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After identifying what they feel is a huge hole in the space between music and brand marketing, two rising stars in the Nashville music industry have quit their high-powered jobs and teamed up in an attempt to fill it.
Former Warner Music Nashville senior vp consumer and interactive marketing Jeremy Holley and former CAA music brand partnership agent Laura Hutfless have launched the full-service marketing agency FlyteVu, with plans to connect brands and, ultimately, consumers with music and artists.
Their first announced staffing recruit is Whitney Byerly, who worked in Hutfless’ department at CAA for the last two years and joins the new company as an account manager specializing in cause marketing initiatives.
Perceived opportunity is fueling Holley’s and Hutfless’ entrepreneurial spirit. “We’re in two of the most explosive areas of the business, digital content and brand strategic marketing,” says Holley, a 10-year veteran of WMN who was included on Billboard’s recent 40 Under 40 business leaders list. “Music moves emotion, and it’s one of the most valuable commodities in terms of moving consumers to action. Brands want to be a part of it.”
But Holley notes that music is pulling in just a small fraction of the dollars being spent in the sponsorship media space. “That just seems off to me when music is such a driving force for emotion and action,” he says. He attributes the gap to the belief among brands that music is a tough nut to crack.
Both Holley and Hutfless say their deep background in the music industry is what they hope will set their firm apart as they endeavor to demystify the business for clients. “What we’ve discovered over the years is that a lot of brands are having a hard time navigating the music space,” Holley says. “They’re very frustrated. It’s a very complicated process. Laura and I both really understand the nuances.
“We’ve really got a unique perspective on talent and what artists are looking for and how to market them,” he continues. “We’re coming at it from an artist-friendly perspective, but we’re also changing the conversation by working directly for the brand.”
Hutfless agrees. “Just knowing how to navigate the industry [results in] a win for the brand and a win for the artists…. We’ve been doing it for years, and the programs we’ve created really speak for themselves.”
They also plan to focus some of their efforts on a specific population segment. “Brands are really struggling now to reach millennials, because there’s so much clutter in the space,” Hutfless says. “If you look at all the studies, music and technology are the top ways to reach millennials. So [We plan to] enter that space and help brands connect to consumers at the intersection of music and technology. We see this as a huge opportunity.”
The two have not yet announced their initial brand clients, but say several are already on board on both the national and local level. Eventually, they also hope to work directly on brand building initiatives for artists. The company will be offering client brands a variety of services including strategy and planning, custom analytics, creative services, talent and property partnerships, music licensing, digital and social strategy and event activation.
In her role with CAA, Hutfless worked with Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Beringer Wines, ConAgra Foods, Hallmark, Dr. Pepper, Kraft, Skechers and Mary Kay, among others. Her programs received five consecutive Billboard concert marketing and promotion nominations: Ram Trucks and Zac Brown Band’s “Letters for Lyrics” Campaign (2010); Zac Brown and Kingsford Charcoal (2011); Hallmark and Demi Lovato Text Band Launch (2012); Zac Brown and Landshark Lager (2013); and ConAgra Foods and Hunter Hayes (2014).
The two executives say it was Billboard that first brought them together after both were included in one of the magazine’s 40 Under 40 lists. The Nashvillians who have made that list in the past get together from time to time to “talk about ways we can change the industry and new, out-of-the box creative thinking,” Hutfless says. “Jeremy and I both, in those discussions, realized that we were working on a lot of the same artists or same projects, but we weren’t being collaborative. So from those discussions we started working on projects together. That really opened the door to this venture.”
Adds Holley, “We were competing against each other a lot for deals, and what we found was with my background in creative and digital, and her background in talent negotiation and talent relations, we were able — working together — to deliver more for both the brands and the artists, and create a more compelling story.”
Among their favorite examples of that synergy is the Hunter Hayes road race in May 2014, which secured the singer a Guinness World Record for most shows played in a 24-hour period, while significantly increasing awareness for — and donations to — ConAgra Foods’ Child Hunger Ends Here program.
FlyteVu is operating out of CAA’s downtown Nashville office for the first few months as its staffers work to procure and build out office space of their own.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.
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