Hard Rock Cafe Announces Boutique Label: Four Lucky Bands To Receive $25,000 And All The Money They Can Earn
from the philanthropy-and-overpriced-drink-'specials'-FTW dept
Word comes via the Daily Swarm that the Hard Rock brand is now affixing itself to a boutique label. But this is a label without multi-page contracts or onerous royalty demands. Hard Rock Records is set up to lose money from day one, all in the interest of giving bands that catch its ear a leg up.
The brainchild of CMO John Galloway and A&R co-heads Blake Smith and James Buell, Hard Rock Records is only in its first year and thus far has just one act signed to its roster – the Gulfport, Mississippi roots-rock act Rosco Bandana. More interesting than its late entrance into the record label game is that Hard Rock Records is marking itself as an "altruistic" label, or a non-profit, so to speak.This is another example of content as advertising. There's little doubt the Hard Rock logo will be displayed prominently wherever these bands play, but in exchange, they'll get tour support and be able to take advantage of Hard Rock's promotional skills and reach. And since there's no catch, each of the four bands signed will be able to keep all the money they've earned and walk away free and clear after 12 months. Not a bad deal at all.
"We had discussed different variations of a label a few years ago," Buell explains to Rolling Stone. "Everything was netting back to how were we going to make money. After we did our research, it just never seemed like a good idea."
Last year during Lollapalooza, where Chicago's Hard Rock Hotel is the annual ground zero for the fest's biggest after-parties, Galloway approached the two and told them to move forward with the label. "He said, 'No, that's the thing, that's the catch – we're NOT going to make any money," explains Buell.
"It's kind of like music philanthropy," adds Smith. "We want to find bands that need a leg up. We take them for a year, make a record with them, give them video money, give them a van, get a booking agent to help them get on the road, and hopefully find them another label that is going to house and better build them for the long-term. We do all this with them, and they keep every penny of everything and they walk after 12 months."Hard Rock has this built into its advertising budget, which is probably the best P&L line to put it on. A band receiving $25,000 with no strings attached and nothing to recoup is going to find it very hard not to talk up the Hard Rock brand. If nothing else, it will be mentioned every time someone asks the band, well, pretty much anything, really. It might be tough to gauge the ROI from this, but as it's set up now, no one seems to be too concerned. It certainly generates a ton of goodwill for Hard Rock, which usually translates to brand loyalty.
I don't imagine this experiment will find itself leading a bandwagon, though. There aren't many companies willing to invest $100K into something as ethereal as "karma." But it does add another wrinkle to the music business, bringing back the concept of patronage and treating your artistic investment as some sort of loss leader. Hard Rock does have itself set up to take advantage of any additional business this might drum up. Syncing up new bands and a promotional tour will be frictionless with its existing venues and sponsored festivals. The question isn't how much money the band might make, but how much Hard Rock will see added to its bottom line from dipping its toe into the music industry. Setting the expectation at $0 for the trial run is probably wise, as it makes it nearly impossible to undershoot the goal, as it were.
It's not a business plan by any stretch of the imagination and it's certainly not going to bring about a brave new world of artistic patronage, but it's hard to knock a bit of altruism for its own sake (corporate advertising opportunities, notwithstanding). It's also great news for four bands, who'll get a $25K kickstart and year of worry-free money making.