The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Music Industry Hates Me … And Not Just Because I Played With Terrible 80’s Popstars!
April 23, 2007, 7:45 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back I wrote a chapter in MTV’s “Collections Of Cool” about why brands should look to bands interms of how to market themselves and build real consumer loyalty.

While I truly believed what I said … I purposely wrote it in a rather tongue-in-cheek style [starting off with why Chris Martin from Coldplay hates me] to ensure the message came across without sounding preachy or arrogant.

Anyway its seemingly had quite an impact because not only are MTV using it as part of their B2B marketing campaign [see pic above] but the global head of EPIC Records decided what I was saying was an affront to the music industry and used it as the basis of his speech [read: rant] at the recent music industry conference.

Problem is, his argument was rather flawed.

You see he said bands were nothing like brands … because they were not formulated with the single goal to ‘sell shitloads of stuff’. 

Now while I sort-of agree with his point [which was one of the things I said brands should learn to do rather than just focus on the lowest-common-denominator for sales] there are 3 fatal flaws to this argument …

1. While most bands start with a view to play and create the music they love … they still dream of going on to sell tons of stuff – be it tickets / cds / songs / t-shirts.

2. The modern record company is obsessed with developing and packaging mainstream artists [often more driven by looks than talent … Pussycat Dolls for example] that can make lots of impact and money as quickly as possible.

3. It doesn’t matter if you are a one-hit-wonder or – as rare as they are now becoming – a career band/singer … you still develop into a brand, even if you are not purposefully doing anything to encourage it.

Don’t get me wrong … I am sure the majority of artists don’t start out with the intention of losing their individual identity and metamorphosing into a brand [though I think acts like U2, Madonna and The Stones may be different] but in the minds of the consumer – the people who have the power to make or break them – they associate with bands for more reasons than just a love of their music … it’s also about how they act … what they represent … what they believe in … what they value  … inessence they become a ‘badge of allegiance’ rather than just a creator of popular music.

I really should find a way to put this article up as I’ve banged on about it long enough … so if anyone knows of a site I can link to where you can download/read a .pdf file, can you let me know.

Anyway it’s nice to cause abit of shit on a wider scale – it’s just sad that the recording industry [whose members I was celebrating] are more upset about what I’ve written than the brands owners, who are most in need of a slap.

Oooooh it’s a strange world!

28 Comments so far
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This is interesting and ties into something I read this morning. The fifth season of the German Pop idol is running at the minute and we’re down to the final three. They are all actually quite good, which has surprised everyone a little. One of them is called Max. Max is a young bloke who has his own band and only took part in “Pop Idol” as part of a bet. He’s a rocker, has his own identity, doesn’t take any crap, chucked in school for music and is really rather good.

They threw him off the show yesterday.

Not the viewing public, oh no, he got through on Saturday night, but the TV station and the record company.

Max, you see, wanted a contract for his band if he won and he constantly told the record label and the TV station what he thought about pop music and the show format as a whole. He refused the play the clown, cancelled press meetings and would only sing what he wanted and not what they wanted. That’s not the package that the record company wanted so he had to go.

I don’t think Max was thinking about being a brand, but he was being authentic and sticking up for what he believed in; which in turn gives him a tone of voice that is instantly recognisable, honest and angry.

Comment by Marcus

oh, and morning.

Comment by Marcus

Well the guy who criticised that piece you wrote is clearly a bit of a tit.

Brands as bands is a particularly good way (if not the best way) of how brands should be thinking of how to connect with their customers. I’ve been listening to hours of new media marketing podcast sessions recently and it struck me that the idea of ‘marketing in social media’ is the equivalent of a marketing executive interrupting a conversation between two people on the net to give them a commercial message. Doesn’t sound right does it?

The old interruptive model is on the wane and the kids don’t trust it. Furthermore just reverse the situation and imagine joe public socialising in marketing media get togethers. Picture if you will, a few Persil customers tipping up at the Ivy and sitting down to ‘have a chat’ with industry honchos, just as they are tucking into the Ivy’s famous Shepherds Pie? How welcome would that be?

Fake smiles anyone?

So here’s my main point. Traditional marketing in social(ist) media is out of place but the one home grown success story doing it well are the bands. In places like myspace, music is the first sector to work out how to do it properly. I was tipped off the other day about a band on myspace that I added to my circle and within hours, the female vocalist had sent me a personal message but, she had taken the time out to read my profile, look at some of the videos I’d put up and had an ‘opinion’ about me as an individual. I wasn’t spammed they wanted to know me as a person. I was genuinely flattered that someone had taken the time out to win me over, not just with their music but with their ability to connect.

