The BBC News Magazine examines the “science” of selling out concerning recent British spots featuring punk pioneers Iggy Pop and John Lydon.
Ad: Iggy Pop’s insurance commercial
Ad: John Lydon’s butter commercial
Gee, I wonder why they don’t show these ads in the States?
12 thoughts on “Iggy Pop Peddles Insurance”
Lou Reed’s already been seen hawking scooters and American Express.
I love to see that Cruise Ship commercial that features “Lust for Life.”
There’s nothing like listening to an Ode To Heroin while viewing quickly edited shots of middle aged fat people eating and wallowing on poolside deck chairs.
I got a question though. Should we also demonize the agency and the group of asshats who put these ad concepts together? I mean who sits around and goes…”hey lets get Johnny Rotten to sell our butter!” It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not just the whole selling out argument. Its just terrible advertising.
Iggy I’m not suprised about, since he sold out with his cruise ship commercial. But Johnny Rotten surprises me. Here’s a man who gave his middle finger to the world for years, and now look at him. He might as well do commercials for Depends now.
I was hoping the Johnny Rotten commercial would be for Imperial, with some kind of ironic playing of “God Save the Queen” in the background when the crown appears on his head, but I guess I’ll just have to be disappointed on that point.
So, I guess I’ve got a problem there. The problem is me!
John Lydon sold out 30 years ago.
I don’t immediately blame the artists. A lot of bands don’t even own those rights. Their songs get sold out from under them.
I like to wonder what I would do if I faced selling a song for advertising. If I was Joey Ramone, having never achieved commercial success, would I have any trouble at all selling a song to American Express for an ad?
The view from middle age is a lot less black and white than when you’re 21 with your whole life ahead of you.
I’d sell out in a minute. But I’ll still blame my idols for doing it.
I have always been against the licensing of songs for TV ads. But my beef is with the well-off artists and estates that choose to do so, not with financially struggling songwriters and/or musicians. (When I heard Mike Watt had OK’d use of a Minutemen song in an ad in order to pay for an operation for the late D. Boon’s dad, my reaction was “License the whole catalog if necessary.“) Yes, it’s disappointing when our heroes resort to this sorta thing, but sometimes it’s about survival.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think Lydon or Iggy have ever made more than average money. And by average, I mean what a regular office job pays—$30-$50K/yr—which is fine if you have that kind of cash coming in uninterrupted. But there’s no real revenue when you’re off the road, and records never made artists that much money unless they sold in the millions. Faced with practically non-existent record sales and diminishing concert revenue—which is why The Roots took a day job—and old age creeping ’round the corner—what’s a 70 year old Lydon or Iggy gonna live off?—I’m not surprised to see more and more artists surrendering their songs to Madison Ave. (And it gets even more complicated when we take into account certain artists who bemoan the availability of less and less avenues for exposure and license their songs to commercials for this reason first and money second.)
Am I happy about it? Hell, no. I feel it cheapens the music in so many ways. But people gotta live somehow. And those for those dudes, that’s as close as they’re getting to a day job. (On a personal note, years ago I righteously waved my rebel flag, but now my broke ass would bite the bullet and let some bullshit light beer have one of my tunes for $20K, in a heartbeat. That’s a year of rent and bills right there.)
It’s a just a sad fact of life and music these days.
Why does it have to be such a dire circumstance for us to “allow” musicians to license their own music? Who are we to decide what’s appropriate for them?
I’ll say what I say every time this topic comes up here: not all songs are “art.” Some are just songs and once upon a time musicians were allowed to do whatever they wanted to make a buck.
I’ll quote what I quote every time this topic comes up. Tom Waits:
“Songs carry emotional information and some transport us back to a poignant time, place or event in our lives. It’s no wonder a corporation would want to hitch a ride on the spell these songs cast and encourage you to buy soft drinks, underwear or automobiles while you’re in the trance. Artists who take money for ads poison and pervert their songs. It reduces them to the level of a jingle, a word that describes the sound of change in your pocket, which is what your songs become. Remember, when you sell your songs for commercials, you are selling your audience as well.”
Musicians are allowed to do whatever they want, sell whatever they want to sell to whoever’s willing to pay for it. But once our connections to a song are replaced with connections to some product we don’t care about, is it even possible for us to still care about the song?
Some songs and memories and associations are powerful enough to stand up against a dumb ad. “London Calling” isn’t any less awesome after it was used in a Jaguar ad. “Whip It” on the other will forever be associated with swiffing up dustbunnies.
“Pink Moon” may have been enhanced by that VW ad. The whole “it looks like a great party, but we’d rather stay in the car and listen to Nick Drake” punch line of the ad says more about Nick Drake than it does about the Jetta, or whatever car it was. That was a Nick Drake ad.
Zep’s “Rock and Roll” went from being a badass boogie that made me think about adolescent raunch to making me think about impotent old businessmen driving around in big cars. Been a long time, indeed.
So who knows?
The solution, of course, is to just turn off the television.
But I still contend that some songs are just good songs, not art. They don’t need to be protected in a glass box. The Who is selling just about everything in their catalog but “Won’t Get Fooled Again” still makes me hair stand up when it pops up on WLAV when I’m home. Meet the new boss, indeed!
I never give a shit about any of this. Sell out, or protect your music, who really cares. Personally, I think it’s vanity to imagine you are protecting your legacy by turning down a million bucks. True, it can be done artfully (Nick Drake) or crassly (Led Zeppelin). But something tells me Zeppelin’s rep isn’t really suffering.
So when I see Iggy hawk insurance while even swinging a golf club(!), and Johnny Rotten doing a commercial about loving butter, I grin an evil grin because the hoary PRETENSE that the “rebellion” of rock was ever anything MORE than that of a kid trying to get his kicks is finally DEAD DEAD DEAD.
JAKE YOU ARE THE MAN. IT COULD NOT BE PUT MORE ELOQUENTLY.