Monday, July 11, 2005

Phoning it in

The following observations were made in a recent NY Times article.
  • The downloadable ringtones market is now more than 5 million globally. The U.S. share is $600 million and growing.
  • 1991, Nokia became the first company to market a ringtone with Francisco Tarrega's "Gran Vals" for classical guitar.
  • Zingy, a ringtone provider, has just released an album by producer Timbaland to be heard as your phone's ding-a-ling. Each song is 20 seconds.
  • There are now competitive ringtone DJ'ing contests.

Today, I don't get listening to a phone ring for enjoyment. It's like eating your words when you're hungry. But, I am also smart enough not to write it off. In the same article, crunk king Lil Jon said this when asked why he got involved in ringtones: "They cut the check ... It's another way of reaching an audience ... Like I was already thinking, what if I produce a song for a cellphone that ends up getting on music charts? The technology is so crazy, that could one day happen."

I've never had a problem with great music being used to sell products, as Lil John says, "it's another way of reaching an audience." I still believe VW commericials are responsible for growing the fan base of Richard Buckner and Nick Drake. There was no mainstream film soundtrack or Behind the Music episode stepping up to do so.

Jingles to push products aren't going away. Why not make it good music and give money to the people who made the good music, so that can make more good music. Crappy artists never seem to have a problem 'selling out.' Too bad, good ones do.

12 Comments:

At 2:55 PM, Blogger lilihammer said...

Maybe because good artists don't want people to hear one of their songs and think "Damn, that's that cool song from that tampon commercial."

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger princessmalin said...

I don't really think it's selling out. It's just realizing that in a world of supply & demand, it's crucial to both understand and reach your audience. And if your audience happens to be chained to cellphones, then why not take advantage of that?

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

i didnt know nick drake until VW ads

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger CHW said...

The problem with Drake being used is that he was dead and gone by the time they bought the rights. I wonder what he would have really thought about "Pink Moon" being used to sell VWs.

For those still alive (Led Zep, the Clash, Stones). I guess a buck is a buck. Not everyone is Fugazi.

 
At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry krunkmeister,it's already happend:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/4591685.stm
crazy brits.
this also might be something to keep an eye on triple j:
http://www.m-e-f.org/news101804.html

 
At 11:07 PM, Blogger sasefina said...

Yeah, that whole froggy ring tone business hit #1 on the UK pop charts.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Luke said...

It started before VW, TripleJ, back when that $%@!! freak Michael Jackson sold the Beatles' "Revolution" to Nike. And oh, Princess...say it ain't so! "...crucial to both understand and reach your audience"...they've brainwashed you! You sound like DavidS! What happened? It IS selling out. No two ways about it. You can argue that it's not a bad thing...not if it sets your kid's trust fund up for life, I suppose. But it's no different from the current trend in radio/music/media (see TripleJ's Heard it on the radioio): it ain't about creating something that lasts, something of value...it's about making a buck. There's a reason they're not called "records" anymore: they're not records, as in: recordings...of events, of statements, of the act of making music (apologies to Ani DeFranco for butchering the wording). I'm quite certain that when --fill in the current star-- is headed into the studio, s/he is not thinking, "Damn, this is really quality stuff that says something; they're going to be playing this in 500 years." Rather, it's "Damn, this is going to be a hit and I can sell the rights to the movies, the game companies and the ring tones. I'll bet I can get Pepsi to use it, too." And it applies in other media (word choice, as opposed to "art," on purpose): evidence item No. 1...Mike Myers. Product (substitute "music" here) placement, baby!

But what's really frightening is TripleJ's assertion: "I'm smart enough." D'oh!

**snarling, the curmudgeon crawls back under his rock**

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger TripleJ said...

I want to address a few valid points from seldom_seen, chw and lilihammer.
* Unlike non-payola radio and TV – in ads, artists can actually control where their music appears and with what products. I am not saying they should blindly let their music be heard, but they should be open to it being used in commercials. So Alejandro Escovedo might avoid tampon commercials, but he is open to using the track ‘Castanets” to hawk clothing for rock stars.
* I do agree with chw's comment regarding the use of 'Pink Moon.' Drake should be allowed to decide. That said, he is dead and his music is still around. Satisfied got turned on to Nick Drake thanks to the commercial. That result, I believe, would make Drake happy. (Though it does seem odd to have the words ‘Drake’ and ‘happy’ next to each other.)
* The comments about Jackson selling ‘Revolution’ – dead on. I am only talking about when the artist who created it, sells it. (Regardless, I am also against anything that brings more attention to the overrated Beatles.)
* Great art is great art period. Many times the backstory is what makes the song great (take Dylan's Masters of War as one). It is just like great writing. Great writing appears in all different forms - ad copy; blog entries; 500-page novels; comic books; scripts and the perfect Richard Ford short story. It's not where it appears and in what form that's important, it's the place it comes from that is. If the art starts out pure, then where it ends up is irrelevant.

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger princessmalin said...

agree with the last point above. who cares if you make a buck off it? who cares if the rest of the world is pissed because you're not a "pure" artist who is living off crackers and disgusting campbell's soup? it's what you're saying. it's what you believe. and if you belive in what you say, then quite frankly, it's SUPER FABULOUS if you can figure out a way to get that to the masses.

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger Luke said...

So...let me get this straight: ad copy and blog entries can qualify as art? Sort of, say, an abridged version of --fill in your favorite novel--? NotJackKerouac, while entertaining, is not "On The Road."

I'm all for artists not living in squalor, princess. Absolutely. Doing so frees them up to create more (and better) art, doesn't it? But how many of them find the convenient and all-too-easy payday a preferable option to the strenuous path that results in truly great art? How many artists find their creativity evaporating when they get too comfortable? I daresay the numbers are depressingly high.

So is Britney Spears smarter than Kurt Cobain because she chose the easy and lucrative path? Is she a better artist? Guess what the curmudgeon's answer to that would be. (That's not to say that just because Alejandro sells one-tenth the number of CDs that Britney does that he's ten times the artist (though I believe he is); success does not preclude artistry.) Is DeNiro in the Amex commercial (or "Meet the Fockers") as good as he was in "Taxi Driver"? He sure makes a helluva lot more money shilling credit cards than he did as Travis. Why put on all that weight as Jake LaMotta when you can just walk through Tribeca and and exude sincerity?

Selling one's art to hawk sneakers, cell phones and cars is an accelerant on that road. Instead of "buyer beware," in this case it's "creator beware."

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger TripleJ said...

You are elegantly missing my point. I am saying the art is the important thing, not the vehicle in which it arrives. Buckner didn't write and perform the song 'Ariel Ramirez' to be used to promote a VW Touareg. But, I am glad it was because now there are others who know what only a few of us did - Buckner is among the best singer/songwriters.

Sending you hugs,
triplej

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Luke said...

I'm not elegantly missing your point (I don't do anything elegantly, and your point is clearly visible on top of your head). I'm simply seeing the whole span -- in a manner similar to the way the Tralfamadorians see time -- and observing the all-too-common path some artists take.

I mean: here I am, savoring "God's Own Drunk" live (circa 1980)...that Buffett, or the hack who peddles Margaritaville tequila? No contest.

 

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