Marcie Allen, President of MAC Presents joins host Lawrence Peryer to share her thoughts and insight on the New Normal.
Marcie Allen, President of MAC Presents joins host Lawrence Peryer to share her thoughts and insight on the New Normal.
Marcie Allen leverages her 25+ years of music industry experience to negotiate high-profile partnerships between the world’s leading brands and artists. Allen has brokered and helmed multi-faceted programs on behalf of brands including Sony, Uber, Southwest Airlines, YouTube, Microsoft, Verizon, Samsung, Citi, Adidas, Hollister, Capital One, Delta, AT&T and artists including Chance the Rapper, Kelsea Ballerini, Khalid, Billy Joel, John Legend, Metallica, John Mayer, Travis Scott, The Rolling Stones, Green Day, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, and Imagine Dragons.
In addition to MAC Presents, Allen has been an adjunct professor since 2013 at NYU Steinhardt. She sits on the board of directors for The Country Music Association ams serves on the advisory board for Berklee College of Music.
Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
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Lawrence Peryer: it’s a pleasure to meet you and I really appreciate your time. Thank you. You’re actually someone I’ve wanted to meet in other contexts for a long time. We’ve worked around a lot of the same artists and properties but never at the same time [laughter]. Or never on the same cycle.
Marcie Allen: Right.
LP: But anyways thank you for making time. How are you right now? How are you and yours right now?
MA: Well let me tell you, my schedule was so busy. I just didn’t know if I could fit you in [laughter]. I’m kidding. I’m doing OK. I’m doing good. My husband and stepdaughters and my dog they’re living the life. So everybody’s good.
LP: Good, good. That’s most important. I originally wanted to talk with you because I saw, I don’t remember if it was a piece or some comments you had made about some opportunities around brands and livestreaming. And I think we’ll get to that in a minute, but then subsequently I came to learn also through posts of yours just how busy you are in other regards. So tell me a little bit about what you’ve been up to. It sounds like you’ve been juggling maybe more than most the last few weeks.
MA: Well I have been juggling a lot, but I really do have a lot of time on my hands. And for people who know me know that I don’t really like to sit still. I had [unintelligible 00:02:16] started Anzie Blue, which is a high-end luxury CBD brand as well as a coffee shop here in Nashville. Opened up last November, late November and it was our side hustle. My husband’s in construction and owns his own business. And obviously I’ve been in the music industry for 25 years, and so when I left New York after my last NYU class second week of March and came down to Nashville because typically I’m in New York one week and then Nashville the next week. I do back and forth. It gave me the opportunity to be in the store every day. Sorry the dog’s barking.
And we really didn’t know how we were going to stay open. We didn’t know if people still were going to come. Well the opposite happened; our sales exploded. And as that happened we just quickly learned how to pivot. And that’s really what I’ve done my whole career. You know, I owned music festivals and then I had to pivot it and decided to focus on brand partnerships. And so at a coffee shop that was just going to sell coffee and our CBD brand, the next thing you know we got our liquor license. And so we’re doing boozy milkshakes with CBD at 1:00 because again what else does anyone have to do [laughter]. We started doing custom cheese boards and just, you know what, having fun and making light of the situation.
And because my husband and I are both Nashville natives and where the coffee shop is located. I mean the Starbucks is closed, so we’re only shop that’s in the game currently in our neighborhood. And so we’ve kind of become a lifeline to the community. It’s curbside pickup for their coffee and lunch is like their one outing of the day that people are doing at Anzie Blue. And so it’s interesting because I was having a conversation with a girlfriend of mine the other day. And she said it’s so crazy. You’ve gone from connecting artists and brands, you know, which is what you do with MAC Presents to now building your own brand with Anzie Blue. And I’m just having a lot of fun and I think that, again, for anybody that knows me I don’t take no for answer.
Even when I fail, which I’ve failed a lot over my career, I pick myself up and dust myself off and move forward. Because right now with MAC Presents obviously brands aren’t doing live events right now. Everything has gone online and digital and social. So we’re working on [unintelligible 00:04:51] programs. It’s not that we’re not doing MAC, but it has freed up my time to be able to do both and be a wife and a stepmom. And then I’m continuing to teach my NYU Steinhart strategic branding course every Thursday via Zoom.
LP: Oh and how’s that going? That’s interesting. I haven’t spoken to anybody yet that’s actually doing that. How is that experience?
MA: You know, I love my students. I call them my kids, you know, because obviously I could be their mother. I’m old enough. But it’s about a fourth of them are still in New York City and they are hunkered down in apartments alone [unintelligible 00:05:28] feel free to reach out to me if just want to chat not as your professor, but just as a friend. So I’m really trying to check in with them a lot and make sure that, again, we’re a lifeline that they know that we’re here for them. I think it’s a challenge, but I think that when you look at the fact that it creates a sense normalcy for them to call into the class every Thursday. You know we’ve had [co-manager] Courtney Stewart and Bill Werde who’s head of music business program Syracuse and then had Matt Ringel from New Era Red Light Management last night.
