It’s Time to Ask the Question: Should Artists Consider Sponsors for Their Albums?

For centuries, artists got their financial support from admiring patrons.  Shakespeare and Mozart wouldn’t haven’t been able to do what they did without generous donations from people who loved their work.

When music became commoditized about 150 years ago and began to be sold as sheet music and in physical formats like records, new revenue streams developed.  The need for patrons diminished.

Some reckless souls tried to improve upon this money-for-plastic model.  In 1986, a British band called Sigue Sigue Spuntnik–a gimmicky outfit who proclaimed that their way was the way of the 21st century–released an album entitled Flaunt It.  Instead of leaving the customary two-second gap between songs on the record, they sold this space for advertising.  

Music fans were aghast at such wanton commercialism.  Still, L’Oreal, i-D magazine, a clothing shop called Pure Sex and others jumped in.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik soon fizzled along with their plan of selling ad space on albums.  

But that was then when everyone bought albums.  Today, with that revenue stream having disappeared for thousands upon thousands of artists, is it time to rethink things?  Maybe selling ad space is the way to go.  

Maybe that’s too crass, though.  How much do you hate sitting through a commercial before you get to your YouTube video?

So let’s think about this:  why not meet halfway between advertising and patronage?  What about sponsored albums?  Why not have, say, Coke, adopt an artist and finance the recording of their new material in exchange for some kind of promotional consideration?  How far removed is that from licensing your music to a TV commercial or TV show?

Noisey follows up on this notion.  It’s not crazy, you know. Maybe Sigue Sigue Sputnik was onto something in ’86.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “It’s Time to Ask the Question: Should Artists Consider Sponsors for Their Albums?

  • January 31, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Many artists use product placement in their videos : Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne…
    Pepsi "adopted" Michael Jackson big time during the 90's. In exchange, Jackson would stick Pepsi cups on stage during the shows. I my opinion, this already exists!

  • January 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    It works for TV and movies, why not for music as well.

    Personally, I would think that if my band was struggling to come up with funds to record or tour, and some corporate entity wanted to throw money at me in exchange for some logo placement, I think I'd be okay with that.

    It's not that much different from musicians with instrument sponsorships. Guitarists getting free gear for plugging a certain brand, or being photographed with that brand.

  • February 1, 2013 at 1:40 am

    A fine idea that many would jump on if the contract stipulated artistic autonomy, but consumers are too thick. The shouts and think-pieces and Tumblr intellectualists would hop on it like locusts, chewing through the stalks of a good idea with their bullshit about "authenticity" and "selling out".

    People have been doing it for years. It's called patronage. Go back to Coachella and keep telling yourselves it's about the music, and not the ten story Coca Cola ads.

    "Who are the Stone Roses?", they'll reply.


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