Sunday, July 10, 2011

David Banner Goes Commercial... Literally


Madison Avenue is no stranger to collaborating hip-hop artists, but they're usually just licensing a a hit song or using an up and coming band as brand ambassadors. However, superproducer/MC David Banner has recently teamed with ad agencies that rep Gatorade and Gillette to craft music especially for their campaigns.

Groove recently caught up the Mississippi native to talk about working with brands, maintaining artistic credibility and getting "Footloose."

Groove: Are you all surprised by these brands that are interested in working with you?

David Banner:
Not at all. I think I’m more surprised that I couldn’t do a lot of the same things and be this creative in hip-hop and R&B. I’m not surprised that brands are very interested in my music – I’ve always been doing music at this level and quality. I knew if I got the opportunity for people to hear my music, that they would love it.

I happen to have a great person in my life who believed in me, Jimmy Smith and the G-Team, who works with Chiat/Day. He helped me display my talents. I knew I had the talent to do what I do and make brands successful!

Groove: There was a time when artists -- particularly hip-hop artists -- saw doing ads and jingles as "selling out." That's no longer the case now, but what facilitated that change?

I never believed that that was “selling out.” Show me an artist that felt that way, and I’ll show you a broke artist, because some artists say that that’s “selling out,” but they turn around and do it anyway.

Brands have always been a part of every business, including music. I think “selling out” is when you do something that’s not connected with/to you. I don’t have to go out of my way to use the brands that I have worked with [that came to me], because I use them anyway (in most cases).

It’s about time brands let different music artists broaden their scope and demo. I think it’s also time to let these various artists be a part of their marketing process as well, especially if we’ve always been consumers of their products.

Groove: Tell me a little about how both Gatorade and Gillette deals came about?

DB: I was introduced to Jimmy by a good friend of mine and Jimmy really believed that my music was a lot bigger than just hip-hop. Jimmy and his team, G-Team, heard my music and knew that I had a lot more in me to broadcast, and they helped put my music in front of the right people. I fought for these spots - and I got it! Nobody handed it to was a 1-2 year process.

Groove: What standard does a company or brand have to meet in order to work with David Banner?

DB: The brand has to be something that I believe in, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something I use in my day-to-day life. It doesn't have to be something I control, but something I believe in and a brand that’s willing to listen. My company, ABV, brings more than just music to the table. In some of these situation I’ve helped and had the opportunity to not do just the music, but submit the vision for the campaign.

I always bring a lot to the table...when you hire ABV, you hire more than just a company to do a beat, you hire a company with a true vision and passion. I want to be a part of the process all the way through. I’ve even helped edit some of the commercials for these campaigns.

I don’t think any of us take full advantage of the opportunities that come to us, and I’m willing to really embark on new paths.

Groove: As an artist, you've managed to do straddle the lines between art and commerce pretty effortlessly. What's been the key for you?

DB: Business is not personal, but I’m very personal about who I do business with! At the end of the day I live by God’s matter how much money I make, I never forget what I learned growing up. My spirituality keeps me strong. If something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it, no matter how much money is there. If you do your talent to the best of your ability, the opportunities will come your way.

Groove: What's next for you?

DB: I’ve partnered with Corey Smyth (of Blacksmith Management) and Samantha Selolwane to launch a music house/production company, ABV.  We’re really moving into more movie scoring. We did a little bit on the new Footloose film and now we’re slowly moving the company towards more of that. The natural progression is to start bringing some of the companies and brands I work with together and create movies, product placement, etc. Bring everything in-house. It’s a business, a Banner business. Banner means BIG, a BIG business. The ABV tag line is, "With music this good, who needs picture. We’re influencing the picture, not the other way around."

The one thing that I want people to learn from me, is that young people can do business at a high level. It’s about being on-time, being the best and not using any excuses. I know in a lot of cases people may not want to do business with me, so I need to be 10x better than my competitor. I know what I bring to the table is 10x better!


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