Next week is Lori Feldman from Paradigm. And everyone in the music industry has always been so gracious with their time over the past seven years since I’ve been an adjunct professor at NYU Steinhardt. And even more so now, what can I do. Because, you know, this is the next generation of leaders in the industry and they all have a big question mark in front of them. They don’t know what they should be doing right now. They don’t want to seem insensitive. Do they apply for a job? Do they not? Do they reach out? I mean, there’s just a lot of unknowns and so we’re just trying to bring a little bit of normalcy and guidance to them. Because we need to make sure that we’re helping elevate this next generation because they’re the ones that are going to be carrying the torch on for the next 30 plus years.
LP: Yeah, and they’re going to be the ones paying the mortgage unfortunately for a lot of what’s going on right now.
MA: I know.
LP: Yeah, yeah. So can you tell me a little bit. You started to refer to, you know, what’s going on at MAC in terms of live events and hopefully pivoting to some the streaming and social world. What are you seeing there? Are there opportunities? Are there creative opportunities? What’s your read on this, you know, a month in?
MA: Well you just hit the nail on the head. And it’s something that I actually had an in-depth conversation with my class about last night. About now would be the time more than ever to create your own business and start a new venture. Even someone who’s 19 or 20 years old or someone that’s in their mid-40s like me. And what I love about having MAC Presents right now is having the ability to work on any type of project that I want to. You know, for the time being and I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t want to say this is going to be over in June or July or September or November. I don’t know when consumers and music fans are going to feel comfortable going back to live events.
Because I can’t look into the future, but what I do know is that the current landscape is that no one is discussing, that I’m at least working with brand wise, live events for the foreseeable future. So therefore you have to pivot, which is what my team has done, and we have said, and we’ve been saying this for about a year now. That branded content and content is king, and that more and more people are wanting to be able to connect with an artist that maybe they’re not in the town where the concert is. Or where the popup branded event is and so this is not that this is a bad thing. To your point, it’s just forcing everyone to be very creative and work harder and work smarter.
And so what we see is more brands saying now all of their marketing plans that they had probably been working on since last summer just got thrown out the window. Campaigns were scrapped. It is like we are starting over and for what typically would take three, six, nine, twelve months to plan, we’re planning in three, six, nine, twelve days. And so we’re hearing from brands what’s a strategy. Because at the core of it you have to have a strategy, you know? And then the second most important thing is what are you tying in philanthropically? How are you giving back? If you look at Neilson data, millennials are the most giving generation there is. It’s extremely important.
I think it was that over 60% of millennials were more likely to purchase a product from a brand if there was a charity tie in. There was another stat that over 70% of millennials feel that brands can save the world over the government. So when you hear a stat like that, a brand knows that it’s extremely important for them to give back in a meaningful way. You know, now is not the time to be showing an ad of whatever it is, a pair of jeans, a car saying on sale now. Come buy it. That’s not what’s going to resonate with consumers. You have to bring value to them. You have to make them laugh; you know? You might even have to make them cry because I can tell you that from experience.
Anytime I see anything right now with the doctors and the nurses on the frontlines I’m a weeping mess. Because I’m just in awe of their courage and their bravery and their dedication. And I think that we’re hitting a reset button right now with music brand partnerships. And I truly believe that they will forever be changed. I’m not saying that events are not going to come back. I’m saying that how brands look at content in the music industry and how to leverage that in a partnership is going to be their top priority. And that’s a good thing.
LP: Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack there. So I want to try to get into some of that [laughter]. One of the things you said that I’m interested in is I’ve always heard or heard it said that one of the problems for brands in working with music is that notion of timelines. You know, even something like a mega tour sponsorship, the tour sometimes doesn’t get to do doing that until so late in the planning. Whereas the brand is looking to lock up its spend 18 months prior or at least a couple of quarters prior. I’d be really interested one, to hear a little bit from you as how you’ve threaded those two things successfully over the years. Because I do perceive your company in particular as helping rock and roll access brand money in a much more methodical way then it was able to in the past.
I always saw a churn and burn of bands going through brands as opposed to longer term relationships. But then also specific to this situation or this place in time, how are brands pivoting that fast? You mentioned going from months to days or months to weeks. How is that playing out?
MA: Well I’m going to say it this way, the nicest way I can say it. They don’t have a choice. The brands that sit on the sidelines are going to be left behind. If you go back and look at data and research dating all the way back to the great depression, brands that do not continue to market and advertise, their market share dips drastically when whatever the issue was is lifted. So whether when we came out of the great depression, when we came out of the recession, when we started to come out of the fog that all of us were in after 9/11. All of these major moments in our history have been defining moments for brands. And I have been reading so much about it, because to be honest I was in a different place in my career after 9/11.
