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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
 

FEIST IS NOW A SELL-OUT.

ALAMIR

Arts & Entertainment

You know you're a sellout when you've had more songs in commercials than songs played on the radio. Clearly if she sells her songs to Apple, Lacoste and other companies it's a sign that she wouldn't mind playing for more radio/video play either. Even if it's radio's fault for not being open enough to accept her songs, she's still famous enough to sell albums and such without having to try get airplay by selling me spring coloured gator-logo-shirts and a chocolate coloured phone.

Let me make this clear, I didn't hate her songs before she started making commercials, even though I did find them annoying. And I actually liked her stuff before she branched off as "Feist" when she was part of Broken Social Scene (well I liked Broken Social and Feist just happened to be part of it back then) ..and, to my knowledge Broken Social have never made a commercial.
So here's a list of some of the times that Feist has sold-out (And by sell out I mean sell a song to a corporation to sell a random product thereby removing any powerful meaning behind the song.. how much closer to the definition of "sell-out" can one be?):

Feist's 1234 sells
iPod Nano:


Feist's My Moon My Man sells
Verizon Wireless cellphone:


Feist's Mushaboom sells
Lacoste Essential Cologne:


Feist's sound is so easy to replicate that when the Mac Air commercial had first come out I had thought it was her again. Well, the singer for the Mac Air commercial wasn't Feist but some other girl that I don't care to mention by name but I personally know of few people who thought it was Feist as well. My point is that simplistic song arrangements are hard to tell apart but easy to clone by anyone; Just like TV jingles. Maybe Feist has a future in writing jingles? It's not like she doesn't already have a history of popping up in commercials on the few times I watch TV to try to sell me some random product.

And just for kicks, here's Feist as a clown:
Comments

SAMAEL

SAMAEL

This reminds me of Giles's column on Feist (the column was about Pop Music, not Feist alone). You both point out that "Feist's sound is so easy to replicate," however Giles took it one step further and pointed out that the dangers of this: people will copy her. This easy-going female singer sound will flourish and eventually it will become something that is closely akin to Canadian pop-culture, which will get annoying for those of us who don't like her.

I recommend that you (and anyone else) read Giles's thoughts on it: http://capcourier.theorem.ca/2008/03/03/music-jerk-4/ Title

Alamir

ALAMIR

Giles... You know, I actually like Giles' taste in music from what I've heard the few times I've spoken to him about it. I agree with most of what Giles says too in his article, but the one thing I disagree with is whether it's Feist's fault... I think it is. It's Feist's fault she left an amazing band like Broken Social Scene (I thought their second album was pretty good ) and it's Feist's fault that she makes simplistic music with a fake accent (yes I hear a fake accent when she sings, please tell me you do too!)

wordup

wordup

as simple as it sounds she drove the industry to replicate her- she created a buzz and a trend of what's cool. she's an influence. people will continue to copy others' work to improve their own craft and if it sounds good i'm all for it.
there are a lot of and a lot of musicians. if u don't like what she's evolved into then move on and discover other great artists.
p.s. as far as i know Feist never left BSS. BSS is a collective of almost 20 artists and their roster only gets bigger not smaller.

alishahnovin

alishahnovin

Is it just as bad for a musician to give their song to a movie and collect royalties from that? Sometimes a song suits a particular mood in a movie, and it really works...and the artist gets a hefty paycheck. The musician's already done their part, and they're just selling their song for the money at that point. So, is it just as bad?

I don't think so. I have no problem with artists selling their songs for ads. Sometimes the song fits well in a movie. Sometimes a song suits a product as well. Feist's simple 1234 fits the simplicity of the iPod. The colors in the video suit the colors of the Nano. The iPod is a music machine. Feist makes music. It makes sense to me.

Even with the Lacoste commercial - the product doesn't have to do with music, but the commercial does.

