When was the last time you visited a bar, club or concert hall for some live music?
For most of us, it's been six or seven months. That pandemic-related pause has hit the industry hard, with perhaps 90 percent of independent performance spaces in danger of closing for good, threatening millions of livelihoods nationwide.
Now, Diageo's Crown Royal Canadian whisky is stepping up with a relief campaign headlined by Ari Lennox and Anthony Ramos. They duet on Sly and the Family Stone's 1973 hit "If You Want Me to Stay" in this soulful music video, which also features local musicians explaining what various venues mean to them:
On set, Darius Christian, one of the musicians interviewed in the clip, informed the crew that he had played horns on the Lennox/Ramos track. Naturally, they filmed him playing along with the song. You can see that bit at the 1:38 mark.
The video was shot in Baltimore, Detroit and Nashville, and edited to produce this minute-long spot:
"There are so many challenges in the world right now, but one of them that isn't being looked at is the effect all of this will have on our American culture—that one beautiful export of ours that has always been so important to this nation," Anomaly New York executive creative director Seth Jacobs tells Muse. "Music is such an integral part of our national character, so Crown wanted to do their part to help make sure it stays around. If we don't have live music, everybody would be lost."
For the film, the team strove to showcase many facets of the live music experience, from tiny stages to cavernous concert halls, reminding viewers about the special excitement of attending shows. They also took pains to avoid a somber or overly earnest tone, vowing instead to create an upbeat, highly sharable piece of content.
"If You Want Me to Stay" currently steams across most major platforms. For each stream, Crown Royal will donate funds to the Main Street Alliance, a nonprofit group that helps small businesses across America. "It is our responsibility to create opportunities that champion the communities, places and spaces that have always been there for us," says Sophie Kelly, svp of whiskies at Diageo.
In addition, Lennox and Ramos have pledged their royalties to the cause, while their record companies—Dreamville/Interscope and Republic—agreed to match that amount with donations of their own.
Karena Evans directed through m ss ng p eces. Her quasi-documentary style captures the electric ambiance of a steamy late-night set. Evans won Director of the Year honors at the 2018 BET Awards, also taking home Video of the Year honors for "God's Plan" by Drake. More recently, she directed episodes of Snowfall, Swipe Night and P-Valley.
Amid the economic malaise, several recent campaigns have focused in different ways on small businesses. These include Facebook's bittersweet paean to Coogan's bar in New York, Squarespace's soaring tribute to entrepreneurs, and Fiverr's tales of digital transformation.
Client: Crown Royal/Diageo
Production Company: m ss ng p eces
Director: Karena Evans
EP: Ari Kuschnir, Kate Oppenheim, Brian Latt, Dave Saltzman, Edward Grann
Line Producer: Stephanie Bruni
DP: Drew Daniels
Editor: Ryan McCally
Company 3 LA
Colorist: Dave Hussey
Sound Design & Mix: Tom Goldblatt