Gwen Stefani or Fergie could be a good representation of Hello Kitty ?

Sanrio deal takes band/brand links to next phase

By Michael Paoletta

NEW YORK (Billboard) - In coming months, Hello Kitty and other globally branded characters in parent company Sanrio's product line will be singing a new tune. Billboard has learned that Sanrio has entered a multiyear, joint-venture deal with Cherry Lane Music Publishing.

Cherry Lane will exclusively create all original music associated with Hello Kitty and Sanrio's other major U.S. properties, including Chococat and My Melody. The publishing company also will administer the joint venture, which will be announced Tuesday (January 23) at the New York Palace Hotel during a Sanrio-hosted breakfast.

This business arrangement follows on the heels of other partnerships under which artists deliver newly recorded music to specific brands. In recent months, Bo Bice updated "Time Has Come Today" for Hasbro's Monopoly Here and Now board game, while the Black Eyed Peas concocted fresh tunes for Snickers' online destination,

The union between Sanrio and Cherry Lane bypasses one-off deals like these in favor of a longer-lasting relationship. Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, a tweens and teens marketing and communications agency in New York, said this is the next phase in alliances between band and brand.

Sanrio will look to Cherry Lane and its songwriters to create and produce sounds, songs and themes for their main characters. Though the deal is still being fine-tuned, with no commitments from anyone yet, Cherry Lane acts like, John Legend and Wolfmother could, for example, find themselves creating theme songs for Hello Kitty and other characters.

The music has the potential to be heard in various mediums, including physical CDs, digital tracks, ringtones, TV shows and premiums with other licensees (Hello Kitty dolls with music, perhaps).

For Sanrio president/COO Mas Imai, the partnership is a way for brands like Hello Kitty to strengthen and deepen their connections with consumers. "Having a musical relationship with Cherry Lane is ideal for us," Imai said. "They understand our brand essence."

Cherry Lane also understands the music industry, which was key for Sanrio, Imai noted. And Sanrio offers Cherry Lane a worldwide billion-dollar presence, encompassing products, retail shops and more than 120 U.S. licensees.

While Cherry Lane will tap its own artist/songwriter roster first, outside writers will not be ruled out. "Fergie could be a good representation of Hello Kitty," Cherry Lane VP of advertising and catalog development Dan Rosenbaum said. "Gwen Stefani also comes to mind."

Cherry Lane's deal with Sanrio is similar to its business arrangement with NASCAR in that the music publisher is responsible for creating music for the organization and the music assets are held in a joint venture.

Cherry Lane has business relationships with other brands as well, including NFL Films and World Wrestling Entertainment. In these arrangements, the music publisher administers and promotes existing music.