|Issue: August 1, 2009
OPEN HOUSE: BETA PETROL
|LOS ANGELES - When Bryan Ray Turcotte and Nathan Ehrenfeld opened Beta Petrol (www.betapetrol.net) in 2001, they came with a deep-rooted passion for music, and a goal of finding new and innovative ways for bands, such as their own, to work with brands and film.
Beta Petrol's fortes are music supervision and licensing, talent negotiations, original composition and production for advertising, film and interactive/Web projects. They also represent The Doors and Johnny Thunder's estate for commercial licensing.
In the past seven years, they have forged a great example of how artists and brands can forge mutually beneficial relationships. Increasingly, artists are looking for opportunities to diversify and cross-promote themselves to a broader audience through non-traditional means - and Beta Petrol acts as a conduit between these often disparate groups.
Bryan Ray Turcotte came from a background as a touring and recording artist, signed to major labels Sony/Relativity and Boys Life/Interscope. He later headed legendary LA record label Slash as West Coast Manager until 2000 when it was sold to Warner Bros. Turcotte has also co-authored two best-selling books on the art of the punk rock movement and many more on his own Kill Your Idols publishing imprint.
Nathan Ehrenfeld started his early love for music as a classical pianist and then his professional career as a signed and published touring musician.
"Our philosophy is about staying true to our musical backgrounds, and applying their experience with labels, publishers and licensing to advertising and branding opportunities," says Turcotte. "It's not just about plugging in a song after a spot or project has been produced. It's about making the music an organic and integral part of the process... understanding how an artist and his / her fan base can be incorporated in a cohesive way with a brand to create a stronger story."
Turcotte and Ehrenfeld realized an increasing desire and need for bands to look for alternate ways to manage themselves and raise their exposure. The movement towards the digital age in the late 1990s prompted many artists to attempt to take control of their careers as best as possible.
"There was a general feeling of frustration amongst bands," explains Ehrenfeld, "but they didn't know exactly what they wanted to do or how to do it. It was easy for us to form alliances, and to provide them with ideas on how to make a living without having to rely on label income."
One of the first major projects for Beta Petrol was the XM Satellite Radio launch campaign in 2001. Beta Petrol was tasked with the responsibility of releasing a CD sampler of 16 songs, each one representing a genre, to convey the idea of satellite radio's broad spectrum of music styles and genres. The project didn't fully roll out due to events in 2001; however, it provided Beta Petrol with insights on possibilities. Bands were increasingly warming up to the idea of licensing in commercial campaigns and exploring relationships with new forms of media.
"Our approach has evolved over time," remarks Turcotte. "We are able to speak the language of advertisers and brands on a big-picture and highly-creative level, and also have the ears, intellect and gut instinct to make a project happen because of our personal experiences in music. We understand how technology is shaping music in particular and media in general. We are who we are, and we feel it has contributed value to the campaigns we've worked on."
"We find ourselves most effective when we work with clients at the inception of ideas and strategy - this has proven to help the end result tell a bigger, broader and more cohesive story," adds Ehrenfeld. "We feel the R&D phase is critical and allows us to better convey the brand and message. We find it a challenge and enjoy being brought in on long-term complex projects, where we handle all aspects of music down whatever paths are necessary."
Beta Petrol spends a tremendous amount of time doing A&R and listening to music, as well as personally reaching out to bands and managers. "We're actively seeking out good music, we're not just pushing agendas," comments Turcotte. "Over the years, we've done many different jobs. We're a few degrees of separation from a huge amount of artists due to our backgrounds. Our desire is to find cool music, connect with the band and take it to the next level when an appropriate opportunity comes along. Having this kind of access to artists has been a huge benefit to our clients."
Beta Petrol's recent projects include a multi-pronged/layered Sears back-to-school campaign featuring Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) via Young & Rubicam/Chicago, and a comprehensive Web initiative for Johnson & Johnson, in which Beta Petrol created a library that the client licensed across the Johnson & Johnson platform for a two-year period.
They, along with Driver Media, were the company behind the Coca-Cola M5 Project - the hugely successful music and video promotion campaign in 2007. The I Never Stop music video (music by Faithless, and video by Paranoid US) had over 11 million views online and was the centerpiece of the Coke+iTunes 2007 summer EU music initiative. Beta Petrol's most recent long-term project is the REI Winter GoPlay List, in which they created a winter soundtrack for REI and 10 of their vendors, such as Burton, North Face and K2. It features new music by bands such as The Apples In Stereo, The Rentals and Eagles Of Death Metal.