Lasso Nation), in addition to making genre-focused video content material through streaming channels on Roku.
“We regard ourselves now as a media firm,” says Workman. “We function on the intersection between creativity and tradition for our artists. We’re in a brand new period.”
Workman’s personal profession within the music trade began within the promotions division at Island Information the place he set to work on tasks from the likes of U2, Chaka Demus & Pliers and The Cranberries.
“I had an enormous love for and admiration for [the label] as a result of I had grown up in a family the place my mum performed Bob Marley and liked Cat Stevens,” he says. “Working in promotions was an effective way of breaking down social limitations for me. You needed to put your self on the market. You needed to meet folks and socialise and promote the artists.”
After working in promotions throughout radio and TV, Workman acquired poached by a well-established unbiased promotions firm referred to as Intestine Response, the place he represented varied artists at nationwide radio. Then Intestine Response arrange its personal recorded music firm referred to as Intestine Information and he made the leap from promotions to advertising and marketing on the label.
“That culminated for me in being Advertising and marketing Director [at Gut Records], and working a giant album mission with Tom Jones referred to as Reload,” he says. “We actually reinvented Tom on the time.” Reload turned Jones’s best-selling album, and has bought over 4 million copies worldwide.
Workman then left Intestine Information “wanting to enter vogue and different companies”, however ended up organising a music and model partnership-focused company referred to as Spin Music, one of many first businesses of its form within the UK.
“This was within the very early days of name partnerships,” says Workman. “Social media was solely simply getting going. It was the appearance of social media that was the revolution.”
“We’re the engagement engine of Warner Music. It’s the place we create the fan expertise round our artists, in music but additionally past music.”
After roughly six years, he moved to EMI to arrange a model partnerships division. “Within the first month I used to be there we had been signing Tinie Tempah, who had 30,000 Fb likes. That scale was thought of mind-blowing. We then acquired acquired by Warner Music, and now right here I’m.”
Workman was promoted to his twin position of SVP, Worldwide Model Partnerships, Warner Music and Basic Supervisor, WMX UK on the finish of 2022, and stories into Weaver. The transfer noticed Warner Music UK’s Artist & Model Companions staff turn out to be a part of the worldwide WMX division.
Lately, the UK Artist & Model Companions staff at Warner has labored on main artist campaigns with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kraft Heinz, Dua Lipa and TikTok, a marketing campaign for Clarks Originals with Liam Gallagher, and plenty of others.
Right here, Workman tells us extra in regards to the firm’s artist model partnerships, its new Ventures providing, and extra…
You oversaw the marketing campaign for Tom Jones’ Reload album. Might you discuss a bit in regards to the transition on the finish of the Nineties and into the 2000s, from booming bodily gross sales to the arrival of downloads as bodily revenues declined. How essential did model partnerships turn out to be for artists and labels to generate revenues?
It turned wildly extra essential however not till the late 2000s. In 2008 or 2009, that’s after we actually began to see artists having affect with their audiences past music.
When Tinie Tempah signed to Parlophone, for the primary time we had an artist for whom manufacturers had been simply as essential as Radio 1. It was a distinct set of manufacturers, like BlackBerry, however these had been manufacturers and aspirations that helped flesh out the artist’s proposition. It helped create extra engagement and extra funding that enabled our artists to do greater than they’d in any other case.
“For the primary time we had an artist for whom manufacturers had been as essential as Radio 1.”
Music advertising and marketing budgets are restricted. Music corporations rely closely on editorial protection and the media to drive a whole lot of engagement round our artists and our music. Manufacturers opened up one other lane of funding.
You talked about Spin Music as being one of many early UK specialists in music and model partnerships. Was it initially tough to promote the idea of partnering with manufacturers to sure artists within the early 2000s?
It was, yeah, significantly within the UK. There have been sure artists for whom the concept of ‘promoting out’ to a model was thought of a factor.
It has taken fairly a very long time for an artist like Coldplay to interact with manufacturers. They usually have solely completed it for very deeply genuine causes that relate to their values.
What actually drove it was hip-hop and R&B tradition, significantly from America, and significantly with luxurious or aspirational manufacturers.
When the patron or the fan felt that the model was including some worth or contributing to their fan expertise with the artists, that’s when it turned acceptable and defendable to work with a model.
What are the expectations in 2023 that artists and their followers have of one another round model partnerships within the social media age?
We must always by no means get too distant from the truth that we’re within the leisure enterprise. So being entertained, knowledgeable, and engaged by the content material, or the output of a model partnership is completely essential.
As a result of there’s a lot content material on the market day by day, what manufacturers need basically is to pop up in your social feeds and to get inside that slipstream that exists between the artist and the fan.
That’s what social media has provided manufacturers who need to have interaction with artists and music, that very privileged, ‘by-invitation’ alternative. Artists have turn out to be influencers for positive, however they’ve turn out to be their very own media channels, too.
Offered the curation is completed fastidiously, [along with] the [right] messaging, language, visible cues, and cultural cues, then the model is welcome [on artists’ channels].
But it surely must entertain, inform, shock and delight. Typically it pertains to the artists’ recorded music and their releases; generally it doesn’t. Very often, followers are simply as engaged with artists round one thing that’s acquired nothing to do with music.
You’ve lately launched a brand new Ventures providing and labored on the latest Ed Sheeran scorching sauce marketing campaign by means of it. How did that come about and what was the transient from Ed?
We had been working with Kraft Heinz on a giant [Tomato Ketchup] marketing campaign with Ed again in 2019. We had been contemplating transferring on to do one other marketing campaign.
