We are all prostitutes…or should a musician take brand cash or arts grants
Recently I was on one of those panels debating whether bands should take sponsorship or brand money and how far they had to bend over before we could all shout 'sell out' at them.
Of course the whole concept of sell out is pretty spurious as a term. It was often banded about by the media working for music papers owned by huge companies slagging off bands signing to major labels, especially in the punk era.
It's a difficult one to qualify.
The notion of the debate is should bands take sponsorship money, should they take it without knowing where it comes from and is it selling out to be involved in taking this money.
It's a contentious debate, for some taking the adman cash and the brand dollar is totally wrong and that's a fine and noble stance and one we all wish we could comply with. If you can survive outside the system then hats off to you, as long as you are truly outside the system and not using any major company produced phones or computers and not any major corporation produced fuel when traveling etc..
Another topic that was raised was is it really purer to take money from arts grants than from a mobile phone company? At first sight it is a very different world but no-one gives money away for nothing…is it just a case of governments advertising themselves by handing money over to starving artists? Is the money clean or dirty? Does it matter if the money comes from a right wing government or a left wing corporation? And does it really give you the moral high ground if you are subsidised by arts money to criticise the artist who takes money from the brands? And is it fair that are money will only go to certain types of musicians?
And if you take money from brands how far do you have to leap through the hoop before you are 'selling out' . I guess changing your song to incorporate the name of the product is pushing it a bit far…a lot of people didn't like Iggy Pop or Johny Rotten appearing in ads but seemed to have no problem with John Peel doing the voice over for many ads or The Fall providing the music for ads- is giving your music away to an ad wrong or right? Or does it depend on wether you like the band or not? Or now that everyone nicks music for free can we really expect artists to survive on no money? And did Michelangelo ask these questions when he took the money from the rich patrons in order to paint?