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Editorial: Marketing and Music

posted July 31, 2015, 2:25 am by madelainej | Filed Under Editorial | comment Leave a Comment


Listening to the radio on a leisurely drive quickly turned into a distressingly long drive being bombarded with music that sounded unremittingly similar. It was on this drive I realized music is packaged with as much marketing force as a Barbie, perhaps more. Music should be an art. You should have to be talented, you need to play an instrument, often write music and tell a story. Music use to be a way to pass on culture, tradition and caution children. Oral stories were a kind of music. Then it became a pastime for the aristocracy. It became conservative and regulated. After many revolutions in music and culture, music has become commodified. Artists, like Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus, can begin their career as an innocent, fun and captivating starlets. They are plastered on the Disney channel, given their own show, a full length movie and then launched into a music career. Once they are too old for Disney they can reinvent themselves. Miley’s 180 certainly accrued new interest in her career and she was able to monopolize tabloids and magazine covers for a little longer. Pink has made a career marketing herself as the “bad girl” of music, Taylor Swift as the innocent girl next door.

But people aren’t simply one thing or another. People are multifaceted, people change. Music should mature with the artist and change with their sensibilities. But they shouldn’t change so drastically that it comes off as a publicity stunt (Miley Cyrus). This style of packaging artists, making them one dimensional, certainly sells. We also know exactly what to expect and it makes them predictable. But isn’t that also boring? Don’t they all seem to bled together, the skater girls with the bad girls with the tough girls? The sweethearts with the Disney products with Disney princesses? Their music begins to sound the same, carry the same story lines depending on what image they are selling. They aren’t selling music anymore. They’re music is as boring and predictable as their personalities. Music use to be an art, now it’s marketing. It’s a commodity and can be consumed and discarded at an alarming rate. It doesn’t even need to be enjoyed.

However, if we look at Nick Cave, could anyone have predicted how mature and multifaceted his music would become if you met him when he began his music career with The Birthday Party? If I had known him during those days, I would have guessed he’d join the 27 club. But his music grew up with him. Now I’m not sure what to expect. His music is mature, experimental, layered and interesting. Many of his albums now are very different from the ones before. Tom Waits similarly has made a successful career of making music an art form. While many would argue his personality is created as much as his music, I believe the authenticity or inauthenticity of his persona is irrelevant to the wealth of complexities in his music. I don’t believe anyone can argue Waits’ persona markets his music as aggressively as Lady Gaga markets herself and her music. People can chart a clear development within the music of Tom Waits. If he had remained the same drunken storytelling jive spinning artist from the ‘70s, he would have fallen by the wayside like so many others and never made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He developed his sound and made it his own. Lady Gaga wore a meat dress. An ironic statement that she is a piece of meat? Something to be consumed? I’m not sure I understand her meat dress, but it was an excellent way for her to make money off mediocre music.

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