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Musician's Corner: Sell Your Soul To Rock-n-Roll?
By Tom Leu,

What's your position on musicians or any celebrity endorsing and selling consumer products and services? To some, this practice is taboo, akin to selling your soul. To others, this is sometimes a survival and often lucrative proposition. This topic has been, and surely will continue to be debated by purists and capitalists as long as commerce exists.

The argument is that musicians are watering down the value of their artistic integrity by getting paid to hawk Doritos or McDonalds for example. Does their credibility as songwriters and players suddenly diminish because they're doing a commercial for AT&T? Or are they simply padding their pocketbooks and gaining additional exposure while affording themselves the opportunity to continue to make the very music that people love?

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Does it make a difference if an act is very well established or just getting started when considering sponsors and endorsements? Most often, you have to be an established act or star to even be considered for endorsements or sponsorships, but not always. Even at the local or regional level, securing sponsorships for music events and merchandise is not only possible, but also probable.

Obviously the logic is that famous artists and celebrities have huge audiences just waiting to run out and buy whatever they're selling. Look at Aerosmith, Garth Brooks, Britney Spears, and of course KISS to name only a few. These acts have had no problem offering up their star-studded names in exchange for a lot of extra green backs to afford that extra house in the Bahamas.

I am always skeptical however whether these musicians or celebrities are really using the products or services they endorse. Does it really matter? Who cares as long as we think they are using the stuff. Isn't that the basic premise of politics as well? We don't really know exactly what our politicians are doing except what they're telling us they're doing. By and large we want to believe them, so we usually do, don't we?

Businesses at the local level are also looking for new opportunities to get their name out there to new audiences. Enter the local and regional musician. Here lies the opportunity to secure corporate sponsors for upcoming gigs or promotional campaigns promoting your new release, merchandise, etc. Sometimes, especially for new artists with little or no money, obtaining sponsorships from companies or private investors is the difference between being broke and breaking through.

So the debate rages on. Some see no harm in making a little extra scratch putting their name next to Nike, Hanes, Taco Bell, Mountain Dew, or A1 Plumbing. Others vehemently oppose "selling out," refusing to be Johnny and the Moondogs being brought to you by Subway.

The benefits to securing sponsorships are...positive cash flow, being attached to and associated with respectable and reputable businesses, increased exposure while marketing to a sponsor's target market, prestige in some cases depending on sponsor profile, and newsworthiness. The disadvantages are... accusations of being a capitalist, conforming to sponsor demands and demographics, maligned by your contemporaries again for "selling out."

Are there some happy mediums that would allow groups or individuals to take advantage of the additional "funding" out there through sponsorships or endorsements without sacrificing all of their artistic integrity? Is it possible for there to be a gray area that isn't all or nothing all of the time? My position on this topic is to possibly find and agree on reasonable middle ground that could achieve both agendas. Never say never, and never say always.

The Bottom Line: Whatever your position, musician and celebrity endorsements of consumer goods always have, and always will be a reality. The fact is that most "consumers" like the warm fuzzies they get knowing that Britney Spears is guzzling Pepsi or Dwight Yoakam is wearing GAP jeans. Personally, I like the Mountain Dew commercial featuring the cool car rocking out to the Hoobastank tune... who?

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