Tales from the Jugular

Metal CDs and Sponsorship

By: Frank Hill
Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Metal CDs & Sponsorship

I have an MP3 formatted recording of Ronnie James Dio doing a Budweiser commercial from around 1983/4 played during a King Biscuit Flower Hour radio broadcast. Diehard Dio fans would probably know it, but the casual Dio fan may not and it's pretty amazing to hear. The CLASSIC song "Rainbow In The Dark", off of his "Holy Diver" CD, was sang with the lyrics to the King of Beers theme and it fit really well. Even the guitar solo was changed to fit the melody of the minute-long piece:

"This Bud's for you / And there's no was else who does it like you do /
So, here's to you / It isn't only what you say, it's what you do"

Since there were no websites and no message boards for lightning-fast conversations about it, I can't say how his fans, or metalheads in general, felt about this adaption. If it was done today, I'd venture to say that given the largely conservative (resistant to change) attitude of headbangers, Ronnie would be blasted by the majority for selling out.

I'd say that most metal bands would be ripped for doing any non-musical (TAMA drums, Jackson guitars, etc.) commercial endorsements, but why? Why do we get an auto-negative feeling when a band or musician endorses something for the purpose of raising some cash or making some extra money? We must see our favorite performers with a level of purity that is above the commercial pandering of the average pop star and for many of us, the band and the band's music drop in stature when making money is involved even though many underground groups are dirt poor and have full-time days jobs.

This came to me while watching the end of a NASCAR race.

We all basically hate advertising bombardment, but within the racing industry, nobody has a problem with sponsers and ads all over the cars and driver uniforms covering most every bit of free space. In fact, it's encouraged. It's instituted into their system and accepted.

Why can't metal bands and record labels do the same? If the music industry is hurting so bad for cash, why not create a new revenue stream with sponsorship from various products placed in the booklets or in/on the CD jewel cases. Generally, you'll see an ad at the concerts or something like "NyQuil Presents...Limp Bizkit", but not much more.

Varying methods could be used:
--The last page of the liner booklet could be for promotion.
--The entire back of the bottom CD tray liner is covered with varying-sized ads.
--Small ads are scattered throughout the booklet.
--Stickers are placed on the CD wrappings.

Of course, it would create more work similar to a radio/TV station. Established labels would have to have an ad/sales person to contract with companies to place ads for the artists. If the revenue wasn't high enough or they didn't want the responsibility (some labels are run from basements), we could skirt around this and have the pressure taken off by having an outsourced middle man role take over that duty. They go out a collect all the sponsorships and take a cut of the money collected. For example, an ad rep gets 100 sponsors together at $1,000 each for $100,000. They collect a 10% finders fee of $10,000 and gives the label $90,000 and ad rights.

Certainly, there would be some dirty dealing. A rep who accepted kickbacks or a little extra cash could push for certain sponsors to be on certain records, but weren't not looking at the potential ethics violations here, just the idea.

There could be no upfront fees for bands/labels. The job of getting sponsors rests on the reps shoulders and say they have a list of 500 sponsors, they could charge by the number of sponsors wanted and by the size of the ads similar to the race car models. Bands/labels could go through the list of companies available and pick the one's they want to use. Unknown bands unfortunately may have to put out the effort to find their own sponsors just like the old High School yearbook.

Mind you, magazines usually operate and survive on an edit-to-ad ratio of content to ads and ad departments are generally kept seperate from the writing department which is why you could see a review trashing a new CD and a full page ad for the same CD right beside it. It probably would be acceptable with metal fans to see music-based products (TAMA drums, Jackson guitars, etc.), but bands might want to be picky with their fanbase and especially with the artwork of the CD coming into play. A modern, young artist who loves Pepsi might get away with it. Andrew W.K. and Kit Kat joined up and I don’t know if it would bother me to see “Vegemite” on the new AC\DC or “Jaxx Concerts” on the new October 31. But it probably wouldn't work if the new Judas Priest had a Fanta ad in it or you were looking at a Deicide album and right beside a crucified Jesus there was the Energizer Bunny.

With the really extreme bands it may be ‘sticky’. Paradoxically, it could become a selling point for those who want to stress how unspoiled by commercialism they are. But let's not be fools here. THAT is still a marketing tool! Many of your favorite “underground” bands have and are represented by a PR Department.

Charities could be listed also instead of products...wink, wink.

Us metalheads generally like a purity with our bands, but we're talking about a need for real money required for studio time, production, etc, that has to be paid back to the label company. Bands aren't giving their music out for free without some tradeoff say, higher concert attendance and are fine with making money after the product is created, so let them make some beforehand. Is it nessecary for us to see the creative process of the artist as something noble and not entwined with financial gain or can we see the two as separate?

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