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ALG Brands on licensing an icon: “Iggy Pop just wants to do cool shit”

When Ashley Austin, founder of ALG Brands, first started working with Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk himself, to build out a unique licensing programme for the musical icon, she was given one directive.

Iggy Pop just wanted “to do cool shit.”

Open to interpretation and refreshingly laid back, its a directive that Austin has subsequently striven to deliver, with a licensing programme that kicked off earlier this year via a Stumptown Coffee Roasters partnership that witnessed Pop design the packaging for his very own coffee blend.

Since then, Iggy Pop has taken his stage name into swimwear through a collaboration with Billabong, and, according to Austin “this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

In just six years, ALG Brands – originally Artist Legacy Group – has built up an enviable portfolio of artists and brands, from Iggy Pop to Bill Haley (yes, of Rock Around the Clock fame) and a number of icons in between, and is now really starting to make its mark on the international licensing space.

Licensing.biz catches up with the company’s founder, Ashley Austin to discover more about its plans for the global licensing stage, the pressures of working with musical icons and why saying ‘no’ to licensing partnerships is more important that saying ‘yes’.

Ashley Austin, founder of ALG Brands

Hi Ashley, can you give us a bit of history of ALG Brands – it’s a fascinating and eclectic mix of clients/brands in the portfolio – how did this all come to be?

In the late 2000s I was working for an estate management company in LA that represented The Doors, Janis Joplin, Rick James and others. At the time, they were one of only a few firms that specialised in the field of deceased music icons.

Recognising that estates were limited in their options for representation and armed with ideas to improve and expand these types of services to living legends, I launched Artist Legacy Group (now ALG Brands) in 2013.

With a portfolio of strong personalities and iconic musicians – how do you start to bring them into the licensing space, while maintaining artist credibility? How important is it to strike the balance when licensing brands such as you have?

Balance is key and authenticity is everything. We are in constant communication with our clients and very clear on what categories they do and do not want to be in. We work closely with our clients and/or their teams to assess and establish a blueprint for the future, then we explore licensing and collaborative opportunities that best suit their brand.

Quite often, these opportunities are ideated in house by ALG and then proactively pursued with our brand partners to see if the idea is viable. Based on our diligence process, we have a high rate of conversion going from concept to market.

To this end, what sort of categories will you be looking at across the brands you have? Focusing in on Iggy (a personal favourite) where are you looking to take this as a brand? What categories are you eyeing?

We are always looking for outside-the-box opportunities, specifically in categories the client has yet to explore. With Iggy, the possibilities are really endless because he is as authentic an artist as you can get.

My directive from him when we first started working together was, “I just want to do cool shit,” so that’s what we bring him. ALG successfully conceived of his recent collaborations in swimwear (Billabong) and coffee (Stumptown Coffee Roasters) and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Looking at the way licensing is evolving – around tech/experiential/AR in music – have you got plans to bring these brands into these emerging spaces?

Technological advancements never cease to amaze me. My take on tech/experiential/augmented reality is, if it’s something the client wants to do, if it fits the brand and if there’s a market for it, we explore it. We actually have an augmented reality project for one of our clients currently in development.

The likes of Iggy and Bill Haley were pioneers in their field – how will you guys reflect this? Is there a pressure, when dealing with these names, and what does that feel like?

There is a great responsibility that comes with representing artists of this caliber, and often times what we say “no” to is more important than what we say “yes” to in terms of licensing. There is also the fan base to consider. A large part of our strategy is centred around satisfying existing fans while also targeting younger generations. It’s a delicate balance that we work hard to maintain at all times.

What UK plans have you guys got? What international plans have you guys got?

Our clients are global brands so we are constantly sourcing and fielding international licensing and media opportunities. We have a number of international projects in various stages of development.

What would your ideal licensing partnership be?

An ideal partnership is one that is complementary and authentic. We view every deal we do as an opportunity to expand our clients’ brands and reach to a wider audience; we vet all potential licensing partners extensively to ensure that the campaign will be successful and the relationship mutually rewarding.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent some six years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobHutchins3 if ranting is your thing...

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