Who Doesn't Sell Out?
schrade at akrobiz.com
Tue Nov 27 19:30:54 CST 2007
Nicked from the good folks over at Relayers:
Who doesn't sell out?
MARK LEPAGE Freelance
Saturday, November 24, 2007
The other night, I was watching The Who. Or listening to Nissan. I forget
The ad featured 1971's Bargain and a 2007 Sentra - both fine vehicles - but
then again, it might have been Pinball Wizard for Saab. Or another Nissan ad,
or any of three CSI franchises, or an episode of House or One Tree Hill. I
Can See for Miles, or Baba O'Riley, or Who Are You on endless repeat until you
don't know your own name.
Clearly, in 2007 the old "Oscar Meyer has a way" writers have been sent to
the baloney factory as the rock stars jingle all the way to the bank.
And, yes, some of the rock/marketing synergies have produced some mordant
laughter - at least outside the boardroom. Iggy Pop's drug-centric Lust for Life
and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines? Diet Pepsi and the Ramones' Blitzkrieg
Bop? No stranger than Meat Loaf serving up Dr. Pepper. Or Swiffer and Devo.
Wendy's used Blister in the Sun, written by committed vegetarian Gordon Gano.
And classic, or even recognizable, rock or pop songs are only the most
obvious. There have been online guessing games to identify the M&Ms song (Such
Great Heights by Iron and Wine) or the Volkswagen tune (Pink Moon by Nick
Drake). And in the same commercial break featuring The Who/Nissan, there is the
Clash version of Pressure Drop. Black Market Clash, indeed.
In recent years, it seemed the only unbuyable major music catalogue belonged
to Led Zeppelin. It was the Rolls Royce of songbooks. And now it is the
Cadillac. Madison Avenue using rock to move product, and vice-versa, is so
mundane it's hard to remember when it was forbidden.
Well, another classic rock band was approached for Cadillac's 2003 Break
Through TV campaign before Led Zeppelin.
"Correct," says Jeff Jampol, manager of the Doors.
They said no.
"Correct." Jampol also manages the estates of Janis Joplin and Gram Parsons.
"The Doors have, to date, never done a commercial."
Not officially. There was a near-collision with General Motors back in 1967.
"Light My Fire was the No. 1 song in the world, basically," Jampol continues.
"And Jim (Morrison) was off somewhere, and GM approached the Doors to use
Light My Fire in a television commercial for the Opel Cadet. They couldn't find
Jim, and Robbie (Krieger, guitarist) is the guy who wrote Light My Fire, and
so the three other Doors made the deal. (GM) actually made the commercial,
and as I understand, it actually aired a couple of times. And Jim got back and
found out what happened and was completely apoplectic.
"What I am told," Jampol says, "he called the head of GM and basically said
if you air this commercial one more time, I'm gonna go on the Ed Sullivan show
and smash an Opel with a sledgehammer."
The ad was discontinued. A philosophy, however, was in its waning days.
"It used to be that commercials were death - it was a complete corporate
sellout. Rock 'n' roll was a free, anti-authoritarian, rebellious concept."
When Nike used the Beatles' Revolution in 1987, fans were ready to hit the
bricks in rebellion. It was a flashpoint moment - but not as intended. Rather
than validating the inseparable connection between the lyric content - and
context - and the tune, that moment separated music and meaning forever, in ad
"And today, media and pop culture and rock have completely intermingled.
Today's generation completely accepts commercials as a way to learn about
And to consume, both the product and the song. Which is which? And is that
question even valid?
John Bissell was one of the first independent music supervisors in Los
Angeles. Now the president of Mothlight Music, he works as the intermediary
between music publishers - artists, or whoever owns their songs - and the movie, TV
or, sometimes, commercial producers who want to use their music. He has put
together soundtracks for the films Shrek the Third and You Kill Me and TV's
Ugly Betty. And he married Happy Jack and Hummer. Easier said than done.
"That spot, when it was originally shot, they had asked me to find five great
film composers," Bissell says. "I found five composers and we gave them the
footage, and didn't give them any sort of creative instructions at all - we
just wanted them to do their best possible piece for one minute.
