The latest scrap of music was tossed from Beyoncé’s high table last night. A one and a half minute preview of ‘Standing On The Sun’ is the soundtrack of a new advert for H&M summer wear (the song’s a bit meh and a sidebar anyway to Bey slithering around in Nassau in a bikini and bandying around a sarong). Earlier this month, a similar moment occurred. A mystery teaser clip aired with the hashtag #beyherenow and Beyoncé wearing that glove-claw made of molten gold. Could it be a new song from her 5th album? Or a compilation of Oasis covers? Pffffft. It turned out to be a one minute long track for a Pepsi ad. Times must be hard.
Queen B is a superstar, the ultimate superstar ‘standing on the sun’. She’s the greatest female ‘diva’, in the old school sense, and carries critical as well as commercial cred. She earned $40 million in the year she had Blue Ivy (2012) and $70 million from 2009 to 2011. Husband Jay-Z has a net worth of half a billion dollars. While it makes sense that a band such as Frankie And The Heartstrings or other struggling musicians might give the green light to Dominos using one of their songs for an ad, in exchange for money that’ll enable them to continue writing songs, it seems bizarre to sell your soul when you’re loaded.
Most of the music industry, however, is no longer filthy rich, so it’s naive to expect pop stars to reject offers of product placement or perfume deals. And John Lydon’s Country Life adverts and Iggy Pop’s car insurance tragedy don’t detract from their contribution to popular culture. Even Blur scored a goal for commerce over art when they licensed ‘The Universal’ to British Gas. But there is a line, and Beyoncé’s close to crossing it. As the music industry gets even poorer, where will this end? Artists selling their skin for branded tattoos, like this guy? I give it 10 years.
Music and branding are jumping into bed together with more brio than ever before. It’s something I’ve noticed accelerating at SXSW over the last few years. From a Doritos stage to free Monster energy drinks on every corner and Prince’s heavily sponsored Samsung gig, The Man is everywhere. On the one hand, it pays for most of the festival and facilitates brilliant live music and the germination of new acts. On the other, when the normally reticent Prince says “a very special thank you to Samsung” towards the end of his secret set, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Some would argue that Beyoncé getting her money’s worth is no great surprise. She’s a mainstream pop star on a major label. She has a different fan base to Einstürzende Neubauten. But why are the standards different for pop and ‘indie’ artists? Why does her music demand less ‘realness’? Somehow I doubt we’ll see her more ‘alternative’ sister Solange repping New Look one day.
We want to know what you think. Would it bother you if your favourite band started advertising Sunkist? Oh, that already happened. Do you respect Super Furry Animals for turning down Coca Cola’s £1million offer to use ‘Hello Sunshine’ in an ad? Is there a different between pop stars and the rest? Why should there be? Perhaps you are indifferent. Would it bother you if Thom Yorke became the face of Ginsters Peppered Steak Slice?
Let us know in the comments below.