Commercial: Electronic beats
The rush by mobile phone brands, both network operators and handset makers, to try and claim ‘the music space’ - as poncier people in the marketing industry might say -has been one of the more marked features of popular culture in the last few years.
Whether its O2’s Wireless and The O2, or Vodafone’s Live Music Awards, it seems that much pop music in the UK these days cannot be delivered without the impramateur of someone who’s also trying to flog you a new mobie.
This is not without its drawbacks, for example the fact that Channel 4 seemingly cannot broadcast any music without some form of commercial tie in. So much sponsorship of music is out there now that it is hard to stand out.
So it is refreshing when one of those mobile brands takes a different tack with its music sponsorship. Step forward then T-mobile, and its Electronic Beats magazine.
The publication, both a website and hard copy (the latter was found in Howies on Carnaby Street in London the other day while I was buying yet another one of their products (this time, the brown headland scarf)), levers the brand’s German roots by trying to claim some sort of ownership of electronic music (primarily techno), most of which now emerges from Germany, and Berlin in particular. The sponsorship also encompasses a DVD magazine, Slices.
EB is positioned as a trendsetting title. The list of stockists for both the hard copy and DVD reads like a shopping guide to the coolest record shops across Europe. And while the writing in the magazine itself is of the ‘tell us why you’re so great’ school of music journalism, it is attractively designed. As a calling card for the T-mobile brand, it’s great.
What makes it better is precisely the subtle nature of the call being made. The references back to T-mobile are small, precise and hard to notice: the masthead being in the same shade of pink as the brand; a flytitle on the back cover; a few adverts inside.
Sure this is not mainstream music, but that makes the achievement of the sponsorship all the greater. Electronic Beats has allowed T-mobile to claim a stake in a difficult, fast-moving arena of pop culture.
The lesson is that a brand can do this if it – counter-intuitively – turns down the brand volume, while not denying who it is.