On Commercialism


If you read my blog, you know that I was a grade-A cynic and misanthrope (still am, but I’ve mellowed considerably over time). Back when I worshiped Bill Hicks, one of the things I agreed with him on was commercials and commercialism.

Here’s a video of Bill talking about this… after the fold (warning, most definitely NOT safe for work):

The relevant part starts between 1:51 and 1:52…

So, basically, if you did a commercial, I hated you.

Then I started discovering how many of my absolute favorite musicians, bands, comedians, actors, actresses, and so on were doing commercials, and I was floored. Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”? Lewis Black?

And now I’m actually finding new music via commercials!

The biggest example (and also recent… like, in the last few days) is a band called The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. I first heard a song of their’s on a commercial for Heineken. Here’s the commercial:

(There’s a longer version here if you’re interested.)

That song simply infected me. It absolutely refused to let me go. I simply had to find it.

Not surprisingly, it was actually pretty easy. A quick Google search netted the name of the song as well as the name of the band.

Now I can’t stop listening to them. The music does not at all fit my usual style-preferences, but there is something so damn awesome about them. They seem to be ripped right out of the 60’s; psychedelic, groovy, and fun. Mette Lindberg is beautiful, and she has a very unique voice that I honestly do love. The lyrics are funny. I have trouble believing that most of the songs are not about drugs in one way or another. They are very spacey, as well. Sometimes they’re reminiscent of Smash Mouth, and other times I just can’t pin them down.

Now, I wouldn’t call The Asteroids Galaxy Tour “corporate” or “government-approved” at all. It certainly isn’t mainstream or top-40. I find them to be unique, funny, and catchy. I’m loving this group a lot.

To be fair, this is pretty unique for me. For the most part, music used in commercials sucks, and I still mostly feel a sense of disappointment when someone I like (and admire) does a commercial. I think it’s pretty fucking pathetic that we’ve gotten to the point where, in order to make money, musicians, bands, actors, actresses, athletes, and so on have to be “sponsored” by corporations and do commercials on behalf of those corporations.

But then again, I found out recently that Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Doors, and so many more did commercials. Sure, most of their music ended up in the commercials after the bands were long done, so you can blame specific people instead of the whole entity, but still… it’s almost as if you can’t be famous unless you do commercials anymore. And yeah, there are people who refuse to consider anything a famous person has to say if they’ve done a commercial; they ignore the musicians, bands, actors, actresses, athletes, and so on.

And yeah, most of it is shit. Most of the music that ends up in commercials these days is absolute shit. But there are gems out there in commercials, as well, like Asteroids Galaxy Tour. I can no longer deny that, or I’d be a hypocrite.

Would I like to see the day return when doing commercial is not required for being famous? Do I like the thought of a day when celebrities can become rich without the need for corporate sponsorship?

Obviously. I don’t like the fact that society has become so sold-out that perfectly rational people laugh off perfectly legitimate complaints against corporate shilling with “what is this, the 90’s?” and “oh, grow up. It’s just how it is.” It’s fucking depressing.

But I would not be listening to Asteroids Galaxy Tour if not for that commercial. It may be that the record companies have such a strangle-hold on the music industry these days that commercials are nearly the only way to get any real exposure any more. Or maybe we have a new generation of musicians that actually like the products they’re hawking, and so they wanted to be in the commercials because “this shit is really good! Everyone should be enjoying it.”

(Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but Heineken can actually be enjoyed, even favorited, by people… I mean, I hate beer in general, but at the very least, Heineken is better than that king of piss-water, Budweiser.)

I mean, I love AriZona Tea so much that they get unofficial advertising from me all the time. I’m always drinking the Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey (also the Cranberry and Raspberry teas, the Blueberry Green Tea, the Arnold Palmers, the Half & Halfs, some of the juices, and even more), and always preaching about how good it is to anyone who asks. I wonder how many people have bought some to try it because of me, which just makes me wonder even more how much money AriZona might theoretically owe me (and I could use that money, to be honest). Is it possible that me, or a song of mine, could one day end up in an AriZona Tea commercial if I ever become famous?

I’d like to say no, but I can’t. If I were ever asked, I’d have a hard time turning it down, not because of the money, but because I honestly like the product. They make a lot of amazing drinks, but the Green Tea especially is something else. I’d love to see more people drinking it. I honestly wouldn’t mind being associated with it. It’s that fucking good. I can honestly see the draw to getting paid to do what I already do anyways, too a much bigger, much more guaranteed audience. I’m not sure I could come right out and say yes, either… but it would be a fight, and in the end, I honestly cannot say whether I would or wouldn’t.

I still hate the thought of “selling out”. It does still bother me. But maybe it’s not possible to not sell out anymore. Maybe it’s time to stop blaming the musicians, bands, actors, actresses, and athletes that do it, and start blaming the industry and culture (that means all of us) that forced them into it. Maybe… just maybe… the musicians, bands, actors, actresses, and athletes that “sell out” don’t actually have a choice… that is, if they want what they’re doing to be a lifelong career that they can live off of…

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About Nathan Hevenstone

I hate straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men. I also play guitar and sing, and I'm an atheist and anti-theist. What now?
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