Posted by Jim Thompson on October 8, 2009 04:54 PM
Pearl Jam signed up with Target. So did Christina Aguilera. U2 and BlackBerry have a closer relationship than Bono and sunglasses. Selling out is the modern rebellious act for rock and pop stars. And it pays well. Very well.
Recording artists are tossing aside rock 'n' roll taboos, and aligning with corporate sponsors such as Bacardi and retail distributors like Wal-Mart. Struggling record labels can’t compete with the allure of mega-brands and retailers dangling behemoth amounts of money and exposure. According to Bloomberg, “Record labels have cut marketing budgets as they contend with dwindling revenue from CD sales and piracy rates as high as 95 percent for downloaded music.”
As record labels seek to mitigate slumping sales and harness the digitalization of music, recording artists have seized the opportunity to free themselves from the shackles of a crumbling paradigm where record labels essentially steered the creative and public development of aspiring and established artists. The most empowered recording artists also happen to be the most established, and acts such as Prince, Madonna, Radiohead, and Paul McCartney have dropped their labels – adding another financial blow to the beleaguered record sales industry.
The new relationship between artists and sponsors entails matching the musician’s brand equity with a particular product or endorsement deal. SBX, a division created by Sony Music to handle such arrangements, deemed Pink and T-Mobile a natural fit, for example. Now music lovers must carefully consider this hybridization of music and corporate endorsements. Has their favorite music lost its edge? Probably so. How are they recreating that lost edgy feeling? They’re stealing it on their BlackBerries.