Twenty miles from Music Row, in quaint downtown Franklin, music instrument manufacturer Yamaha Corp. is experimenting with a new business model.
No longer content with artists merely strumming and striking the guitars and pianos it produces, the Japanese company now wants them signed to its startup record label: Yamaha Entertainment Group.
The label, launched this fall, is betting that it can break acts by trading on Yamaha’s established name in the music business and, in turn, use those acts to improve Yamaha’s visibility and customer base, said Chris Gero, the label’s president.
“People just see us as a piano manufacturer, a products manufacturer,” Gero said. “But we have all these artists signed as endorsees. The opportunity just naturally started to show itself. We’ve become much more directly engaged with an artist’s life and livelihood.”
Artists including Elton John, Michael McDonald and John Legend are among those that endorse Yamaha by playing the brand’s instruments in shows.
Yamaha Entertainment Group is the latest independent label to sprout from the ruins of a beleaguered music industry. The Franklin-based imprint also joins a small but growing number of corporations attempting to diversify and grow by launching record labels.
Yamaha Entertainment Group has effectively replaced Yamaha Corporate Artist Affairs, the office that has overseen the manufacturer’s branding operation from Franklin for eight years. It was Corporate Artist Affairs’ job to get Yamaha products in the hands of artists and, by extension, in front of as many eyeballs as possible. It’s not by happenstance, for instance, that the Yamaha name is on prominent display whenever Elton John, a longtime endorser, takes to the keys on stage.
Chris Gero says Yamaha has “become much more directly engaged with an artist’s life and livelihood.” (Submitted)
“We think through where the brand will be placed and seen,” Gero said. “We do it very strategically.”