Commercials/Advertising is an art form, and a very difficult one at that. The ability to present information in a creative and interesting way - show a product in a way that tells you much about the product, without including a lot of text, etc etc. A lot goes into ads, and I generally appreciate them (aside from the annoying 'Click on the red spider' type ads, which have nothing to do with...anything really.)

If a movie is designed to evoke an emotion and can therefor include a song, why can't a commercial, which is equally designed to evoke an emotion? The artist gets a paycheck in both cases. And I don't think many people associate the song and artist with the product afterwards. The artist isn't selling themselves, just their work. The artist is selling the sound they produced that fits the tone of an ad that is for a product.

The Stone Temple Pilots' Wicked Garden was in a Jeep ad from a while ago. The song fit perfectly. I haven't bought a jeep, and I still like STP, but in addition - it made 30 seconds of a particular car commercial I'd otherwise ignore, better. I'd rather enjoy a commercial with a song I like, then sit through commercials by artists I already hate.

In shorter words: I'd rather watch an iPod commercial with Feist, a car commercial with STP, than with Nickelback, or Linkin Park, or Hedley, or Simple Plan. That would just be annoying.

chris

chris

i sorta agree with your sister (although the thought of advertisement as art makes me shudder), with a few more things to add (in point form b/c i'm procrastinating from working on this gigantic goddamn field school report):

the radio sucks.

artists write songs so people can hear them.

nobody hears fuck all on clear channel.

when she let lacoste and apple (i ahd no idea about the cell phone thing) use those songs she was relatively unknown to the mainstream public (like i'd place her on a level of indie stardom as maybe a sufjan stevens or of montreal, but not superstardom like the shins or iron and wine (who blew up cos they sold their songs to that shitty hollywood movie with natalie portman whose name escapes me now)).

so she basically used it as an avenue to reach a wider audience. mission accomplished. what the hells wrong with that? i can pretty much guarantee she's not still living off those cheques, like at the absolute most she maybe got a lump sum of 10k which she figured would help pay for her next recording.

now, i'm not a fan or anything by any means (her music bores me to tears), but i think you're being unnecessarily harsh. 5 years ago mogwai had this awesome q and a section on their site and at the time i had just finished watching the most godawful cliche teen B movie with that chick who used to be on popular mechanics for kids or whatever, just horrendous stuff, and at the cheesiest part of the movie they played 'christmas song' and i got kinda indignant about it and sent in a question along the lines of "do you guys screen, or does anyone even give you the gist of, the shitty movies and tv programs you lend your songs to?" and barry quipped back "we could give a fuck what it's about so long as it wasn't made by nazis; it's the only way anyone would ever hear our music apart from the john peel show on the bbc."

and who can argue with? contrary to popular belief i don't think there's many songwriters out there who find the notion of playing basement shows, not paying rent, and living off ramen very romantic. i'd say that most are looking for a balance between creative license and making a comfortable living. i don't really see how she compromised herself in that respect, at least not moreso than many other artists.

(note: i absolutely agree with you about the strokes thing you put up on facebook awhile ago though. there is a world of difference between letting a song you've already written be used to gain some exposure and writing a song about, for, and to promote a product (and for a company as shitty as nike jesus christ)).

also dude you'll have a really hard time enjoying any music nowadays if you employ the same blanket rejection to any artist allowing a song to be used in an advert. here is a list of other (mostly) indie bands worthy of your ire:

mates of state
new pornos
the hold steady
fugazi (ian mackaye would actually shit a brick no doubt but they use it a redskins home games to pump up the crowd)
the Fall
the thermals
of montreal
the magnetic fields
modest mouse
cat power
iron and wine
the beta band
pink reason
arcade fire
wilco
sonic youth
daniel johnston
m. ward
the flaming lips
mogwai
wire
band of horses
the books
radiohead (nba commercial apparently ran in the states a couple seasons ago)
royksopp
spoon
hum
throw me the statue

and that is by no means comprehensive.

so i dunno. i'm not exactly comfortable with some of my favorite artists being on that list, and am especially troubled by the recontextualization of a song from it's original intent to making people want stuff, but they gotta do what they gotta do i guess.

chris

chris

can i edit my post? i just called your brother your sister and feel pretty silly. sorry about that dude. to be fair, it's been probably 15 years since i've seen you.