"And we got five incredible ideas, but at that point the campaign decided
they wanted to go rock 'n' roll. So they decided to use Jonathan Richman's Road
Runner. And Jonathan Richman is, in his own words, an environmentalist, so he
was going to give us the publishing, but not allow us to use his master."
Meaning, they could re-record the song, but not use the original.
"We got a few different bands to record the song, and not long before the
commercial aired, we heard from Jonathan Richman's attorney, saying that
Jonathan was gonna be the anti-SUV poster boy. That was enough to freak out
business affairs, so they ended up going with The Who song. Which ended up being an
For every Richman, there are, seemingly, many Whos. The minor issue here is
the artist's relationship to his or her own song.
"Talking to people like Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, he says that he might
write a song that's very personal to him, but once it's recorded and
released, it takes on its own life. (The Who) might be able to separate themselves
from (the process)."
The major issue is the artist's search for an audience. John Mellencamp was
once a vocal opponent of advertising. "From what I read with John Mellencamp,"
Bissell says, "he had said he'd listened to Tom Petty's most recent album,
which didn't sell at all, and said it was one of (Petty's) best albums ever."
Mellencamp wasn't going to be an American Fool. This Is Our Country went to
Chevrolet. "And off that one song, he debuted in the top 10 in Billboard.
Whereas he hadn't been there in a long time."
"He said this was a way to hopefully raise awareness about his new album, and
he felt really strongly that it had a good message to it. And if it meant
being in a Chevy commercial to get people to buy that message, then so be it. A
lot of the artists are having to do that now."
The Record Industry Perplex (RIP)
So what happened? Don't recording artists pay the castle mortgage with record
Alongside his management duties, Jampol teaches courses in artist marketing
"For generations now, artists have gotten confused, they think they're in the
record business," Jampol says. "They're not."
He delineates five revenue streams for an artist. Tickets to live concerts
should make up 60 to 65 per cent of income; T-shirts and other merchandise, 10
to 15 per cent; song publishing, 10 to 15 per cent; film and TV soundtracks,
five to 10 per cent.
"And record sales, two to four per cent. Record companies are in the record
business. (Artists) are in the tickets and T-shirt business. This is obviously
a sweeping generalization, but if you have a platinum record, you're
Which means if you've sold 1 million albums in the U.S., you haven't even
paid back your advance.
"My God, what U2 and Bruce Springsteen make off a 2-million-selling record
probably pays for their catering budget from Tuesday to Wednesday on the
The album markets the tour; the hit single is the commercial. But how do you
get them out there? What's missing here?
Radio and MTV. Have kids, and the rest of what we used to think of as the pop
music audience, tuned them out? According to a recent piece by Matthew
Gilbert of the Boston Globe, the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards drew 12 million
viewers. The 2007 broadcast drew 5.7 million. They barely play videos anyway. And
according to a Canadian government survey, teenagers spent 11.3 hours each
week listening to radio in 1999, down to 8.5 hours in 2003. And when Radiohead
gamely offered their latest album for sale online with no dictated minimum
price, they found they could give it away: 62 per cent of downloaders paid
So when nobody listens to anything anywhere and nobody wants to pay for
anything, what's left? You turn to the experts, who know how to maximize your
real commodity - your brand. You turn to advertising, because they will pay, and
sell. But you better know with whom you are getting into bed.
The Poker Game
"There's an old saying in poker that when you walk into a room, there's a
sucker at every table," says Jampol. "And if you can't tell within eight to 10
seconds who it is - it's you."
To avoid being the sucker, an artist must know the value of his brand - his
message and his credibility. And he should match it with a compatible
advertiser. This "brand coupling" should be mutually beneficial.
"Any time you couple one brand with another, unless they're on complete
parity, one brand is going to be sucking credibility from the other," Jampol
says. "You've gotta make sure you're not the suckee.
"You take a cool brand like The Who - what are you gonna couple it with?"
