The music industry has changed significantly over the past 50 years; Back in the 1970’s, record labels were the gatekeepers to big audiences and it was close to impossible to break through to bigger audiences without, in exchange, relinquishing (part of) your masters or assets. However, with the emergence of the internet and the increase of different revenue streams for artists has also come the possibility to remain independent more easily.
One artist that opted for this route was Zac Brown, of the Zac Brown Band (ZBB). The Zac Brown Band is a commercially successful country band (Taste of Country, n.d.), with a total estimated earnings of 38 million in 2019 (Forbes, 2019). Furthermore, they have won three Grammy’s (Forbes, 2019), released 7 albums, of which several have gone platinum (US 106.1, n.d.), and played over 3000+ shows (Celebrity Net Worth, n.d.). During their first years they remained independent, starting their own record label called Southern Ground, and, moreover, a restaurant (Erlewine, n.d.), which the ZBB later sold to buy their first tour bus (Celebrity Net Worth, n.d.).
Six years after their founding as a band they signed a record deal with Atlantic Records (Erlewine, n.d.) and released their debut major label release, The Foundation in 2008. Before that, however, all of their music was released through their own label, Southern Ground. Later, their record label was rebranded to the Zac Brown Collective (PR Newswire, 2018) to better reflect the collection of all ZBB related business endeavours under one name. These activities range from artist management, label services, wine making, fashion, custom design, gear, and more (PR Newswire, 2018). Additionally, two of these activities include a summer camp for kids and adolescents, called Camp Southern Ground (Camp Southern Ground, n.d.), and a partnership between the Zac Brown Collective’s media company, Southern Reel and media production company Propagate (Hipes, 2017), known for their work on Chopped, Hillary, Charmed, and more (Propagate, n.d.). Both activities are situated in industries outside of music, which makes them highly eligible for study from a music industry standpoint.
Camp Southern Ground, as mentioned, is a summer camp, located on 400 acres of farmlands in Peachtree City, Georgia, and is aimed at children and adolescents aged between 7 and 17 from all backgrounds (Special Bridge, 2016). Children with autism, dyslexia, Asperger syndrome, Tourette syndrome, Down syndrome and other disabilities are all welcome as well (Special Bridge, 2016).
Besides summer camp, the camp also offers Veteran Programs and is available for rent all year round (Camp Southern Ground, n.d.). These Veteran programs are set up in partnership with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and the Boot Campaign. These and other partnerships can expand upon the range of activities and target audiences, and potentially supply necessary financial means.
The camp is funded by revenues from camping admissions, ZBB live show revenues, rental fees, and possible partnership revenue. The real added value derived from Camp Southern Ground is, in addition to potentially supplementing the band’s finances, a positive addition to the brand and image of the ZBB. The target audience for these summer camps can overlap with existing ZBB fans but, of course, it can also target parents who are not familiar with the ZBB at all, and through their interaction with the camp, they can get in touch with the ZBB for the first time. For the people who were already fans this can consolidate and strengthen the relationship between said fan and the ZBB.
All in all, if the camp is financially self-sustaining it is a great way for the ZBB to potentially diversify their income streams, while giving back to those who need it, and at the same time expand their band fan base, and enhance the brand image.
Besides the summer camp, the ZBB, or more specifically ZBB’s film division, Southern Reel, has also been in talks with Propagate, a well known media production company. Together they will develop and produce projects for TV, film and digital platforms (Hipes, 2017). The first project discussed is a reality series, focussed on the headquarters of the Zac Brown Collective as they develop ‘custom entertainment’ (Otterson, 2017).
The results of such a deal can be far reaching. Besides the financial results, potentially flowing from cable TV syndication, digital royalties, and possible advertisement and sponsorship income, one can also imagine the positive impact when it comes to expanding ZBB’s fanbase. With media formats focussed on the ZBB as a musical group or any of their subsidiaries there is always the possibility of cross-collateralization of audiences when audiences of the reality show might buy concert tickets and vice versa.
