Houston Calling

Would YOU sell out?

November 16th, 2005 · No Comments

I just read an interesting article about the evolution of advertising and music licensing. Are bands still considered to be “selling out” when they allow their songs to be played in a commercial?

Here’s a snippet:

Cynics might dismiss McCartney’s earlier protests as sour grapes because he didn’t own the rights to Beatles songs and, hence, didn’t receive money for the ads. But others might say McCartney now seeks advertising opportunities for his music because “selling out one’s artistic integrity” has become an obsolete concept. The taint is gone.

Those who still refuse to license song rights to advertisers often are seen as either quaintly retro or hopelessly behind the times. Others, of course, see them as lonely voices upholding the integrity of rock ‘n’ roll.

Neil Young, whose This Song’s for You lambasted artistic sellouts, and Tom Waits, who sued a European car manufacturer for using a “sound-alike,” are among the last major holdouts. Last month, the Doors’ John Densmore made headlines by refusing to let Cadillac use Break on Through to sell cars.

“People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music,” Densmore told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music; other people say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music. Onstage, when we played those songs, they felt mysterious and magic. They’re not for rent.”

But almost every rock icon — from Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin and the Clash — has let his or her songs be shilled on the air. And younger artists such as Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins and Modest Mouse seem to wonder what all the “selling out” fuss is about. For Generation Y, it’s become cross-marketing to appear on The O.C. or in an iPod commercial.

How did we get to the point where Young’s caustic lyrics (“Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi/ain’t singin’ for Coke/I don’t sing for nobody/makes me feel like a joke”) have been replaced in pop culture by U2’s Bono writhing on the screen with white iPod headphones as he sings Vertigo?

It’s simple, says Gregory Grene, a vice president and music producer at Foote, Cone & Belding, a global advertising firm whose clients include Diet Coke, Kraft and Taco Bell.

“They want to sell records,” he says from his New York office. “Increasingly, record labels don’t have the budget for marketing, and this is a phenomenal way to market an artist. Radio station formats are getting narrower, too.”

Read the entire article here.

I am interested in your opinions. Post a comment or come to the Houston Calling message board to discuss.

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Tags: Music

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