Adam Kruger devises a scheme to conserve music. It was 2008, when piracy was on the rise, streaming had yet to take off, and physical albums had long been displaced by digital singles. It’s also in the midst of a recession, so business owners are looking for ways to make up for their losses. Kruger, a gregarious 22-year-old from Los Angeles, fantasizes about a product he dubs “brand decline.” Rappers are always double-checking product names; why not let brands pay for a spot in poetry?
He sold the idea to record company executives and used it as a way to make quick money. They turned him down because of his artistic integrity. He contacted Interscope vice-president Steve Berman, a name he knew from the skits between songs on Eminem records. Berman doesn’t like the decline of the brand, but he needs a new revenue stream to cover the cost of video production. He gave Krueger a list of new artists for the record label; maybe he could take some proper precautions.
Krueger focused his energy on young artists, believing that accepting the money would not be creatively bankrupt, but rather foster their vision. By the end of that summer, he had won his first win — a deal between a clothing brand called Vixen’s Visions and a new pop artist called Lady Gaga. Over the next few years, Krueger became a sponsored content scammer, making deals between artists and brands: Christina Aguilera and Oranum’s psychic hotline, Florida and porn sites Live Jasmin, Jason Derulo and singles site Plenty Fish. Kruger sees it as just a middleman, taking a pay cut for offering dating services. In the fall of 2016, he was working on his biggest deal to date, between Britney Spears and the dating app Bumble.
“It was almost a million dollars,” Krueger recalled. “When I flew to Los Angeles in November to shoot the video, the Bumble brand tried to bypass me and contact Britney’s lawyer directly, but that didn’t happen. You were trying to beat the middleman.” Spears took a different view. TMZ reports that Spears’ camp believes Kruger fraudulently acted as their agent and profited more than 40 percent from the $800,000 sponsorship fee. Her lawyer sent a letter threatening to sue. (Bumble declined to comment on the recording.)