So, brands as bands? Well if a few more brands started to hang out with their customers rather than just campaign, target, segment and all that other war-talk that the dinosaurs use, they might start to make some friends instead.

I see that Epic records have a bit of a reputation for not understanding digital:

Oh, and for those that can tell the difference between pants and pukka. Here’s the group on myspace.

Comment by Charles Frith

Now that is ace Marcus. I respect that guy a lot for sticking to his guns.

A absolutely agree. I forget who mentioned that the PCD are actually on a unique contract where they are technically employees, not artists. They get a salary and are easily replaced…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

That’s the thing with all these music shows – you don’t become a popstar, you become a salaried puppet. Funny how winning those things tends to make you worse off than finishing 3rd or something. On

Comment by Rob

That’s the thing with all these music shows – you don’t become a popstar, you become a salaried puppet.

Funny how winning tends to make you less successful than finishing 3rd or something.

On American Idol, Chris Daughtry [3rd place] has had the biggest selling album of all the American Idol finalist because he too stuck to his guns and made sure everything he did was true to the style he loved.

Comment by Rob

..and Gareth Gates is back.

Comment by NP

NP – been reading Smash Hits again?

Comment by Will

Smash Hits … does anyone remember the mag that competed with it called ‘No 1’?

Comment by Rob

Not really!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thanks … now I feel even bloody older than I already am!

Mind you, I remember when I was at HHCL, I’d ‘pretend’ to go on an insight exploration every Wednesday morning when in reality, I went to a greasy spoon [where none of the ‘cool ad types would be seen dead in] and read the latest copy of Kerrang magazine.

Never did get caught …

Till now.

Comment by Rob

Billy Ocean and Kerrang, your guitar must have been so confused!

I still read it every week, mainly for the reviews as the rest of it is getting a bit tired.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

My band once got the highest ‘gig’ review of the week … and we were up against the Chili Peppers, Def Leppard and Aerosmith.

Proud moment – except years later, the members of those bands are still all multi-millionaire rock stars whereas the guys in Bangkok Shakes [don’t ask] are an Adman, a builder, a carpenter and an electrician. [spot the odd one out there, ha!]

Comment by Rob

Looks like the british village people!

Im intrigued to hear some of your tracks…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I’ll dig some out … but I warn you, we got called a ‘small town’ Mr Big crossed with the Chili’s. [At least not Queen eh, NP!]

Comment by Rob

I assume thats the early 90s US Mr Big, and not the 70s/80s UK band that my dads mate was in?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No bloody Queen. Now that’s a band who were hard to like – music and image.

I’m one of the few people around who still likes listening to Prince. That’s certainly in spite of the image.

And I bet no one remembers look.

Comment by NP


Comment by Rob Mortimer

Look In, sorry.

Comment by NP

That’s funny NP, I’m listening to PRINCE now. Purple Rain … one of the true classic songs of all time.

As for LOOK? Come on, enlighten me.

And yes Mr M … of course it was the Yankee-Doodly band, though I think they had to pay your Dad’s mate some cash to ‘buy the name’ if I am not mistaken.

Comment by Robert

Look In … wasn’t there a kids magazine in the 70’s called that?

Comment by Robert

Ohh Look In!
I only have a vague memory of it though.

I like early Prince also.

Really? Im not sure. My dads mate left just before they got famous!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Poor bastard leaving just before they got famous. Abit like my mates Dad who left a slot machine in Las Vegas only to see another guy get on it and win – literally with his first pull of the ‘arm’ -a million bucks.

He still beats himself up over that – but not as much as his son does, ha!

Comment by Robert


Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hey Charles … I love your comment, it got held up because this mental system thought it might be spam. Love it … and would love to hear more as you develop what you’re thinking …

Comment by Robert

You’d be crazy to not want to finish 2nd on Idol, you have the time and freedom to make the album you (in SOME regards) want, as opposed to the pre-written album the winner has to record in 3 days to meet the rush release date.

“Looks like the british village people!” man that made me laugh, I was thinking the exact same thing! heehee!!

Comment by Age

What I didn’t know is this… regardless where you come in “pop idol” the record company own the rights the every piece of music you do after the show; for the period of 12 months.

Comment by Marcus

Hey Rob I went to this planner get together last night and guess who I bumped into? Darryl Berry and Anne-Fay from HHCL days. It was brilliant and later on I was at the bar and I said to the guy in front, ‘you look like Ze Frank’, ‘I am’ he replied and we had a good natter outside for a while! Really smart and nice guy.

Vive L’Internet 🙂

Comment by Charles Frith

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