By Chris Borchert
Here’s an idea: I’m VP of Marketing for the Y—– Corporation and I want to make headlines with an advertising campaign. I have a boatload of cash, so I contact management for (insert Artist here) and propose the following offer: produce for me 10-12 previously unreleased songs for a new album. The Y—– Corporation will then release, one by one, 10-12 ad spots, each one featuring a different (insert Artist here)’s song, and the 10-12 songs will culminate in (insert Artist here)’s next official album release. By way of example: Ford cuts a deal with Tom Petty, where Tom Petty pens an album’s worth of tracks to back a series of commercials for Ford’s new “Buy American, Drive America” campaign. Talk about product placement.
I know what some of you are thinking: this is exactly the kind of sleazy corporate profiteering that diminishes quality music and encourages commercialized dribble aimed at the product-consuming masses. Well, maybe. But why couldn’t this be just another creative frontier for artists to explore? After all, why is this so different than, say, composing music for a Hollywood blockbuster? After all, aren’t both artists tasked with writing music to help sell a product? – or even more simply, an idea?
Would it really be so surprising to hear that Kelly Clarkson released a string of tracks to back Weight Watchers’ new “Beautiful You” campaign, and that those tracks will culminate in her next official commercial offering? Or that P. Diddy just put out a concept album recounting the fanciful, yet clandestine tales of a night fueled by Ciroc?
Who cares if an artist has a product in mind when developing music? What is poor quality music will remain poor quality music, but what is creative and smart and engaging will survive and turn heads and remind us that we are individuals looking to be moved by things that are good and interesting. Is the source of the inspiration so critical to the character of the music that we need to reject altogether a particular medium by which it is conveyed? Can Radiohead’s IBM commercials do for me tomorrow what The War on Drugs’ Slave Ambient did for me last summer? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d sure like to see Radiohead try.
And after all, it’s just an idea.