Career Connection: Creative Allies

Creative Allies Connects Unknown & Amateur Graphic Designers with Bands

CareerArt_WPFounded in 2010, Creative Allies (http://creativeallies.com) is a unique web-based company that offers a means for fans to interact with artists in a dynamic way—by actually creating the images that appear on CDs, websites, t-shirts and other platforms. The company was launched by Sean O’Connell, CEO, and Greg Lewis of Music Allies, a major cross-platform marketing company for music festivals and independent artists and labels. Kevin Carroll, a veteran music industry marketing executive, was brought on as COO of Creative Allies in 2011.

“Creative Allies provides the tools to enable fans to interact with artists in an intimate way, and also for designers to get their work exposed,” says Carroll. “Designers and fans can sign up for free and submit their artwork for consideration to have it actually appear on an official artist website, poster, merch or CD cover.”

The site runs several contests each month and viewers vote on the designs. The ultimate winner is chosen by the artist, management team or festival running the contest. Fan Favorites are also chosen, with runners-up receiving prizes such as tickets or signed band merchandise. Recent contests in August included the challenge to create a t-shirt graphic for Lady Antebellum, poster art for Stereophonics, Paramore and Buddy Guy, and a logo for the 25th anniversary of Sublime. Winners receive a flat fee for the use of their artwork, with most contests awarding $500. (Winners also receive bragging rights, but no additional percentage, and sign over their licensing rights.) Entering the contests and joining the site are free.

Creative Allies also operates a merch store on the site. “Artwork that is submitted but does not win may still be picked up for the merch items, with 10 percent of the net profits of those sales going to the designer,” notes Carroll. The site is as much a showcase for emerging design artists as it is a marketing tool for the music artists. “The great thing about these contests is that anyone can enter, not just professional designers, and have a chance to get their work noticed by the worldwide community of visitors that come to the site. It has launched careers.”Kevin-Carroll-Creative-AlliesWP

Carroll’s experience in the music business is impressive. During his nearly 30 years in the music industry, he has been a senior executive at EMI, Sony Music/Relativity, East- West Records and Chrysalis Records, among others. With that extensive track record, what does he think of the current marketing climate that social media has wrought? “Social media provides an unprecedented way for artists to market their music by interacting directly with the fans. In the case of Creative Allies, because art and music are so intertwined, it is an ideal way for music artists to get direct feedback on how fans visualize the artists’ work and also the image they are conveying.”

Major acts that have worked with Creative Allies by using fan-generated artwork include Counting Crows, Keith Urban, the Black Keys and Ween. “We promote the contests in several ways, including fan sites,” says Carroll. “We also go around to the design schools, and we have relationships with Bonnaroo, Warped, Lollapalooza and other major festivals. To generate interest from the artists, sometimes it’s a matter of going directly to the label or artist representative, or they come directly to us.”

The site currently has 50,000 designer/members worldwide. To some, this may seem like a sneaky way for labels and artists to get cheap access to quality designs, but Carroll views it as a win-win situation. “Unknown and amateur designers value this opportunity for exposure to professionals, and to get feedback from the design community,” he says. “And of course, the opportunity to ultimately win a contest and gain professional credibility.”
Creative Allies is based in Asheville, NC.

Contact Lauren Jaeger, ljaeger@sspr.com