It’s been the centre of every policy fight surrounding P2P downloading, fair use, and digital manipulation for the last 20-plus years – it was only two years ago that the recording industry was seriously considering suing Girl Talk. He infuriated the established music industry by remixing other peoples songs into something completely unrecognizable – and just as Top 40-ready. When the cease and desists, documentaries, and news stories settled, Girl Talk was still standing.
A small victory for the Internet’s original sin.
Cory Doctorow, co-editor of Boing Boing, truly believes that this controversy around music will continue for a long time to come – and when one of the greatest living science fiction authors tells you something is going to stick around, you listen.
Copyrights and who actually owns music – these debates are by no means finished.
In fact, as the Internet only accelerates change, it’s only going to get more intense.
That idea is perhaps captured best by this Doctorow quote from the interview hyperlinked above:
“Movies are still in their infancy. Books are in their middle age. Stories themselves are ancient. But music is primal.”
Music is primal – but a positive relationship between musicians and marketers is a product of digital market fragmentation. Marketing music patronage is still new. Which is why it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the marketer’s relationship with this primal expression of original sin.
As marketers, our relationship with music has always been tenuous.
For most of the 20th century, the jingle was the crown jewel of music in marketing – an interruption-based ear worm crafted to drill its way into your long-term memory. Juicy Fruit has been using the same jingle for almost 40 years. In all that time, no one has ever compared the “taste that’s gonna move you” to Beethoven’s 5th, but there’s no denying that it sold a hell of a lot of gum to skiers with zinc on their nose. Jingles have even experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years, with everything old becoming new again.
But in 1985, everything that defined marketing’s relationship with music changed forever.
After 50 years of jingles and soap commercials, Phil Dusenberry lit Michael Jackson’s hair on fire.
In case you where born after 1985, let me repeat that:
He set the King of Pop’s hair on fire – for a Pepsi commercial.
The reworked version of Billie Jean, entitled Pepsi Generation, was released as a 7″ single. It didn’t go platinum, but it will live forever as the best hair product safety PSA in history.
Pepsi positioned itself as the choice of a new generation, and advertising added two new terms to the slide deck.
The act of shamelessly ignoring the product and its features and attempting to embody the idealized values of its core consumers.
Compromising your integrity, morality, and principles in exchange for the sweet kiss of cash money or “success” (however defined).
Today you’ll find lifestyle marketing considered in every product and every category. Fashion, sports drinks – even fast food – will promise you that the life of your dreams is out their if only you hunker down and bring 144 Chicken McNuggets to the office.
“Sell Out”, on the other hand, is something that you don’t hear much anymore.
Almost all at once, that Pepsi-MJ-like opportunity transformed into go-to-market strategy for Apple’s iPod. The Propellerheads, N.E.R.D., Black Eyed Peas, Wolfmother, The Vines; every one of these artists got the iPod bump.
Micro music videos for catchy pop tunes are not a bad strategy when you own the one-stop shop to buy music online.
And by the time the iPod mini hit the scene, Apple had refined this strategy down to a formula that was able to create international celebrities overnight.
Personally, Feist’s 1234 is burned into a part of my brain that I could have used for remembering birthdays or where I left my house keys.
Blame it on a massive downturn in the economy, the fragmentation of media consumption in the Internet age, or the pirating of music. If you can make a buck off your art, it’s a badge of honor today – not a mark of shame. I doubt that I’m alone on Feist’s catchy tune or that you’ll ever hear “sell out” mentioned again – unless Banksy shills for Benjamin Moore House Paints.
Music and marketing’s relationship has changed forever; we’ve gone from being the makers of “sell outs” to patrons of the arts.
Today, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour is Heineken’s house band. Those charming commercials perform such bankable double duty as both music videos and integrated content strategy, I’m certain that they scored a CMO or CD a new boathouse in upstate New York.
A way better mascot for beer than any football hooligan ever was.
Then again, so are the little bottle-shaped drink tickets handed out at many of their appearances.
Robot Dogs, gotta have robot dogs.
My friends, these brands have tied musicians and lifestyle marketing into their marketing strategies – an integrated piece of the lifestyle marketing mix that is turning beer brands into record labels. Music is a cross promotional tool; an opportunity to fill your brand’s Facebook page with new fans.
And they are legion.
So grab a bottle of Coke and download a free song on iTunes.
It is a functioning national content strategy. It is a public relations play. It is a media buy. It is brands contributing to a dialog about culture as old as humankind. It is just another tool in your arsenal of never making making a Super Bowl ad again.
Now let’s see the Juicy Fruit jingle do that.