Music with marketing, not vice versa

Advertisements have long depended on musicians to provide them with catchy jingles or song snippets to help promote their product. Now they’re returning the favor.  Brandweek is reporting that Mariah Carey’s new CD Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel will feature advertisements from Elizabeth Arden and the Bahamas Board of Tourism, among others, in its 34-page booklet.

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In conjunction with Elle magazine, this approach to marketing is an experiment by Island Def Jam, probably due in part to declining album sales. If the project  is successful, expect similar deals quickly popping up in the liner notes of other artists.

On the surface, this can be viewed in one of two ways. The first, is that it is a great idea. These albums sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies. By placing ads in the liner notes, which almost everyone looks, you are increasing brand awareness on a massive scale. Particularly interesting is the correlation that market researchers will draw between fans of a certain artist and the products they purchase. Thus, it seems logical that Mariah-fans, who are (I’m assuming) primarily women, would be attracted to certain perfumes, champagne and clothing lines.  This is a smart way to focus on a specific audience, while helping the record labels offset their production costs. Considering the decline of album sales in the face of digital downloads and rampant piracy, this is a brilliant move.

On the other hand, from a music purist’s point of view, this can be viewed as the ultimate sellout. A purist may view these integrated CD booklets as an artist compromising his or her integrity for a quick buck. Of course this point of view depends solely on the artist in question. Rappers, for example, are notorious for endorsing virtually anything (except McDonalds, apparently), provided the money is right. But if Beck, on the other hand, were to do this, I imagine there would be a huge outcry from his fan base.

In reality, advertising inside CDs is nothing new. No Limit albums always contained promos for upcoming releases inside the case, and 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me famously had a photo of 2Pac’s crew posing in front of two cars which prominently featured advertisements for a Los Angeles auto customization shop. Of course this is the first time CD booklets have been approached as a marketing medium on a general scale. If this is a success, and I think it will be, it’s a good bet that this type of marketing will soon become commonplace. Smaller, regional labels, in a particular may begin using this type of marketing to generate revenue to increase their budget and promote artist awareness.

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