Taking care of business: Is marketing killing the musician

Charlie Guest blog spot by Charlie Richards of Spring

Watching Mark Earls’  band on stage at his recent birthday party certainly sounded entertaining, according to the picture John was painting of it last Monday morning… Marketers dabbling in music, eh? You probably know someone in your office that has a go now and again. But what about vice-versa?

With impeccable timing, this piece  popped up in the Guardian music supplement on Friday. DJ Shadow is marketing his new record by planting it in West End charity shops. He seems to know his audience – charity shops are indeed a strange magnet for vinyl fetishists (not that kind).

But it seems he’s a bit fed up with the musician as marketer model: “It used to be that there was a label there to be the monetary side of the business; now every artist has had to adopt the street-corner hustle”. There’s no doubt he’s donning his rose-tinted glasses (The Beatles had Max Clifford, sure, but they were pretty brand-savvy too weren’t they?). But does he have a point?

Whilst the music business has seen some natural marketers, from Radiohead right back to Son House spreading rumours about satanic pacts in the 1930s, the piece did make me wonder how many great records might never have been recorded had the performers been responsible for promoting the brand. For every Sufjan Stevens whipping up a frenzy about a fifty-state album project fifty-state album project, there’s a Nick Drake too reclusive to perform their songs, let alone hype them. 

Djshadow3 Should musicians be expected to split their efforts between art and business? Shadow has been going to the library to teach himself about advertising and marketing, but he hopes for a world where “artists no longer have to feel like used-car salesmen”.

It feels to me like an awkward balance, but if the debate here at Spring over the last few days has shown anything, it’s that perhaps our expectations of musicians are changing. Let us know what you think. One thing’s for sure: if there’s an answer where the death of music isn’t marketing’s fault, we’d better find it… 

 Many thanks to John for the ‘guest-spot’ today!




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