It is extremely important for Southern Reel to have a strong developmental and producing partner who has the know-how, and network to produce and sell different video formats to networks, studios and more. Once Southern Reel has a more established foundation, one can imagine this will occur after an extended period of operations, they can expand their product offering to other non-ZBB related formats. These will form a new sustainable income source for the ZBB, unreliant on any music industry economics or ZBB activities.
On the one hand, the emergence of internet and digital media has made it easier than ever to reach your target audience, and to consolidate your relationships with them. Compared to 50 years ago it is easier now than before to sell different, non-music related products to this target audience, and vice versa. Additionally, there is the possibility to sell directly to the consumer, as the ZBB cleverly does on their website, see Figure 1 (Zac Brown Band, n.d.).
Zac Brown Band Webstore
Note: Zac Brown Band, 2021
However, on the other hand, due to the extreme saturation of content online, it can be extremely difficult to reach your target audience since there is so much noise and competition, it can be hard to stand out. Having an unique selling point, in the ZBB’s case amazing music and strong brand image, is perhaps all the more important now than 50 years ago.
However, it seems that even though they have a diverse offering, the ZBB is still mainly reliant on live income; After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they were forced to reschedule all live shows. Consequently, the ZBB has now been forced to lay off 90% of their workforce (Henderson, n.d.), and to sell their iconic Southern Ground Studios (Saving Country Music, 2020).
To summarize, the Zac Brown Band is an excellent example of an artist who has been able to diversify their revenue streams across different industries. Ranging from wine, to summer camps, reality TV, and music albums, their product offering is vast. It seems that diversification can work well, but perhaps the ZBB is spreading their resources over too many projects at this time. As for their reality series with Propagate? The author has not been able to find a single episode at the time of writing.
Camp Southern Ground (n.d.). Camp Southern Ground. https://www.campsouthernground.org/
Celebrity Net Worth (n.d.). Zac Brown Net Worth. https://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/rock-stars/zac-brown-net-worth/
Concert Archives (n.d.). Zac Brown Band’s Concert History. https://www.concertarchives.org/bands/zac-brown-band
Erlewine, S.T. (n.d.). Zac Brown Band Artist Biography. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/zac-brown-mn0000392925/biography
Forbes (October 7th, 2017). 2019 CELEBRITY 100 EARNINGS – #95 Zac Brown Band. https://www.forbes.com/profile/zac-brown-band/?sh=7a222ed47818
Henderson, C. (n.d.). Zac Brown emotionally announces he laid off 90% of his crew amid coronavirus pandemic. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2020/03/19/coronavirus-zac-brown-announces-he-laid-off-90-his-crew/2881263001/
Hipes, P. (October 18th, 2017). Zac Brown Bands Together With Propagate For Film & TV Deal, Eyes Reality Series. https://deadline.com/2017/10/zac-brown-reality-series-southern-ground-propagate-film-tv-deal-1202190457/#comments
Otterson, J. (October 18th, 2017). Zac Brown’s Southern Reel Sets Production Partnership With Propagate Content. https://variety.com/2017/tv/news/zac-brown-southern-reel-propagate-content-1202593220/
PR Newswire (December 11th, 2018). Zac Brown Announces Rebrand Of Southern Ground To Zac Brown Collective, Illustrating Powerful New Vision. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/zac-brown-announces-rebrand-of-southern-ground-to-zac-brown-collective-illustrating-powerful-new-vision-300763707.html
Propagate (n.d.). Work. https://propagatecontent.com/#s-work
Saving Country Music (April 26th, 2020). Zac Brown Selling Iconic Southern Ground Studios. https://www.savingcountrymusic.com/zac-brown-selling-iconic-southern-ground-studios/
Special Bridge (January 2nd, 2016). Zac Brown Starting Camp for Children and Teens with Special Needs. https://www.specialbridge.com/zac-brown-camp-southern-ground/
US 106.1 (n.d.). Zac Brown Band Biography. https://us1061.com/artist/zac-brown-band/