HITS Daily Double
‘If you were writing a book about how to fuck it up, the music industry would probably be in the top three examples."
——Sony BMG's U.K. chief Ged Doherty


Nick Gatfield and Former Boss David Joseph Weigh In on the Potential Applications of Brand-Name Marketing to the Music Biz
The British press is having a field day with Guy Hands’ selection of Elio Leoni-Sceti as CEO of EMI Music, partly because the product pitches of the marketing whiz are all over U.K. TV. Listing some of the brands he’s peddled—Dettol, Nurofen and Lemsip, Musicradar.com zeroed in on “infamous” kitchen cleaner Cillit Bang, running the caption “Bang! And the [insert joke here] is gone” under an image of the logo, along with this 30-second spot.

The Guardian this morning posted Owen Gibson’s in-depth piece on the possible applications of brand-name marketing to the selling of music. It bears the headline “Bang! And the duds are gone,” and starts with a similar bang:

“The music industry's relationship with marketing used to be a simple one. Splash out on a river of booze, a mound of cocaine, a few ice sculptures and possibly some scantily clad models for the launch party. Employ an army of people to hype and plug your artist into the charts. Perhaps throw in a handful of embroidered satin jackets. And if you were Michael Jackson, send a 39 ft. statue of yourself down the Thames.

“But then came the reckoning—the well-documented impact of the digital revolution, combined with the inertia of an industry bloated by years of easy profits from overpriced CDs. Downloads and other new revenue streams have not contributed enough to plug the gap in plummeting CD sales; heavy discounting and cover mounting have hit the perceived value of music. ‘If you were writing a book about how to fuck it up, the music industry would probably be in the top three examples," Sony BMG's U.K. chief Ged Doherty said earlier this year.’”

Theorizing that marketers are taking over the media world, Gibson buttonholed Nick Gatfield during his first week of work as head of A&R in the U.K., who opined that consumer insight is more important than ever—but needs to go hand in hand with a traditional eye for talent. "We have been relatively unsophisticated in understanding the consumer,” Gatfield acknowledged. “Our direct relationship with the consumer has been very poor. We have had a good relationship with the gatekeepers, the radio stations and media companies. But increasingly, our mission is about understanding music consumers and not the tastes of Radio 1."

Gatfield further offered that he’s now as much seller as buyer—he must convince artists that their ambitions are best served by a major label. "There absolutely is a place for major music companies,” he argued. “We have to build a suite of services around our core offering. You can't do this job at any major record label without being able to sell the idea to artists that we are the best place for them to be."

But UMG U.K. CEO David Joseph, Gatfield’s former boss, isn’t convinced that music can be marketed like branded products. "We think that if you get the right artists, consumers like being told what to buy, as opposed to trying to find out what they want," he said. "If they say they like Abba, are you going to get on a plane to Sweden?… I'm very cynical about talking about our artists as brands. Amy Winehouse and Take That are successful recording artists, we don't sit around talking about their brand values. If you sign quality, the commerce will follow."

Later in the piece, Gibson looks at TAG, the partnership between IDJ and Proctor & Gamble, Leoni-Sceti’s onetime employer, pointing out that Russell Simmons set the precedent for such unlikely unions during the early days of Def Jam. Remember “My Adidas” and “Pass the Courvoisier”?

The writer ends the EMI section of the piece with another zinger: “The title track on Viva La Vida describes the last days of a deposed dictator hearing the revolution swell outside his walls—Hands will hope it's not him for whom the bell is tolling.”