Musical brand

DoStuff Media’s Dave Cavalier on deep partnerships between brands and musicians

Where you grew up and where you live now.

I grew up just outside of Chicago where I lived most of my life before spending time out east at Berklee College of Music and eventually landing in Los Angeles where I’m based for 12 years.

Your first musical memory.

One of my oldest and fondest musical memories would be of traveling in the car with my dad, picking out CDs for him to play in an old blue Igloo lunch box. That’s when I learned to love the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and so many other big names.

Your first gig.

My first gig was pretty epic: four hours of Bruce Springsteen at the United Center in downtown Chicago at the age of 11. I wasn’t as familiar with Boss music at the time, but man was this place on fire. He played forever and I loved every minute.

Your favorite bands/musicians.

Thanks to my dad, who owned a local music store in town and was a musician himself, I grew up surrounded by greats like BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughn, and that love carried over into my adult life with a deep dedication to the blues. In terms of modern acts, I’m a huge fan of Jacob Banks, Leon Bridges and Kimbrawho all bring such an intense soul to their music that it’s almost impossible for me not to be moved.

How do you get your music these days.

I stream mostly on Spotify, but I love discovering new artists through playlists and word of mouth. I am also a big user of shazaam when I hear something irresistible and need to know where and how to find it in the future.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

The Hollywood Bowl is still a hard place to beat in my book. I have never had a bad night there.

Your favorite music video.

This one is tough. I don’t think I’ve ever delved into the sub-context and symbolism of a music video as much as I did with Childish Gambino. “It’s America.”

Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

Behind the music of VH1 at the time was unmatched. One of my all time favorites when new.

A recent project you are proud of.

I released an album of my own of which I am incredibly proud. I never intended to release this music when it was first created during the pandemic, but over time certain pieces of art combine to form this snapshot of you as individual for a certain period of your life, and as that perspective started to come through, it all took on new meaning, and by sharing my story, I made some really impactful connections with others in the process. That’s art.

Someone else’s project you admired recently.

Everything Beyoncé and her team bring to life is nothing short of masterful. And it’s not just because it’s Beyoncé, it’s because every lyric, beat, collaboration, and promo image has so much intention. She acknowledges the weight of her voice, pours her creative energy into it, and offers the world a fully cultured, culture-changing work of art. It’s a perfect combination of industry and raw medium coming together in the middle to create something amazing.

How musicians should approach working with brands.

What makes musicians unique is their ability to offer a new or interesting perspective that adds to the cultural conversation. They create a world in themselves that is different from what surrounds you, they invite you there and you exist there for the duration of a song or an album. When collaborating with brands, musicians need to be intentional and not just cash in on a paycheck, but ideally choose brands to partner with that add additional layers to that world or deeper context to that cultural conversation.

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Brands are for-profit, commerce-driven entities, so it’s totally okay to find artists that make you cooler or help you sell more stuff. That being said, there are so many more interesting ways to embark on a collaboration than just photo ops and marketing reach. Brands that use musicians through creative partnerships are storytellers, so why not leverage that professional storyteller’s skills by letting them weigh in on a campaign, offer critiques and suggestions, and truly value that contribution. If you’re engaging a musician with your brand, it’s to access that musician’s community, so don’t try to speak your brand language to that audience, but rather find a way to redefine the language of your mark by passing it through the lens and the voice of the artist as authentically as possible.

What music can do that nothing else can.

As the famous quote goes, “When words fail, music speaks.”

What you would be doing if you weren’t in the music business.

My mother had a professional life related to non-profit work and humanitarian efforts and it completely inspired me. If I wasn’t into music, I’d probably be sleeping in a tent in a third world country right now on behalf of Greenpeace. No man or woman can save the world, but we can all do our part with the time and effort available to us.