Company Launches Unique Matchmaking Service For Musicians
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Toronto-based Michael Bowman and Cathy Cutz could blab your ears purple name-checking "synergy" and "metrics" and "low-hanging fruit" having worked for decades in media buying and marketing (Bowman) and event marketing (Cutz) for various corporations and non-profits including Christian relief agency World Vision, where they met.
But chat with them about their newly launched 145 Live Solutions and prepare to be flattened by good, old fashioned enthusiasm so straight-up palpable the phone line practically crackles.
In simplified terms, 145 Live Solutions spearheads relationships between businesses, non-profits and musicians, fulfilling the need of one by leveraging the strength of the other, while serving as interpreter (and matchmaker, manager, strategist) in subsequent executions.
The idea is an extension of World Vision's Artists Associate program, which provides tour support in exchange for child sponsorship generation at live shows. Bowman and Cutz oversaw that program for close to eight years and realized its limitations. Some artists have other causes dearer to their hearts and 145 Live Solutions can best pair up the right artist with the right charity and right company.
When corporations foot the bill to have non-profits travel with touring bands, for example, they get positive PR blowback, while non-profits tap into a vast pool of potential new donors. Musicians in turn can raise cash for their favourite charitable causes while helping offset overhead by coordinating tour sponsorship with a charity partner.
Of course, there is some criteria: a kind of unspoken code of conduct that makes one artist more appropriate as clients than another (ie. no swearing or mention of drug use in lyrics).
Superstar musician and producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan) who was a part of World Vision's Artist Associates program from 2005 to 2010, is a fan of this new venture. Asked for a quote for this piece, Lanois -- who first worked closely with Cutz during an event she helped organized for the Liberal Party at their 2003 convention -- offered an unequivocal: "I'll follow wherever Mike and Cathy go."
As Cutz says, it's a win-win-win, not to mention highly effective ROI ("return on investment") for everyone involved.
The fledgling company allows Cutz and Bowman to amalgamate the experience and myriad contacts they amassed working variously in the music business world, regular business world and charitable world before both landing at World Vision; Cutz from 2004 to 2011 and Bowman from 1998 to 2011.
As Bowman's executive bio notes, "Having developed relationships with artists, agents, record labels, promoters and artist management internationally, Michael has combined this network with an expertise in arts marketing to become a highly valued Canadian resource in achieving tangible results for artists, businesses, and not-for-profits."
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that no one thought of doing this sooner, especially since musicians have long advocated on behalf of charities, and both charities and musicians actively cultivate lucrative corporate affiliations. Forging a positive link between the three groups seems obvious.
"Our main goal is to work within those three relationships," Cutz offers. "So if the goal for the charity is to sign up new individual donors, then we'll do a whole strategy around that. If the goal of the corporation is to generate goodwill and PR, then we'll design a strategy around that. It's really tailored to creating unique solutions for these three relationships.
"What's more," she continues, "A corporation can raise upwards of eight times more money for a charity by investing in a tour than by just giving money straight to the charity."
Cutz continues: "I used to work at Investors Group and I'd have to make these cold calls to do event marketing -- lead-generation-type stuff. I had maybe 30 percent of people calling me back. With this concept, I literally have 95 percent of charities call me back saying, 'Yes of course we want to sit down with you. Tell us more.' It's so encouraging because everyone we've talked to about this has bought in. No one is opposing the concept or the impact this might have."
"We really do want to have fun with all these partners because these folks have tough jobs," Bowman adds. "For example, touring may seem exciting, but it's very hard on one's body. There is a lot of blood sweat and tears involved in being up on stage. We want people to have fun with this work and in spreading these messages."
Though the company is only a few months old (and growing with the addition of former World Vision artist consultant, Victoria-based Brandon Foreman joining as Western Canada Consultant), Cutz and Bowman last weekend infiltrated arguably the most rarified realm of the Canadian music industry: the prestigious record label-sponsored Juno after-party circuit.
"We were approached to find partners for them," Cutz explains. "So we paired World Wildlife Fund with Universal Music Canada and Christian Children's Fund with EMI. Warner Music Canada partnered with the Simple Plan Foundation, which made sense since [the band] Simple Plan is on their label and they are receiving the [2012 Allan Waters] Humanitarian Award. But because of our involvement it actually occurred to them to do this in the first place.
"There was some branding at the parties," Cutz explains, "but the meat of the relationship and partnership comes after the Junos when the labels will be introducing suitable artists to the charities for different campaigns that they're running. So it's a kind of matchmaking arrangement. Plus World Wildlife Fund has the CN Tower climb at the end of April so they're looking for artists to assist with that."
Adds Bowman, "When you look at a medium-to large-sized charity, they're reaching out through all these different channels -- online, broadcast if that's in the budget. So what we're trying to do is leverage the existing strength of non-profits -- chiefly, their stories -- and filter those into a powerful experience for an audience.
"It's not uncommon for artists to say they can't even look at the audience when they're sharing these stories and songs -- they have to kind of look up and away -- because it's so powerful and it becomes quite emotional."
As for the future of 145 Live Solutions, Bowman and Cutz see nothing short of global domination "in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the UK, wherever a particular non-profits works, expanding the impact through adapting their existing relationships and partnerships," Bowman says.
"The impact could be exponential. I have a friend who teaches artists how to perform and he says, 'People don't know it but they go to concerts to be changed.' So this is providing a service that makes it easier for someone to walk away thankful for having had that experience."
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.