Isn’t it interesting, it seems you can’t get away from marketing. When I was growing up I was fairly clear that there was quite a gulf between the suited business world and the more, shall we say, laid-back world of rock & roll.
In many ways the popular music of the 1960s and 70s seemed to be making a big attempt to be non-corporate, to stick two fingers up at normal working life and to be about doing your own thing. Music was (certainly pre-The X Factor) much less of a career than an escape from a 9-5 way of life.
Of course as they say the times they are a changin’.
Old songs, even protest songs it seems are increasingly used in TV ads nowadays to sell anything from cars to holidays to bank accounts. But what really struck me last week were the words of a particular guitarist, Scott Gorham* of Thin Lizzy, talking about the need to release their new album under a new name. I’ll quote his exact words as they appeared on the Planet Rock web site:
“It was a very difficult decision as we put a lot of time and effort into rebuilding the [Thin Lizzy] brand over recent years.”
Wow. Did he really say that? Yes, read it again. He didn’t talk about re-building the band, but rebuilding the brand!
And then following on from this the singer continued with this:
“Without a new album to gain new press and keep the momentum we’ve built up, we’re worried the brand will diminish to a point we would never want to see.”
The ‘brand’ will diminish. This is not some P&G marketing manager, or some university lecturer talking about a Fortune 500 company. There are two guys talking about their own group.
And of course they have a point. Bands like the Rolling Stones and Queen or individuals such as Elvis, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Lady Gaga are more than just rock or pop stars. They are both in life and death money-making machines. Certainly they or their record companies employ publicity specialists and promoters to help hone their image and maximise their reach, and extend their longevity. But the surprise to me is that even the band members themselves now refer to their own creative vehicle not as a ‘band’ but, with the addition of one extra letter, they actually refer to themselves as ‘brands’.
So I suppose they may have avoided the 9-5, but they are without doubt nowadays just another element of our modern business world.
* Note that this is the same Scott Gorham I once shouted out to as he walked through Portsmouth city centre before one of their concerts in the early 80s: “Hey Brian, got any spare tickets”. For that Scott, after all these years, I apologise.