In the music business, as with many other enterprises, it doesn’t hurt to have a partner. Take it from Smithfield, the rising duo of Trey Smith and Jennifer Fiedler. Smith and Fiedler, longtime friends from Texas, parlayed their single “Hey Whiskey” into a beneficial corporate partnership with the Rebecca Creek Distillery. The company, based in San Antonio, is famed for its popular brand Rebecca Creek Whiskey, which is starting to expand from the Lone Star State to other markets across the country, including Nashville.
Rebecca Creek helps the duo in a number of areas, mainly in promotion and marketing. This past fall, for one example, Rebecca Creek hosted an invite-only event in Nashville at the Lucchese Boot Company store in Nashville, featuring music by Smithfield and tastings of its various whiskey and vodka brands. What better way to get two names in front of the industry at the same time.
In addition, there are cross-promotional efforts, involving radio and all the available digital platforms. “They also have their own iHeart station called Rebecca Creek Radio. So they were playing ‘Hey Whiskey’ there,” Fiedler explains. ” And on our radio tour, we took two bottles to every station all over the country. So pretty much every state has gotten to try Rebecca Creek. They know the brand now.” Fiedler adds, “Our fans also post about loving Rebecca Creek Whiskey. So the cross-promotion helps both of us.”
The partnership formed from one of those serendipitous right-place/right-time scenarios. “It was kind of crazy how we got with them,” says Fiedler. It all began with “Hey Whiskey,” a plaintive ballad written by the duo and two additional writers. The song garnered heavy airplay on Sirius XM’s The Highway, beginning with its debut in 2016, and now it’s a sing-along fan favorite at Smithfield’s shows. “It’s been our little song that could,” says Smith with a laugh.
The “little song” resonated in a big way with a rep from Rebecca Creek. “Trey and I did a concert in Texas,” Fiedler recalls, “and we were trying to raise money for my family. One of their [Rebecca Creek] guys hears ‘Hey Whiskey’ at the benefit show and it was right before we put it out as a single. He reached out to us and said, ‘I love that Whiskey song and we would love to partner with you guys.’ That was so amazing.”
Generally, when fans think of corporate support, they tend to associate it on a larger scale with more well-known artists. The Bayer aspirin company, for instance, has sponsored Luke Bryan’s annual Farm Tour for the past several years. Bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent has been teaming up with the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain for CD and DVD releases. Cracker Barrel has also collaborated with such artists as Martina McBride and Josh Turner for various music projects. The Almay cosmetics brand recognized a perfect pairing when it named Carrie Underwood as its global brand ambassador.
Up-and-coming acts like Smithfield hardly get those kinds of deals thrown their way. But they can still benefit from company partnerships. While they do not completely eliminate the costs of touring or promotion, those partnerships can certainly alleviate some of the financial stress that comes with the new artist territory. Smithfield’s Trey Smith outlines some of the features of their relationship with Rebecca Creek.
“At CMA Music Fest this past year, they helped sponsor our fan club party and did some merchandising,” Smith notes. “That was beneficial for both. And I’m sure they will do other events like the one they did in Nashville.”
Fiedler adds, “They have provided things like our all access passes on the road. They have their logo on it. So everybody that comes to our show backstage has a pass with Rebecca Creek on it. That just makes it easier on us. And it also gives them more exposure.”
Of course, the two entities have their sights set down the road as well, including a possible tour sponsorship. “We have talked about that for next year,” Fiedler notes, “if we do a small Smithfield tour, like us and one other act. Maybe title it ‘Rebecca Creek Whiskey Presents,’ something along that line. Not that they would have to fund the entire tour, but would help fund some things.”
In Smithfield’s case, their Rebecca Creek relationship enjoys a symbiotic flow, as both parties attempt to grow their separate brands. “I feel like we help each other with that name recognition, which is so important,” Smith says. “Obviously the goal with any partnership is to grow together. That’s the great thing about this. It feels like we’re both coming up together.” Duo partner Fiedler enthusiastically agrees. “Rebecca Creek has been in Texas for over 10 years,” she points out. “If you talk about them back home, that is the brand of whiskey that everyone goes to. But outside of that area, they haven’t been known. So, the cool thing is that Smithfield went national this year and they also went national this year. They are now in Tennessee, which is cool because that’s where we live now.”
As Smith earnestly explains, the music business is rigorous enough with the constant demands of touring, plus finding time to write and record in between. Then throw money concerns into the mix and it can become a quite stressful shebang. So, he and Fiedler embrace their corporate partner with grateful arms.
“It’s so important for artists now, and especially artists like us,” Smith says. “The best way to put it is you’re surviving. It’s tough and you need partners who are willing to fund things and partner with you. I think it just helps create more visibility, builds our brand and lets people know more of what we are about. They’re a great partner.”
Check out Smithfield’s latest song “Our World” and their additional music on the duo’s website.