I had only had my company Mad Booking & Events for two years and I didn’t really understand. My main focus was producing events, not brand partnerships. And now that I’ve been able to really do a deep dive into the historical research on how brands have kind of weathered the storm. How they advertised or didn’t advertise. And then how they did afterwards is fascinating to me. Because I’ve had some conversations with brands where they’re saying you know what? We’re just going to hit pause till Q1 of 2021. And then I’ve seen brands, sometimes it’s even the challenger brands. So, you know, you think Coca-Cola, General Motors, Verizon those big brands.
But then when you think about some of the challenger brands to them, those are the ones that are even doubling down more. I’m not saying that those three brands that I just mentioned are not advertising because actually Verizon is doing a phenomenal job right now doing programs with Dave Matthews Band and numerous artists. But in other categories there are challenger brands that are really stepping up and what’s going to happen is they’re going to gain new fans of their brand that are going to become loyal. Because right now anyone that is entertaining you, entertaining the family, you know that’s what we’re all looking for right now.
Like what is something that we can do at home with the whole family. I know we do. I mean, so whether the workout class or a cooking class or Dolly Parton reading a bedtime story every night. You know, anything that just makes us smile for a second. There’s only so much news and death and doom and gloom that we can see on a daily basis. We try to limit it to the morning and at night, and during the day we want to laugh. We want to smile. We want to spend time, you know, with our family as we’re all under this stay at home order.
LP: That’s a fascinating point in that it’s something I learned early in my career that I had mentored into me which was during the tough times the companies that don’t make it are the ones that base their austerity plans around curtailing sales and marketing. As opposed to keeping the sales and marketing people out there and keeping the campaigns going. You know I think it’s borne out by your point which is those are the brands that are remembered. They’re the brands that sometimes launch the iconic campaigns during those moments. But also at this point in time in particular for a brand it must be fascinating because it’s been a long time. Certainly, you know, all this conversation around the fragmentation of media and the move to streaming, brands can actually get into people’s homes now in a way they probably haven’t been able to in years.
MA: You have a captive audience like I’ve never seen anything like this. It actually makes me speechless. You have a completely open playing field and a brand can step into it and dominate, dominate the conversation. You see it in anything whether it’s Matthew McConaughey and his family hosting Bingo with a senior’s citizens home which he did a couple nights ago. I must’ve had 40 people send that to me. It’s not news, but it made you smile, and I think that right now brands they’re in a catch 22. Because let’s be honest, they need to continue to sell whatever product it is that they sell, that’s number one. And number two they don’t want to sound like they’re selling.
So they either have to make the story or they have to become a part of the story and a part of the conversation that America is having right now. And I’m really focusing just on American advertising because to be honest I’ve not really looked at what they’re doing in Asia and Europe. So to me the brands, and I’ve used this example a ton of times, but I cannot scream it from the rooftops enough. And I’ve never worked with this artist or brand. But I love seeing Fabulous brand partnerships come to life and the Jesse Reyez, Jameson deal if you haven’t seen it you should look it up. She posted on Instagram, this was her debut album release and she was looking for dollars to fund it.
And she posted on Instagram that Jameson stepped up, her management did the deal and stepped up and came on as a partner. But what was so moving about it and I mean it really they say if you don’t get up in the morning and aren’t excited to go work, especially when you’re in the music industry that you’re in the wrong industry. Because we’re not saving lives. And when I read her post I got goosebumps. And so even after 25 years plus in the industry a successful brand partnership still does that to me and that’s why I know I’m in the right field. And so Jameson because Jesse Reyez was no longer on Billie Eilish’s because Billie had cancelled her tour and she was the opening act, she wasn’t going to be able to pay all of her staff and her dancers and management and everybody.
And so the money that Jameson paid for her album release event funded all of her expenses for a month and they were still able to give money to Music Cares and a couple other charities. So it was win/win for everyone. And I think too right now for artists is they can’t be afraid. I really feel like Zac Brown’s video, I don’t know if you saw that from a couple weeks ago. When he shot a video and said he was having to lay off like 90% of his staff after 15 years. That was just gut wrenching, but that was the example that I used to talk to all brands that we’re currently in discussions with to say these artists they need your help. You know, a lot of people forget that artists are businesses.
You know, they have sometimes 10, 20, 100, a couple of hundred people on payroll depending the level of the artists. If they’re a club act or a stadium act. Think about all the people that are on the payroll for the Rolling Stones or for Beyoncé, you know, or for Billie Eilish. So that’s expensive when you’re not out on the road generating money. And when you see that some of the PROs are delaying their payments. I mean that’s really the only way that artists are getting paid right now is through streaming and through money that they’re making from their publisher if they’re a songwriter. So, you know, we’re in extraordinary times. But I think that not that brand partnerships were not extremely important, but I think that now coming out of this pandemic, brand partnerships are going to be bigger than ever.