Apparently, Nissan and Saab and CSI. "I've had people come to me with the Jim
Morrison Light My Fire Action Doll. Does that make me see the brand of the
While Jampol considers which opportunity will mark Jim Morrison's entry into
the commercial sweepstakes, consult the sidebar for the identity of the
iconic modern rock figure whose custodians believe an action doll suits his brand
And consider that Warhol's famous line about fame was only half right.
Fifteen seconds? In the future, every rock star will be famous for 30, between the
Viagra and Pepsi spots.
(In)famous moment in rock 'n' roll merchandising
Why sell your soul for rock 'n' roll when you can sell... everything else?
1971 - The New Seekers turn a jingle into a single when they re-record the
Coca-Cola song I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (in Perfect Harmony). In
other words, advertisers were co-opted first rather than vice-versa.
1981 - The Rolling Stones sign the first corporate sponsorship contract for a
rock tour with Jovan perfume. They have since been sponsored by Budweiser,
Sprint and Tommy Hilfiger. Bruce Springsteen, by comparison, has never had a
1984 - Michael Jackson outbids Paul McCartney for the Beatles catalogue
which, via the Byzantine machinations and fumblings of Apple Corp., the Beatles
themselves, and a cackle of record industry hyenas, the group did not own.
Jackson pays $47.5 million (which one might have imagined Paul having lying
around the car ashtray), allowing him to use the songs as he will. McCartney,
asked what he thinks of having Jackson as his "boss," says "I think he needs to
give me a raise" on royalty payments. The boss does not. The working stiff
remains billionaire. See repercussions below.
1985 - Burger King uses Aretha Franklin's Freeway of Love in a campaign,
believed to be the first licensing of the master recording of a hit.
1987 - Nike pays Capitol Records and Boss Jackson $250,000 to use the
Beatles' Revolution. It is the first and last significant instance of concerted fan
protest against not just the marketing use of a beloved song, but the
vitiation of the song's message. McCartney says, "Songs like Revolution don't mean
a pair of sneakers, they mean Revolution," and the Beatles sue. Nike points
out that Yoko supported the licensing deal. Everyone sues everyone. The
commercial runs until March 1988.
1989 - Madonna's Like A Prayer is the first song by a pop superstar to debut
as a commercial before it is released as a single. The song airs in a Pepsi
ad the night before it is unveiled on MTV. Pepsi and Madonna have filmed two
separate videos. When the suits finally see hers - the burning crosses, the
black martyr - there is praying, cursing, and cancelling. Madonna gets to keep
the $5 million guarantee from the deal. Like A Player.
1997 - The Man Who Sold Tomorrow: David Bowie, through innovative broker
David Pullman, issues $55 million in 10-year bonds against royalties from his
first 25 albums. Intellectual property enters the realm of finance, with 287
songs from the former cross-dresser as collateral. Investors can expect a 7.9
per cent annual yield. Moody's Investor Services rates the Bowie Bonds at A3,
which is the same rating GM has.
2003 - Led Zeppelin finally agrees to license one of its songs, Rock and
Roll, to Cadillac for an ad campaign. The amount of money involved is said to be
"ridiculous," although by whom is not known. Cadillac will later drop Led
Zep. An amusement park in South Carolina expects to open "Led Zeppelin - The
Ride", a 155-foot-tall rollercoaster, synched to Whole Lotta Love, next May.
2004 - U2 and Apple announce a "co-branding and content-building" deal
involving the sale of a custom U2 iPod. Apple has the rights to sell U2 songs from
the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb album on its iTunes service. Apple sells
$537 million worth of iPods and $216 million worth of iMacs.
2006 - Courtney Sells Kurt: the Widder Cobain sells 25 per cent of her share
of Nirvana publishing to Larry Mestel of Primary Wave Music Publishing for
what is believed to be $50 million. Love objected to Dr. Martens use of
Cobain's image in an ad; the new deal allows the National Entertainment Collectibles
Association to issue lunchboxes and flasks bearing his image and signature,
and an 18-inch "action figure" featuring the clothes and guitar from the
legendary Smells Like Teen Spirit video. Quote from online ad: "His life ended in
tragedy, but Kurt's legend lives on in the hearts of all Nirvana fans!"
Cobain tops Elvis on Forbes' list of best-earning dead celebrities.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007
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