Damn that integrity
Wouldn't touch it with a ten foot poll
Indie rockers reject big money from the king of gas guzzlers
By Otis Hart
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Thermals, a rambunctious rock band from Portland, Ore., were en route between gigs last year when they got a phone call from their label, Sub Pop. Hummer wanted to pay them $50,000 for the right to use their song "It's Trivia" in a commercial.
Portland, Ore., trio The Thermals turned down a $50,000 licensing deal from Hummer.
Trans Am, an electronic rock band from Washington, spurned $180,000 in ad money from Hummer.
"We thought about it for about 15 seconds, maybe," lead singer Hutch Harris said.
They said no.
The post-punk band LiLiPUT, who broke up more than 20 years ago, could have pocketed $50,000 for "Heidi's Head" after making close to nothing during their five-year existence. But they, too, said no.
"At least I can sleep without nightmares," Marlene Marder reasoned.
Lyle Hysen runs Bank Robber Music, a licensing group that pitches songs to film, television and advertisement companies. He's gotten his clients featured in shows like "Six Feet Under" and "The L Word" and in car ads by Volkswagen and Jaguar.
Hummer, however, has been a nonstarter.
"My standard line is you guys will play a hundred million gigs before you see this amount of money," Hysen said. "Usually they come back with, 'We'll do anything BUT Hummer.'"
"It's not about the money," Manley said. "It's the principle."
While multi-platinum artists like Talking Heads and Smashing Pumpkins have declined, more of the "thanks-but-no-thanks" crowd are musicians who would benefit greatly by the exposure that accompanies a national ad campaign, like electronic artists Caribou and Four Tet, or acid-bluesmen the Soledad Brothers.
"It had to be the worst product you could give a song to," Harris said. "It was a really easy decision. How could we go on after soundtracking Hummer? It's just so evil."
Lance Jensen, president of the advertising agency Modernista, is the creative mind behind the Hummer campaign, and has seen firsthand what prime-time, 30-second spots can do for unheard artists — six years ago, he used cult-folk hero Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" in a Volkswagen commercial, which single-handedly triggered a Drake renaissance and probably led to what we now call "yup-rock" (polite indie rock for the upwardly mobile).
Jensen's Modernista has produced some of the most innovative car commercials ever. They avoid pitchmen — hell, they avoid people most of the time — and focus on visual spectacle. And a big part of attracting eyeballs is giving people a sound that will turn their heads.
Unfortunately for Hummer, many artists aren't listening.
Getting music into ads has been a lifesaver for established musicians like Sting and Paul McCartney. These people are doing more than passing up a fat paycheck by having integrity, but national exposure which could lead to much more money, maybe even a hit record.
This is no small decision.
posted by Steve @ 5:31:00 PM