Avril Lavigne's manager Terry McBride thinks that sponsors like Coke or Doritos will replace record labels in the future, according to a recent article in The Register. This sounds totally plausible, since a major brand has plenty of advertising money that they can easily supply to an artist's recording and touring budget, while the record labels of the near future can probably only allocate a similar budget only to their biggest selling acts.
If this prediction comes to pass, it will push music further into the doldrums, since it only makes sense for a major brand to back an established artist. Artist development (which is what the industry really needs most these days) will really be a thing of the past.
So it's no surprise that major label EMI announced that it will begin exploring brand advertising partnerships for their artists, which really puts the onus of ethics on the artists themselves. It begs the questions: Can an EMI artist refuse a relationship with a brand if she finds the brand doesn't share her world view? Can an EMI artist refuse a relationship with a brand if the dollar split isn't high enough? Can an EMI artist refuse a relationship if the whole idea of sponsorship lies outside the artistic viewpoint of the artist?
Madison Avenue is increasingly responsible for dictating musical tastes in America, as evidenced from everything from radio to television to print. Will sponsorship finally drive the mainstream music industry over the brink of relevance?