Product placement in music

You want to watch a movie, so you pay for a ticket (or buy it on DVD).

You want to read a book, so you buy it (or borrow it from the library).

You want to play a computer game, so you buy it from the store (or download it from a service like Steam).

You want to listen to an album, so you buy a CD (or listen to the radio).

You want to watch a TV show, so you also watch commercials (or buy it on DVD).

You want to use a website, so you look at the ads (or pay to make them go away).

Movie theatres decided they could also put commercials before movies to make more money.

Movies, books, games, and TV shows also use product placement to make some extra money. The actual film, the actual game, the actual show uses real products and gets paid for it. They don’t just tack commercials on at the beginning, end, or in between.

Why doesn’t music do this too?

“That’s a terrible idea!” you must think. People thought commercials were a terrible idea too. And pop-ups. And you’re absolutely right; no one wants their enjoyment of these things to be interrupted by a sales pitch. But it’s reality. Commercials and pop-ups and product placement are here, and they’re here to stay.

So why not product placement in music?

It doesn’t have to be invasive. In fact, there’s already plenty of product placement in music:

I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne
And it tastes just like Cherry Cola
C-O-L-A, cola

The Kinks, “Lola” (1970)

Suckin’ on a chili dog outside the Tastee-Freez
Diane’s sittin’ on Jackie’s lap
He’s got his hands between her knees
Jackie say, “Hey Diane, let’s run off behind the shady trees
Dribble off those Bobbie Brooks, let me do what I please”

John Mellencamp, “Jack & Diane” (1982)

Come on, bitch, you know you want this
That hardcore shit will make you feel the toxic
Versace, Rolex watches
Bentley coups with the 20s droppin’

brokenCYDE, “Freaxx” (2008)

Think of all the songs just about cars! “Little Red Corvette” (Prince), “Mercedes Benz” (Janis Joplin), “Pink Cadillac” (Bruce Springsteen), “Red Barchetta” (Rush)–and they all have the name of the product in the song title! Shouldn’t we be disgusted by all these people?

Product placement happens like crazy in modern music videos. Why not in songs themselves too?

So why would you pay for CDs or mp3s if they have advertisements in them? Maybe instead, you don’t, or you pay less? The product placement covers the cost of renting the recording studio, hiring musicians, paying all the people involved. You pay for the actual physical CD and case, the same price as a blank CD and case, and maybe another small fee to cover what the placement doesn’t.

I’m going to be a bit stereotypical here, but aren’t most popular musicians today rappers who just want chicks and money, or young cutesy kids who are owned by big corporations? They aren’t going to have a problem putting ads in their songs.

And what if they do? Music is not about making money to many people. To them, music is art. They can continue to make songs about whatever they want. Heck, maybe if all the mainstream crap incorporates advertisements in their music and the real musicians don’t, people will realize, “Hey, I don’t want to listen to advertisements; I want to listen to music!” and so the greedy corporations will make no money, and the independent artists will be the new kings of the industry. But honestly, I don’t have enough faith in people’s taste to see that happening.

But if you want to listen to music without advertisements, you still can; you just have to pay for it. You can watch TV without commercials, but you’ve got to pay for that too.

While this wouldn’t stop piracy, people will still be listening to the product placement. We can’t stop piracy. No matter how secure you try to make the discs and files, someone will crack it. But nobody can get rid of a shoutout to McDonald’s in the middle of a song without ruining it.

And what’s so wrong with people trying to sell something to you in the first place? If it’s invasive like pop-ups ads, I can understand that. But text ads on the right hand side of a website don’t bother me that much. We’re not going to have a cigarette company sponsoring a Hannah Montana song; you’re going to have advertisers advertising to their target market, so hey, maybe you’ll even want the product mentioned in the song you’re listening to! You listen to country music? Well, hey, you probably like trucks and beer. And then again, maybe you don’t. But not everybody who watches The Price is Right needs arthritis medicine, but a big chunk of them must.

What made me think of this idea was The Who’s 1967 album The Who Sell Out. They’ve got songs like a normal album, but with little jingles in between for Radio London, Heinz Baked Beans, Premier Drums, Rotosound Strings, and Track Records. They even created entire songs for a fake deodorant (“Odorono”) and acne medicine (“Medac”). And honestly, I love “Odorono”; but perhaps only because it’s innovative and silly, if all songs sounded like that, I probably wouldn’t feel the same.

The point of all that is that the advertisements could be blatant:

It’s smooth sailing with the highly successful sounds of wonderful Radio London!

The Who, The Who Sell Out (1967)

She ripped her glittering gown
Couldn’t face another show, no
Her deodorant had let her down
She should have used Odorono

The Who, “Odorono” (1967)

Or more subtle as with “Lola” and “Jack & Diane”.

Problem

The problem I see with this idea is actually getting it going. Initial reaction will be very bad. People will not listen to music with advertisements when there is other music without. Unless the advertisements are subtle. Maybe people won’t mind the advertisements since the price is so low.

And yes, the price has to be low. People don’t like that movie theatres charge you money for a ticket and force you to watch commercials. Once they added commercials, the price should have gone down, but it didn’t. But people still go to movies, so hey, it could work.

Another problem is will advertisers actually pay for this? Especially since, as shown above, people are already writing songs about products without getting paid for it. And how intrusive does the ad need to be if the company is going to pay for it? to be there I honestly don’t think that much, because hey, if Lady Gaga endorses something, people are going to want it.