Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Advertisements in Liner Notes


I have a long history of not liking Mariah Carey. Maybe she's okay personally. I've never met her. But I've never liked her music. And this little ditty, reported by MTV News, really kind of puts it over the edge for me:

With product placement already ubiquitous in television and movies, the next logical place for brand integration is the CD — and Mariah Carey is taking the first step.

Brandweek magazine has reported that Carey's upcoming CD, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, will feature a 34-page insert in the CD booklet that is a collaboration with Elle magazine and which will include ads from upscale brands like Elizabeth Arden, Angel Champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Métier de Beauté and the Bahamas Board of Tourism.

In addition to the ads, the mini-magazine will feature stories about the singer with titles such as "VIP Access to Her Sexy Love Life," "Amazing Closet" and "Recording Rituals" written and designed by the Elle team and mixed in with lyrics and other traditional liner-note materials. A spokesperson for Carey's label, Island/Def Jam, confirmed the report.

The ad-supported booklets — which will also be available in a digital format for downloaders — will appear in the first 1 million U.S. copies of the CD and the first 500,000 overseas, and if the experiment is well-received, even bigger branding deals could be in the works for upcoming CDs from Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Kanye West and other IDJ acts, according to the magazine.

A condensed version of the booklet, without the music-specific material, will be inserted into 500,000 subscription copies of Elle's October issue.

"The idea was really simple thinking: 'We sell millions of records, so you should advertise with us,' " said Antonio "L.A." Reid, IDJ's chairman. "My artists have substantial circulation — when you sell 2 million, 5 million, 8 million, that's a lot of eyeballs. Most magazines aren't as successful as those records." Reid said Carey was "very open" to the idea when he showed her a mock-up of the magazine with brands that fit her jet-setter lifestyle. "I wouldn't want to do Mariah Carey and Comet abrasive cleaner," Reid said. "I wanted things that really reflected her taste." Advertising revenues will subsidize the label's entire costs for producing the booklet.

The deal comes amid the continuing bad news for the music industry, which has seen sales down 13.9 percent so far this year compared with last year. It also follows on the heels of last year's deal by Chris Brown's label, Jive Records, with the William Wrigley Jr. company, which found him writing and recording a single, "Forever," that doubled as a commercial for Doublemint gum, a campaign that was suspended after Brown was arrested for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna; Brown pleaded guilty to a felony count of assault and was recently sentenced to 180 days of community service.

The Mariah initiative also gives IDJ a chance to promote the CD outside of traditional music stores and the constantly shrinking music aisles in large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. At Wal-Mart, the CD will be featured outside the music section in a special display coordinated with Carey's new Arden fragrance, Forever, which will be advertised on the booklet's back cover. The CD and perfume will also be displayed together in the stores' beauty departments.

Yep. Advertisements in CD's. Nothing about this seems right to me. Now here, it seems like Carey is entirely on board with the experiment; but what if the experiment is an enormous success?

I once heard that it takes about 500,000 album sales--a gold record--for a record company to start making money on an album after making back what they spent to produce it. As stated in the article, by selling ads, the record company has subsidized all of their costs for producing the booklet.

Record companies, I believe, are necessary for musicians to get their music into the mass markets. And record companies, like nearly all companies, exist to make a profit. But a lot of artists thrive off of their intergrity. Will companies start putting advertisements in the newest Pearl Jam album? (Not that Pearl Jam would go for that!) Let's look at them as an example, though. This is the last of the '90's Seattle bands that has it's main members--and I assume we can count drummer Matt Cameron, as he was in Soundgarden when the Seattle scene exploded. This is the band that fought Ticket Master and survived. This is the band that fought AT&T censorship.

But say their next album came with advertisements in it, issued not by them but by the label. Would they be considered sellouts--a term that is thrown out all too often and too loosely, in my opinion--when they had nothing to do with it?

Hopefully we can all see the problem.

Worse, would a new band be forced to compromise their intergrity in order to try and sell their album? In doing so, they could lose all credibility, and be labeled nothing more than a corporate band when, in every other way, they've earned their way to making the album they want.

The record industry is hurting, and looking for a way to make money. Throw in advertisements; problem solved.

I'm a huge advocate of actually buying a physical CD. I love reading the liner notes, and I love seeing what the band or artist has to say. But if I began opening my CD's and started seeing ads for Gucci or Burger King, I'd be rather upset. I believe I'd start buying almost exclusively on iTunes. Granted, the article says that the ads will be in the online version, too, but when it comes to digital albums, I don't personally bother with that if the liner notes are available after the first album I tried that with had issues.

As a society, we're surrounded by advertisements every day. On the drive to work, you'll see them, or you'll see them on the bus or train. Every eight or so minutes you get bombarded with them on television, or every few pages in your magazines and newspapers. They're on scores of websites. They appear before your movie in the theater, and product placement can be prevalent throughout a film. And now someone thinks we should have them in our music.

Thanks but no thanks. If I see it in the liner notes of an album I purchase, I'll know to start buying online.


Sarbear said...

34 pages? Oh my goodness...

Nikola said...

This is ridiculous. Plus, I hate Mariah Carey. :)