On Marketing and the Commercialization of Metal

If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably familiar with sports stars being little more than walking billboards. They are often parties to extremely lucrative deals in exchange of parading around the world featuring the logos or products of whoever is willing to throw enough money at them. While we basically accept these situations as facts of life, I think many like to imagine that art in general, and music in particular, are (or at least should be) free of that sort of corporate influence. With the age of religious patronage of the arts well behind us (there’s no denying that many of the most beautiful artistic pieces in western tradition were, in essence, paid Christian propaganda), and artists being able to sell their art directly to the consumers, there should be no real reason to pollute art with such commercial bullshit.

Lung Cancer: Fast as fuck
Lung Cancer: Fast as fuck (Photo source)

Well, you’re wrong.

While product placements in movies started a long time ago, in the case of music they first started in the world of hip hop and pop. Music videos by the like of syphilitic imbeciles like Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Nicki MinajKe$ha, 50 Cent, Drake, Lil’ Wayne and Pitbull are full of them. Sometimes they are done subtly, like a camera “casually” panning over a watch or a phone, and others shamelessly, like when a performer explicitly references the product by name. This continues outside of their music, of course, as they effectively become puppets of the brands they represent, parading around the world branding overpriced Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, or furiously removing lint from their pants, in order to secure more money.

Of course, you’re probably thinking that this is the kind of shit that is to be expected from that music. I mean nowadays rap, hip hop and, of course, pop, represent the lowest common denominator in terms of music; they are simplistic, repetitive, and intellectually offensive enough to appeal to the largest possible audience. The problem, however, is that this trend is far from being limited to them, and as rock and heavy metal increase in popularity, more and more products seek the endorsement of heavier artists.

Take the case of Ozzy Osbourne, whose wife first sold out by making that cringe-inducing reality show of The Osbournes, and then humiliated himself even further by selling video gamesbutter and cellphones, and (together with Justin Bieber) endorsing an appliances’ store, all while making beautiful jokes about his crippling dementia and slurred speech. Kiss is, of course, another clear example, with Gene Simmons‘ shameful reality show also working as a product-placement extravaganza.

So we’re clear on terminology “storyline integration” means: Gene and his moronic family will shoehorn dialogue about your shitty cologne/wine/deodorant/rape counselor/pet cleaning services (Ad Source)

It’s not hard to see that this also affecting concerts themselves, with many musicians sporting armbands and t-shirts containing unrelated product endorsements. It’s one thing to see a guitar player being sponsored by a guitar manufacturer, it’s another to see bands like Korn, Epica, Legion of the Damned, Five Finger Death Punch, and many others, being “very excited” about their partnerships with Jägermeister or Monster Energy Drinks, or Larch Ulrich “designing” the most fucking generic shoe in the world “in cooperation” with Vans (while saying the incredibly sad phrase of “in the last couple of years I’ve been getting into footwear that is basically laceless”).

"Oh, I didnt see your camera there... I was just drinking my MONSTER ENERGY DRINK and playing my guitar...
“Oh, I didnt see your camera there… I was just drinking my MONSTER ENERGY DRINK and playing my guitar… I’m not even ready for this photo shoot… thankfully I drank a lot of MONSTER ENERGY DRINK and so I’m ready for anything!!!!!!” (photo source)

The problem that this type of thing creates is that it blurs (or downright erases) the line between art and marketing, and prays on the weakest among us. While you and I might be aware that John 5 is not really excited about Monster Energy Drinks, the 13 year old kid in the front row has no idea. For him Monster and Jägermeister stop being simply products, and actually become part of what heavy metal is supposed to be. He becomes a brand-whore because that’s what he is being told to be; because that is what heavy metal is being portrayed as…and that’s pretty fucking sad.

Heavy metal started as a rebellion against the status quo, against the vapidity of society, and seeing those hopes and desires go down the drain, as marketing interests start to infect it beyond redemption, is truly shameful. While there is certainly a place for marketing interests to participate in the world of music, the way in which it is done, passing products as symbols of an identity (as opposed to just marketing ploys), is definitely not the way to go.

Art deserves better; we deserve better.

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 This article has been updated to include a gallery of some sponsorships in heavy metal. If you have some other examples, send them our way!

  • whiskeyhammer 90

    “I mean nowadays rap, hip hop and, of course, pop, represent the lowest common denominator in terms of music; they are simplistic, repetitive, and intellectually offensive enough to appeal to the largest possible audience.”

    Considering the average basement-dwelling autists that listen to metal, this is a laughable charge to make against other forma of music.

    Metal is for developmentally-disabled manchildren. Grow up or GTFO. Weedly weedly assfaggotry for lonely neckbeards who have the attention span of a gnat. Yuck. You’re just a kid. You don’t know jack-shit about anything. Pretty soon you’ll grow out of this angry, morose teenager bullshit. The sooner the better. If you were actually bright, you’d realize you’re the ones here with a below average IQ and a mild tendency towards sociopathy. Mostly though, you’re just unlikable and socially awkward. Many of you will get past that when you grow up. The rest of you will become basement dwellers for life, and a select few of you will turn into goofy ponytailed help-desk workers who are eventually hauled out of the office for having child porn—surprising none of the rest of us.

    • J_MetalBlast

      I don’t know, whiskeyhammer90, I get you totally laid some sweet burns on me there.
      I mean, talking about “assfaggotry” sure demonstrated your intellectual superiority.

      • whiskeyhammer 90

        How does it feel to write for a rag that has less readers than garbage like MetalSucks? I’m sure Mom must be proud.

        • J_MetalBlast

          I don’t know man, last time I saw your mom she seemed happy.

          • whiskeyhammer 90

            Not a lot of time to spend on this one but metal is a lot like anime: fandoms of young people are infatuated with something low-quality, formulaic and in bad taste, all the while convinced that it’s the deepest, most meaningful shit ever and superior to any “mainstream” forms. Just as the intended audience of anime is Japanese 12 year olds, so too does metal appeal to the 12 year old in the driver’s seat of every metal-loving manchild’s cumbersome frame. Anime fans brag endlessly about how a lot of anime is “mature” in content, but the reality is that the only thing setting apart “mature” anime from the childish pap that is regular anime are cartoon boobs and geysers of blood (instead of, say, a thought-provoking message). Metal fans suffer from a similar delusion, thinking that pentagrams, inverted crosses, lyrics about how much you hate Christ, album art of gory nun porn, blastbeats, screeching and an overall angsty, disgruntled sound are the hallmark of maturity. So thank you for demonstrating the intellectual capability of the average metal fan.

          • J_MetalBlast

            I think you’ve made it very clear that you have very little time to spend on this (2 days and counting!) and that you care so little about it that you need to leave long diatribes explaining, in detail, why metal is terrible and you’re smart.
            Keep up the good work! 🙂

          • “I’m going to illustrate to this retard how much I don’t care by writing paragraph after paragraph saying how much I don’t care and how irrelevant this whole concept is!” -local idiot on the internet

          • Vassago Gamori

            “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately. Their research also suggests corollaries: high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.”

    • 3leggedDog

      what’s autisitsis?