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

Musicians Not Marketers …

Recently I saw this photo of Motorhead.

I fucking love it.

Not because I’m a die-hard Motorhead fan [though I’ve always loved Lemmy] but because it captures a time when music and art were interesting and dangerous partners-in-crime, not focus-group designed ‘brand assets’.

Please do not think this is a rant against people like Ed Sheeran or Dua Lipa.

I both respect and appreciate what they do.

They’re very talented and they’re very musical.

However the way they use music is very different to bands of the past.

Back then, artists like Motorhead used music as a form of expression, whereas modern singers/acts use it more like a product.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means they’re more marketer than musician.

After all, Ed Sheeran admits to using focus groups.

And Dua Lipa’s team acknowledge they closely follow trends.

For them, music is a ‘brand asset’ designed to help achieve specific business goals and targets.

I’m not knocking it, there’s a lot of money doing that … but what people – and marketers – seem to forget is there’s a whole career to be had choosing the alternative.

Where you focus on the idea not the assets.

Where you lead audiences, rather than chase them.

Where you mean everything to someone not something to everyone.

It’s why I found a recent comment by Lady Gaga interesting.

I love her. I think she’s amazing.

But recently she said “don’t call me a singer, I’m an artist”.

And while that might sound like a pretentious diva who also see’s music as a brand asset in a range of their products – it’s not.

It means she see’s what she does as art, which is far more interesting in terms of the possibilities of creativity … because it not about doing things right for others, it’s about doing things that feel right for her.

We need more artists in the World, not marketers.

21 Comments so far
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All those people who bang on about content are just the latest incarnation of those music industry people who always talked about product. And they all talk about consumers.

Comment by John

Oh yes … so true.

I remember hearing Freddie Mercury once call his music a ‘product’ … I was devastated … and yet he meant it. It was the late 80’s and he was creating songs for adverts and film, not for an expression of his creativity.

Comment by Rob

good photo. fucking terrible band.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hahahahahaha. I knew you’d say that.

Comment by Rob

would a band like motorhead ever get signed today? discuss.

Comment by andy@cynic

What you’re saying is the present isn’t all bad.

Comment by DH

Nope. Not a chance.

And if they did, they’d never get beyond a small distribution. Their only hope would be to feature in a video game – which, to be honest, is not simply one of the best ways to distribute your music but it’s the medium – and cultural currency – where art and music can be dangerous again.

Comment by Rob

The irony is the music business has ruined music.

Comment by George

I wonder what they would think if they knew they look more like pantomime characters than monsters? I do love your point that music and art should be dangerous partners-in-crime. Now they’re focus group output.

Comment by Pete

Hahaha … hindsight does that, at the time they were seen as satan’s children.

Comment by Rob

It’s the same struggle most people I know have with starting hobbies. There’s immediate pressure to turn it into a “side hustle”. Now you’ve got an Etsy shop for your hand painted plates before you’ve bought plates, paints or hands.

Comment by Chris

Hahaha … yep.

Somehow, we’ve got to a place where everything has to be done for a reason other than you simply enjoy doing it.

And then there’s the issue with hustle, which – as I wrote a while back – is the worst of all language.

Comment by Rob

For someone who has only written the same 7 posts for 100 years, it surprises me you have a reference post for a subject that isn’t your usual schtick. Well done.

Comment by Bazza

Another reason I adore Lady Gaga.

Comment by Jemma King

There are a number of musicians who have excelled in alternative categories. But what I particularly like about Lady Gaga is it feels everything she does is driven by the creative potential she see’s in it, as opposed to the commercial benefits.

Comment by George

Not bad.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Hello Rob, hope all is well.

Back in the M&C Saatchi days, you had wanted to build a News Headline reader (being able to skim over the headlines to get a quick overview of what is happening).

I was wondering if you know of/use any tool like this today. I’m trying to find a way of following the headlines from a number of websites – all in one place. RSS feed apps/extensions seem a bit all over the place – I haven’t found anything that does this simply.

Warm regards,

Comment by Jacob

Hello Jacob. I worked at M&C/Sunshine in 2008 … I can’t even remember what I did yesterday. We did make a better RSS reader, but that’s old and probably not even around anymore. There’s options out there, from NextDraft, Skimm or even The Week. Good luck.

Comment by Rob

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the recommendations.

I was down at the Malaysian M&C Saatchi office (Axiata 🙂 ) – I also won one of your Advertising Planning School on the Web assignments. That was a lifetime ago.

For recommendations that you listed – would you know of any where you can input your own selection of websites (I’m looking to generate a list of headlines from websites that talk about futuristic tech).

Comment by Jacob


Comment by andy@cynic

For Jacob.

Comment by DH

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