Indie Band or Indie Brand? 20/02/2008
Kanye West’s next North American tour is to be sponsored by Absolut Vodka who are to throw official aftershow parties at every city he plays. Is this good? Is it selling out? Is it wrong for a popular artist to endorse an alcoholic beverage? Should we even care?
I’ve said before in previous blogs that artists shouldn’t be afraid of seeing themselves as a ‘Brand’; linking together their music, image, persona etc in order to make themselves into a marketable product that consumers and record companies alike find rather attractive. However this blog is going to look at actual established brands getting on the old musical bandwagon.
Sponsorship is nowhere near a new idea within the music industry, especially not with alcohol; Carling used to sponsor Leeds and Reading and still own several venues throughout the UK, Jack Daniels regularly do secret gigs dotted around the country and Tennents sponsor T in the Park (which I got up at 8:30 on Saturday morning to buy tickets for (after only going to bed at 4:30) to discover ticketmaster.com was feeling ill and decided not to sell me any tickets whilst Seetickets.com happily sold out its allocation in 15 bloody minutes whilst I was sat in a ‘virtual queue’).
We as consumers appear to be completely blasé towards this now, but will we be as nonchalant if the new Coldplay album was brought to us by ‘Nestle’? (Although Chris Martin is quite against the company I hear he adores his Aero bubbles). Artists have always been happy to welcome sponsorship into their lives (and back pockets) as long as it was arms distance away, but with Guy Hands suggesting that sponsored albums could be the way forward; are artists going to be willing to allow major brands to become that closely associated with their music?
And on top of that; how will the fickle British public take to it? There are still some ‘trend setters’ out there who believe signing with a major record label constitutes as ‘selling out’ so god only knows what they’re going to think when the band-they-loved-9-months-ago-before-Zane-Lowe-played them-and-now-their-younger-sister-likes-them-therefore-they’re-now-incredibally-uncool releases their next single in conjunction with Tesco.
I personally don’t think I’d care if I went to my local music retailer and bought an album that had a Coca Cola logo on it just as long as it doesn’t affect the actual music itself. Starbucks were guilty of this by refusing to sell Bruce Springsteen albums unless he took out the curse words within the record. This is something I wholly disagree with as I’m very much for the ‘arts for arts sake’ argument and anyway, no mocha peddling conglomerate is going to tell the boss what to do!
In a discussion at In The City Muse’s manager stated that the group were incredibly close to signing a deal with Microsoft for the ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ album but the deal fell through when a couple of terms couldn’t be agreed upon. He said they proposed some ‘magnificent’ ideas and knowing what both Muse’s music and live shows are like I can only imagine them teaming up with the world’s biggest technology company would produce some potentially staggering results. It would also be a good example of a brand and a band being suited to one another.
When you consider it in that light it starts to look like a potentially appealing idea; if the brand can offer the band something extra that could actually enhance their music then is there any argument against it? And does it even need to enhance the music? Moby and PETA: Every track bought saves a kittens life? Madonna and the NSPCC: Every 100,000 albums sold she adopts another child? The possibilities are endless.
As I write this my colleague informs me that a CD he self released as a college project many years ago was sponsored by the local Driving School. Now there is entrepreneurship for you…
What I’m reading this week: Popjustice