Music is more accessible than ever, yet it’s getting harder and harder for artists to get their work into revenue-generating distribution channels, so musicians are looking for unique ways to promote their new CDs.
On April 11, country artist and Hannah Montana star Billy Ray Cyrus kicked off one such promotion with Buffets Inc., the Greer, S.C.-based operator of Old Country Buffet, Ryan’s, HomeTown Buffet, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet restaurants. Cyrus’ latest album, Change My Mind, is available for sale at Buffets Inc. restaurants through late May, with proceeds benefiting Buffets’ philanthropic partner, the Armed Services YMCA’s (ASYMCA) Operation Outdoors, a camp program for the children of military personnel.
“These days, it’s hard to find a record store, let alone a record store that sells great food,” Cyrus says. “And the fact that the proceeds go to help these kids, it’s a no-brainer. As soon as they said it was to help our military, I was in.” The title track of Cyrus’ 1992 debut album, Some Gave All, is a tribute to Vietnam War veterans. That album also includes Cyrus’ best-known hit, “Achy Breaky Heart.”
According to Alice Crowder, vice president of marketing for Buffets Inc.: “When a guest comes into our restaurant, we have a counter card and a poster talking about the partnership, so it’s so much more exposure than they would get in any other storefront, and it allows us to tell the story of how they’re helping military families. It builds a nice connection with folks in a way that’s unexpected, but that people really respond to.”
“We love Billy Ray as a personality because he’s a proven star with a lot of the same values we have. He’s a Disney dad, and a lot of generations know and connect to him, so he’ll help open our message and the message of the military to a whole, new group of folks,” Crowder says.
Buffets Inc. conducted other CD-sale partnerships benefiting the ASYMCA with Montgomery Gentry and the Charlie Daniels Band. “Each of the artists we choose has worked in support of the military, and military families are a passion point for us as a business,” she says. The Montgomery Gentry promotion generated $15,000 for the ASYMCA, and Crowder expects the Cyrus promotion to reach similar numbers.
While other artists have launched restaurant chains to extend their personal brands (Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill, for instance), Cyrus has no plans to follow suit. “I think I’ll leave that up to the folks at Buffets. They’re doing a great job feeding people,” he says. “I’ll focus on the music and the acting here and there.”