We did the Kraft Heinz Ketchup marketing campaign as a result of Ed loves ketchup. He’s acquired a tattoo of the label of the Kraft Heinz Ketchup bottle on the within of his left arm. It couldn’t be extra genuine, rooted in an enormous reference to the product. It was all about bringing two icons collectively.
Then off the again of it, Ed was like, ‘I’ve acquired an concept, I’d actually love to do a scorching sauce’. He had the concept and the title of the model. He already had a way of what he needed it to be. He talked about democratising scorching sauce. He needed it to be the Ketchup of scorching sauces.
It was not removed from the best way he acts as a musician, which is that he needs to entertain at scale. It was the identical for Tingly Ted’s. He had the concept, and we talked about it to Kraft Heinz, like, ‘Would you need to accomplice with us on this?’ They had been like, ‘Completely, we’d like to’.
They had been brilliantly proactive. They went off and created some early samples to show that they might do that. In February final yr, we did a workshop with Ed and some folks from Kraft Heinz. We had a kitchen scientist from Kraft Model Partnerships are available in and he was an professional in ‘style elevation’ as they name it.
There’s absolutely a nice stability to be struck when launching non-music manufacturers related to superstars, so that you just don’t put followers off and as an alternative amplify the artist in entrance of followers?
The trendy artist, and with that the fashionable fan, are way more open to the 360 [view] of the artist. After I was rising up, artists thrived on having mystique and also you by no means pulled again the curtain, till possibly later of their profession. You would possibly learn their biography or no matter and discover one thing out.
Now the curtain is continually pulled again with an artist like Ed. It’s really that visibility and intimacy that the fan will get with the artists that drives a brand new type of dedication.
“It’s that visibility and intimacy the fan will get that drives a brand new type of dedication.”
[Fans] genuinely really feel they know the artist they usually’re nearly like associates with them in a approach. That wasn’t the factor to do 10 or 20 years in the past.
We’ve realized that it doesn’t injury the magic of who the artist is. It doesn’t undermine them and make them any much less particular. If something, it really elevates them.
Followers have sufficient capability to exist in numerous lanes with the identical artist. They will love the brand new music, need to purchase a ticket, go and see the present. However they’ll additionally have fun in the truth that [the artist’s] soccer staff simply received a cup, or that they’ve simply completed a marketing campaign with a model that they like.
We’ve gotten over our anxiousness as a enterprise that we’ve got to only do one factor extremely effectively. It’s now a way more portfolio strategy. If we don’t do this, the artist will do it with out us. It’s actually essential that we’re there to help them.
What are your ambitions for the Ventures unit following the success of this marketing campaign?
Our ambitions are to work in a lot of completely different lanes when it comes to product growth, but additionally with a various vary of artists.
We already work in a really various method throughout our partnerships enterprise and never simply with superstars.
We lately launched a marketing campaign with Rachel Chinouriri (pictured), who’s a tremendous younger artist who did an amazing collaboration with Converse.
We introduced PinkPantheress into a very large marketing campaign with Bose within the US, which was throughout the under-representation of girls in music manufacturing. We developed that concept and the inventive for that after which took it to Bose.
For Ventures, we need to characterize that very same strategy, which is, sure, we’d like to develop high-profile merchandise with high-profile artists, however there’s a possibility to start out at a extra grassroots stage, and to develop at a decrease scale.
We’d like to work in vogue and wonder. There are additionally alternatives within the food and drinks house. We’re exploring plenty of issues with artists in any respect ranges.
WMX claims to be one of many prime 5 leisure media corporations on the planet, and the No.1 Leisure Media Firm within the US amongst adults aged 18-34. These are gigantic achievements for a division of a serious recorded music firm. Might you discuss WMX’s positioning within the international leisure media panorama?
What we’re witnessing is a transition from a world the place music corporations produced pretty generic inventive property, which had been then pushed out to the media and to platforms and publishers, who would then editorialise round these issues, and promote promoting round them as effectively.
There was a powerful sense that we had been disintermediated by a whole lot of these platforms. So, fastidiously and step by step we’ve got been both buying companies or creating companies inside our personal ecosystem which might be driving and establishing audiences round ardour factors round our artists and so forth.
We had been constructing enormous audiences round our artists, significantly on YouTube, and different social media platforms. We have now the chance to harness all of that viewers not simply to advertise, market or drive audiences round our releases, however to probably monetize that viewers as effectively.
The worth of information is one thing that we’re actually obsessed with. It’s taken a second for us and our opponents within the trade to place in the proper mechanics, to herald the proper expertise, to reap and perceive that knowledge, in order that we’ve got actually good insights.
Notably with first-party knowledge, we’ve got the chance to talk to the viewers and talk in a approach that we weren’t capable of so clearly earlier than.
If there was only one factor that you would change in regards to the music enterprise proper now, what wouldn’t it be and why?
To untangle a few of the restrictive components of a rights trade. We’ve more and more been doing that lately, however in a world of entry, something that restricts entry is an issue that wants resolving.
One of many issues I’m actually bold about is our catalogue, our iconic artists. Though it’s one of many smaller catalogues globally, we’ve acquired greater than our justifiable share of genre-defining artists.
We have now all of [David] Bowie, all of Prince, we’ve got Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Lifeless, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and extra. It’s wildly thrilling. What I wish to do is unlock and liberate the tales, the values of these artists, alongside the music. Due to the entry [to music via streaming], actually the youngest era of music customers know the music.
We’ve acquired a accountability and a possibility for [fans] to turn out to be aware of the complete story of our artists. There are companies and merchandise that we will develop round these legends of the previous, a few of whom are nonetheless with us, some aren’t. Let’s liberate these tales.
Let’s liberate a few of the nice property which might be hidden away in vaults. It’s tough, however there’s a very nice alternative to do this.
Music Enterprise Worldwide