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Since its launch in 2009, MADE Fashion has been disrupting Mercedes Benz Fashion Week by drawing some of the industry’s biggest names, like Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler, away from the New York institution. Now, with the launch of MADE Music, the company’s partners are aiming to pull off the same feat in the music business.
The initiative, which launches Oct. 7, is being led by Keith Baptista, Jenne Lombardo, and Mazdack Rassi, the trio behind MADE Fashion Week. They’ve partnered with American Express and are aiming to reshape traditional artist development by offering rising musicians strategic brand partners, business mentorship, studio space, and a network of filmmakers, photographers and creative directors. To guide them, they’ve tapped a handful of music industry veterans to serve as advisors, including longtime label executive Lyor Cohen +and entertainment lawyer Michael Guido, among others.
“They’re at the intersection of fashion, advertising and music,” Cohen said of MADE in an exclusive interview with Billboard. “They have so many relationships that they can actually pair the right artist with the right brand and have something authentic.”
Each year, MADE Music will partner with eight to 10 new recording artists that will be selected by Lombardo, whose other company, Terminal Presents, specializes in marketing to millennials. Inside the bundle of benefits are merchandise collaborations with fashion designers, music videos, rehearsal space, and live show support. There will be opportunities for full-suite distribution and non-exclusive licensing.
“We don’t see ourselves as a label,” said Baptista, who also runs the production design company Prodject. “We didn’t come in to recreate a model or create a commerce vehicle.”
In addition to brand partnerships, artists will be promoted through editorial coverage on American Express channels and MilkMade.com, the content site of Milk Studios. When combined with Milk’s social media accounts, Baptista said MADE’s digital platforms drew 7 billion impressions last year.
“What I hear from artists is that these types of creative opportunities used to exist in the music industry, but don’t so much anymore,” Baptista said. “The business has changed, and now, we’re able to take it on.”
Cohen said he thinks the partnership’s most valuable opportunity is smarter fan engagement. “All brands have social media strategies, but are they maximizing that potential?” he said. “Are they incorporating music artists effectively? That’s where we can help solve some issues.”
It helps that MADE has fashion industry credibility. The business was initially launched during the recession, when Lombardo, Rassi and Baptista began to feel that young designers weren’t receiving the necessary sponsorship or development money to get their lines off the ground. They partnered with MAC Cosmetics (which was under Lombardo’s leadership) and offered designers studio space and a free location to show their collections during fashion week. IMG’s rivaling Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was seen as growing stale, and this was a hip alternative.
“Suddenly, we saw these designers winning CFDA awards and being appointed to Parisian fashion houses,” Baptista said. “We said, ‘okay, this has to stay.’”
MADE Music hopes to have the same impact by building custom deals with emerging and semi-established artists. The names will announced closer to the program’s launch on Oct. 7. Baptista said they don’t plan to fill the roster right away, and instead will probably start with three signings.
Direct label deals seem almost inevitable, especially when it comes to tour management and distribution, but those details may still be getting ironed out. When asked if he’d be helping MADE navigate label partnerships, Cohen said: “The sky’s the limit.”
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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