Music and Cannabis Branding Opportunities

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This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be investment advice.

Cannabis-themed music predates television, the Empire State Building, and even the Great Depression.

This factoid might not show up in a game of Trivial Pursuit, but cannabis and music date back a century to the 1920s with artists like Louis Armstrong, the Rhythm Kings and Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon opening the way to a 1930s boom with classics like Cab Calloway’s “Reefer Man.” The 1960s ushered in a big new era with artists like Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, while the 1990s broke the floodgates with Sublime, Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre and countless others.

The cannabis-music relationship is one of the oldest in American pop culture, and as the burgeoning legal cannabis industry evolves, so do new opportunities for brands to channel this natural chemistry into products.

To date, many brands that have pursued this opportunity have focused on iconic aficionados, both living (Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson) and immortal (Bob Marley), with varying degrees of success. While rap music has played a pivotal role in reviving cannabis culture in recent decades, many of its artists who have released signature strains have surprisingly found largely ambivalent audiences. Cypress Hill leader B Real is a notable exception.

Few artists have more cannabis credibility than Cypress Hill, and B Real has added retail credibility with the Dr. Greenthumb dispensary chain where he vets every product. With consumer confidence firmly established, the dispensary achieved local success with its Insane OG strain which, like the dispensary chain itself, is named after a Cypress Hill hit.

Other musical artists are making inroads into the market without being so outspoken about their involvement. System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian launched 22Red as a lifestyle brand that continues to grow in popularity, while Xzibit launched Napalm (named after his 2012 album of the same name) with articles iconic like The Grenade, an 8 gram pre-roll encased in a collectible glass. Both artists are heavily involved with their brands, but neither puts themselves front and center on products or websites. They seem to want the quality to speak for itself, and so far it works.

Some brands have also found success by focusing on a music genre, not an artist. Neon Roots is a natural extension of its founders’ decades-long involvement in the club, rave and EDM scene, while Heavy Grass is dedicated to the leaf-burning metal fan. This approach allows brands to align with a wider network of artists and music events. Heavy Grass, which debuted with installations (without product) at metal festivals across the country, has since branched out with its first artist-specific line, Clown Cannabis by Slipknot co-founder Shawn Crahan, to meet strong retail demand.

These are examples of rising brands, but what about those that have struggled? In many cases, artists just wanted to make money on the green rush and thought it would be enough to slap their name and image on a pre-roll. In other cases, the product wasn’t authentic, the marketing wasn’t connected, or the product selection was poor. In a nutshell, they failed to appreciate the shrewd and discerning nature of modern cannabis users.

So how does an artist or music company get it right?

First, pick a target audience that doesn’t have an abundance of brands already competing for mindshare. Rap music, unfortunately, is already oversaturated.

Second, make an authentic connection with the audience. Cannabis consumers typically possess a keen BS detector after enduring an overabundance of marketing. Always be consistent and provide value to build that connection.

Third, sell to consumers organically through access to artists, concerts and events. Artists can promote their brands at live events, even leveraging product and logo placement.

Finally, be in it for the long haul. The best artists often say that they would have continued writing, recording and performing without success because their love for music compelled them to. This is the attitude cannabis brands should take.

Many mistakenly thought it was a short game for a quick win. It’s not. Brands have a better chance when compelled by a genuine passion for cannabis and music. Making the most of this opportunity requires a thoughtful strategy and approach that honors, not exploits, this special relationship built over a century of great sound and smoke.

This post contains sponsored advertising content. This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be investment advice.

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