Scottish brands for Scottish bands: Singer's bid to make trad music and song a marketing tool

She has already persuaded the global streaming service Spotify to recognise the Scots language.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 10:22 am

Now one of Scotland’s singing stars is urging the country’s leading companies, brands and trade organisatoins to join forces with traditional bands and musicians to help sell their home-grown products.

Iona Fyfe, who was named performer of the year at last year’s Scots Language Awards, was called in by Aberdeen Football Club to record a new version of the anthem The Northern Lights with folk musicians Graham Rorie, Aidan Moodie and Michael Biggins.

The response to the song and a video, which were commissioned as part of the club’s season ticket campaign, helped propel it into the top 40 of the UK download charts.

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Now the Huntly-born singer is calling for a host of official partnerships to be created to both work on official campaigns and marketing initiatives, but also wants to see leading Scottish producers do more to support the under-threat music industry.

Suggestions including bringing into artists and musicians to become the official face and sound of a brand, companies creating bespoke events to perform at and programmes to help fund the recording of new albums.

Fyfe said: “It just seems to make makes sense for Scottish bands and musicians to partner with Scottish brands, companies and organisations.

“There is far more collaboration that could be done if they are pushing Scottish stuff. It just seems like the most natural thing to get folk music or Scottish music involved.“It’s the way to go because a lot of these big companies do have money for marketing and they are supportive of the arts.

"We’re missing a trick not to have been doing this before. Hopefully it will happen a lot more now.

“I’d really like to partner up with Scottish gin or beer brands in future. I’d love to work with Ishga Skincare, a Scottish cosmetic company selling organic seaweed skincare.

“Companies and brands could sponsor a band to fund the recording of an album or create marketing campaign events.”

The Scottish traditional music scene was given a major boost in recent years when Belhaven Brewery launched an annual £25,000 innovation bursary and even hosted its own music festival.

Iona Fyfe is one of the country's leading trad music singers and Scots language campaigners. Picture: Elly Lucas

The Hebridean band Skerryvore recently staged a live streaming event on Fingal, a floating hotel in Leith Docks, after the success of an event at Clydeside Distillery in Glasgow last year.

Founder member and managing director Daniel Gillespie said: “Scottish brands partnering with Scottish music and culture to drive global audiences and Scotland overall is something I’ve been championing for years.

“We’ve tried some low level partnerships with our ‘Whisky Sessions’ concerts in the United States, working with malts like Aberlour, Jura and Shackleton.

“We have had an amazing reaction to that that has worked both ways i.e whisky lovers discovering music and music lovers trying malt whisky for the first time.

Skerryvore bandmates Daniel Gillespie, Alan Scobie, Fraser West, Alec Dalglish and Martin Gillespie recently played a live stream gig from the floating hotel Fingal in Leith.

“We also have had our recent live streaming events where we have partnered with venues like the Clydeside Distillery in Glasgow, the Burns Museum in Ayrshire and Fingal.

"Across our three live streams we reached just under 20,000 people in 27 countries. The past year has only highlighted the huge potential reach of Scottish music online.”

Stuart Cassells, a founder member of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, has carved out a career in the whisky industry since leaving the band and is currently general manager of The Macallan Estate.

He said: “In the past, the new audiences that many brands based in Scotland were trying to reach tried to be quite international in how they wanted to be perceived.

"That was very different to what was happening in the 1960s and 1970s. When you look back at the whisky brands and bottles that were launched then they were very overtly Scottish. Someone once said to me that it was almost a competition to see who could be the most Scottish.

"Whisky brands had to flip it round and move away from that and as the markets started to get bigger globally they had to appeal to audiences where that message wasn't as relevant.

“However I actually think that is coming back now. Brands are beginning to see the benefits of being Scottish and the importance of having a Scottish identity and what that stands for.

"Around the world, Scotland stands for quality, provenance and heritage. A brand that has that is something that is really powerful. More than ever now, it's about storytelling and emotional things. Music plays to the emotions.

“Events like Celtic Connections have done a huge amount to make Scottish music more understood and accepted.

"It's become part of a bigger melting pot and we've had some incredible musicians in recent years that have helped that happen.”

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of national tourism agency VisitScotland, said: “The significance of Scotland’s languages, dialects and traditional music cannot be underestimated.

“It is vital that Scotland is able to provide a memorable and unique visitor experience to meet ever-changing consumer demands. Our languages, dialects and music have the potential to be a key ingredient in the Scottish tourism offer. They can provide an extra layer to the authentic Scottish experience for our visitors.

“We would encourage businesses to consider adding an element of our languages and dialects or traditional music to their tourism offering where appropriate.

"We believe they will continue to prove valuable assets to Scotland’s identity that capture the imagination of the Scots at home and around the world.”


Caledonia: Singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean's folk ballad, which was famously written while he was feeling homesick as he was busking around France, only became well known when it was used for a Tennent's Lager advert in 1991, although fellow Scot Frankie Miller was used instead.

Wild Mountain Thyme: The Silencers, one of Scotland's most successful bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s, were commissioned by the Scottish Tourist board to create a new version of the 18th century Scottish-Irish folk song Wild Mountain Thyme.

Young at Heart: Scottish band The Bluebells had their biggest hit with the song in 1983 and reformed when it was used in a Volswagen advert a decade later, sending them back onto Top of the Pops.

Summer's Gone: Edinburgh-based folk-pop Aberfeldy enjoyed huge success with a song from their debut album, recorded on one microphone at the Bongo Club, after it was used for a Diet Coke advert, which ran during the 2007 Oscars ceremony.

You've Got The Power: The indie-pop band Win shot to fame in the mid-1980s when McEwan's Lager used their song to provide a soundtrack for their futuristic video, which was shown during the football World Cup.

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