Brands like Levi’s have always paid great attention to the music in their ads, and we have got used to product placements in music videos. But the creation of actual music videos and other bespoke pieces of content, paid for by brands rather than record companies, is quite new. With both the music and the ad business suffering, brands are now playing the role of pop-culture patrons. There is actually a rich heritage of patronage of arts (Faris Yakob has written about it) – it has always been a way to bolster reputation – but patronage of pop music is quite new.
There is a good discussion over on Hyper’s blog about the Doritos-funded video by UK rapper Professor Green. I quite like the 360 video they made, but the link with the product is tenuous, and I can’t imagine that many people will pay any attention to the Doritos ads on the side; They might as well have just paid for a banner placement.
There was also the recent Fiat Faithless music video, which at least incorporated the car into the band’s video. It got good coverage in the press as a “promercial” (NB I hope to never write that word again). It ended up feeling like any another car ad though, and was even shown during ad breaks just like traditional ads.
We made a short-film / music video called Dragonfly Love for the Nokia N8 with the band Kap Bambino:
We had the luxury of shooting with the product itself, which freed us up to not do too many product references. In our case, it was part HD device showcase, part bonkers entertainment.
It is increasingly difficult to make any money out of selling music, so it will be interesting whether more bands and artists look for an advertiser to pay for their videos. Of course artists don’t want their art to be compromised. Some people were highly critical of Faithless for selling out so completely to a brand for example. But as Jay-Z put it: “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man!”.
Brands will continue to pay for original, high-quality content and musicians will continue to look for new ways to finance their work, so the question becomes: is it cool? Is having a brand pay for your music video a step too far in terms of selling-out? Are brands assisting and supporting creativity, or stifling and ultimately inhibiting it?