And what I’m really hoping is that, not to knock sports, because you’re talking to the biggest hockey and football fan there is. But that’s a 60-billion-dollar industry, sorry dogs. And music is six billion, so imagine because all of the artists have been so quick to pivot and start these living room concerts and cooking classes or whatever kind of content that they [unintelligible 00:21:15]. Brands see that as resonating with consumers and they start shifting their spin from sports to music let’s just say 10%. We’re going to double, double literally. Now there’s also, I do need to say a caveat. There is some numbers that say it’s 1.6 billion the music brand partnership gross revenues and there’s some that say six billion.
I’m going with the six billion number because I’m seeing it more and more. But imagine if that went to 12 billion because we were able to get some of those dollars shifted from sports to music. So I am absolutely an optimist. I don’t want to say, you know, we’re at doomsday right now in the music industry. I actually think it’s just a reset and I think that every company is going to have to look within and say what creative [unintelligible 00:22:17] do we have? What can we do? What are new revenue streams? I mean it reminds me a lot of what happened after CD sales plummeted and when Napster just rocked our world. In this instance it's the pandemic and it’s COVID.
They came in and then rocked our industry similar to the travel industry, the retail industry, and the service industry with restaurants and bars. Because a lot of the restaurants and bars shut down and didn’t pivot and do delivery and takeout.
LP: I think that point dovetails back into the other question I wanted to ask you. Which was again, your firm and your work, you’ve done a really amazing job of making brand partnerships and brand money more accessible to artists and making artists, for lack of a better way to say it, more reliable partners for brands. And I’ve always been curious as I’ve watched your company grow, who had to change more? And how did you get those two in better alignment?
MA: They both had to change. You know, you’re never going to hear me say something bad about a brand and not turn around and say something bad about an artist. You know, I’ve always said I work on behalf of the deal because if both sides aren’t happy then there’s no deal. And so artists have had to learn that when they commit to something they have to do it. But so have brands. Brands will just make an offer and then all of a sudden two weeks later decide that they don’t want to do it. And I’m like nope, you made a firm offer. Well we haven’t signed a contract. Well you’re going to be out of business without artists and by the way that artist is represented by this attorney and this manager and this booking agent, and me.
So you might as well write us all off and you’re never going to do business with any of us. So it’s just about making sure that both sides of a partnership understand and meet in the middle. And trust me I would say that 90% of every major deal I’ve ever done has gone away four to five times.
LP: Yeah, of course yeah.
MA: And then comes back. And so when it goes away, and the other side is freaking out I always say you pushed them too hard. Whether that’s coming from the artist or the brand. But if they really want the deal, they always come back. And when they don’t come back, they didn’t want the deal.
LP: What’s a deal or a project that you see out there right now either within your own roster or just as sort of a student and observer of this space that you think is a good example. Of what you were saying earlier about a brand and a creative stepping up in this time?
MA: Verizon and what they’re doing with their living room sessions. I saw the commercial for it for Dave Matthews and I’m a huge Dave Matthews fan. And I actually showed it during my NYU class because Matt Ringel was our speaker from Red Light Management. And it just kind of brought tears to my eyes. Because it was families in their living room dancing. And it was just Dave Matthews that was performing acoustic in his living room. It wasn’t the full band, but he’s one of those artists that’s cross generational. So someone who’s 15 years old, 25, 35, 45, 55 loves him. And seeing all these families in their living room doing something together smiling, dancing, singing, laughing. That’s what a successful brand partnership is about right now.
LP: That’s great. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. I really appreciate it. I’ll look forward to maybe keeping in touch with you as this situation evolves. And we’ll see how brands are behaving and how the marketplace is responding, you know, over the next six or twelve weeks as this thing continues. I’d love the opportunity to talk to you again.
MA: Anytime, I will always make the time and I have a lot of time right now [laughter].
Marcie Allen is not just any strategic partnership expert - she is an industry powerhouse with over 25+ years of experience in entertainment and music. Her unparalleled ability to create game-changing partnerships has helped shape the industry and redefine what it means to be a marketer. With her extensive network, Marcie was able to forge legendary partnerships and events including AT&T + John Mayer, Citi + Billy Joel, Samsung + Keith Urban, Hollister + Khalid, Citi + Rolling Stones, Microsoft + Katy Perry, Jeep + Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Verizon + John Legend, Mercedes Benz Stadium + Garth Brooks, and ATL Live + Mercedes Benz Stadium with Luke Combs, Blake Shelton, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Keith Urban and more.