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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sponsored Artists - Wave of the Future?

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?

1 comment:

Larry Jones said...

Well, on the bright side, if this turns out to be the way of the future, we won't have to worry about our revered favorite artists "selling out," since they will be owned in advance by the companies they will later be making commercials for.

And as if this isn't foreboding enough, now comes word that Ticketmaster is merging with Live Nation and getting into the artist management business. So Pepsi or Toyota will dredge up the (presumably) handsome young boys, shape them into palatable "artists," turn them over to TicketMaster for "development," and when they are ready TM/LN will tell them when and where to perform, and set the ticket prices.

Sort of spoils the spontaneity, don't you think?

But to answer your question, if this model takes hold, it will fracture the music community into those who are sponsored and those who are not. Those who are not will not go away simply because they don't have sponsors. They will perform where they can (small venues and indie festivals) and make recordings and peddle themselves whatever way they can (think Internet), which I expect will be effective in many cases. The sponsored groups, homogenized and hyped, will mostly be mocked by the true music lover, even though (or maybe because) they are making a lot more money. I'm not saying that you have to be inferior to make it big in the music biz. I'm saying that I'll take a roomful of inspired musicians, singers and writers any day, even if they have no budget.

As you have pointed out here numerous times, the music industry is changing, even if the big boys either don't know it or are actively trying to stop it. It won't be huge like it was in the second half of the last century, but parts of it will always be relevant.


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