We're not paid shills for the music industry. That's the problem.

 
 

We're not paid shills for the music industry. That's the problem.

Let me clarify: We have day jobs in which we are indeed paid shills. We work in advertising. But when it comes to Adland, no one pays us. When we’re writing about a so-called engineer spitting on a dead Beastie Boy, or a musician being a hypocrite, no one from the music industry (whatever that means) lines our pockets.

That’s why it’s so funny when occasionally Dabitch gets the consistent insult “paid shill” insult thrown at her on Twitter and MetaFilter from Copyleft drones who simply can’t believe anyone would fight so hard for musicians unless they were being paid to do so.

But that’s just it. We’re not fighting for musicians. We’re fighting for people who make content. Advertising is content. Just like music. And what happens to musicians is happening to copywriters, authors, journalists, photographers, illustrators, designers, art directors, and filmmakers.

People who work in advertising already understand this, but with very few exceptions, musicians do not. We may not be in working bands. Our ads may not be the same as a top ten hit. But we are content creators and work with other content creators on a daily basis. And what's more, because we're strategic thinkers, too, we understand the problem musicians are having in ways they don’t.

Right now there are several different movements popping up that were large in part created by musicians. That’s good. And also very bad. Musicians are all over the place. Silicon Valley and their paid shills are way more unified. More consistent in their message. And while each new musicians activist group drums up a new problem to tackle, Silicon Valley is closing ranks and unifying even more. Like their computers, they’re getting smarter.

By now you’ve heard that Dave Allen has been hired as a paid shill for Beats. He will be the so-called musical liaison to convince other musicians to join the music streaming service. Before becoming digital champion and Condescending Lecturer To More Successful Musicians Who Don’t See His Point Of View, Allen started as a member of the Marxist band Gang Of Four. They had some really good post-punk songs with anti-capitalist lyrics like “Sell out, maintain the interest/ Ideal love a new purchase.” Irony much?

From a brand standpoint, one would think Dr. Dre would be a better choice for Beats. For one thing, he co-founded the company. For another, he already has a pair of headphones named after him so he's associated with the brand. And tons more people know who he is than Dave Allen. But I suspect Beats is trying to have it both ways. They want to pander to musicians by getting someone strategic and somewhat iconoclastic, while at the same time get someone who looks good when they bat their eyelashes at the Digerati. Allen is safe in the wheelhouse of those who insist we adapt to the emerging market of technology, no matter what, and no matter how dysfunctional it is. Some shills are easier to get on board.

See, musicians: this is what we mean about being able to see the problem differently. We're looking at it from a brand perspective as much as a messaging perspective. So let's look at your brand, as it were.

It is inspiring that so many musicians are stepping out to talk about their livelihood being effected by so many issues. But without a unified message it’s hard to know where to turn. One group wants to legislate royalty payments for performers. One is fighting against online advertising on copyright infringing websites. One wants to ensure sites that print lyrics to songs are paying for the right to do so. Still others want to make streaming rates that will help sustain the music. But there is no umbrella over all of these movements. No house where they all live. And beyond a hashtag for the decent #Irespectmusic campaign, no one is really talking to, or engaging actual consumers.

To us this is just plain stupid.

You can get a lot done, even pass a ridiculously faulty nationwide healthcare plan with public opinion on your side. And yet a lot of the musician activists are ignoring their fan base. Or talking to them from all angles with explanations that are anything but succinct. No wonder it's so convoluted. There's no underlying message.

Put another way: The average attention span is seven seconds. If it takes three minutes, and three different articles to understand why David Byrne is covering Biz Markie, I’m sorry to say, Houston, but you have a problem. And all your good intentions aren't enough without some clear messaging.

So here’s our proposition to musicians or the "music industry:" You have big issues. You are fragmented. You have big problems. You need big solutions. We want to help you solve them. We've already been called paid shills and have taken lots of unnecessary blows for you over the years. So how about you make us your paid shills for real.

Call us, let’s do lunch.

Love,
Adland

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