Alamir

ALAMIR

"Wordup", I agree with the first part of what you said. Except my argument isn't about how I can't move on from Feist or that I don't realize that there are other artists. Because that would imply that I look at commercials for new artists and that she's taking commercials away from other artists, which is not the case. My argument is that Feist's songs have lost all meaning as they appear on every commercial just flipping through channels or walking through a store, or waiting in the elevator. So for people to be telling me about this "hot new artist Feist" is ridiculous and this article's purpose is to diminish that notion.

Chris, both you and Alish have brought "movies" into the equation. However, I'm speaking about corporate advertisements. I love when songs I like are in movies. Films are one of my favourite art forms and to combine the two genres is pure bliss. You raised the issue about bad-movies, and I guess certain lines get fuzzy there. If an artist just wants the money exposure then I think they're doing a disservice to not only their artform but that of the film's as well (unless the director is in it for the money too and then you just end up with crappy greedy fake-art). However, aside from that I think movies can enhance music. For example, Sigur Ros are regularly played in every low-budget art film/play/gallery that I go to (probably without royalties too) and some of these low-budget places have really amateur art. However, I can still appreciate that the artist was influenced by the works of Sigur Ros. This is almost a polar opposite feeling I get from someone like Feist where I know that a marketeer was just looking for a catchy jingle to stick inside the heads of consumers...there's no art in that because it's driven solely by markets. For example, if the ipod knew it could sell twice as many products by putting out a commercial that bashed Feist and agreed with my views they would take that avenue. Thus, the soul of the commercial is to simply do whatever the consumer wants to hear and is left as nothing but a soul-less parrot.

In summary:
1-Getting exposure for your art and royalties for your wallet by supporting other people's artwork is understandable. (i.e films, plays, galleries..etc)
2-Getting exposure and royalties by promoting a corporate message on materialism for a marketer that couldn't care less about your art (or message) other than whether it had mass appeal...is selling out.
3-Mixing your art's message (about life philosophy) with a commercial's message (on shallow materialism): Undermines the message of your art.

chris

chris

sorry i misinterpreted your article.

"Except my argument isn't about how I can't move on from Feist or that I don't realize that there are other artists. Because that would imply that I look at commercials for new artists and that she's taking commercials away from other artists, which is not the case."

i cannot follow how you lept from sentence one to sentence two here (or even parse the second one, for that matter), but i'm not talking about you (someone who has placed some emotional investment in the songwriting craft and seeks out new tunes); i'm talking about the vast majority of the general population who for their very own good reasons could give two shits about spending their extracurricular time seeking out any new music, and who would have been otherwise not exposed to some songs it turns out they like.

"My argument is that Feist's songs have lost all meaning as they appear on every commercial just flipping through channels or walking through a store, or waiting in the elevator."

so you're problem with her in particular is that the companies she sold her songs to ran the ads way more than any of the other bands i listed, or that whoever chooses the playlist at the local shopping mall has a proclivity for feist? 1. that ain't her fault! once she signs off she has no control over how many times that ad will run. she also has no control over who's going to play it in public. 2. it's also not her fault you can't reconcile the difference (re: recontextualization). the mountain goats (my alltime fav) got put on the gap's corporate whatever playlist, which JD had nothing to do with, but that really doesn't rankle me all that much and won't take away from what the song means to me. if anything i feel kinda good that millions of ppl might go "who is this?" and seek out a band i feel is worthy of much admiration.

i brought up movies b/c i see precious little difference. in my mind the songwriter probably just wants to get heard. (obv different if they score or write songs specifically for a film having already read the script and whatnot). the only example i can think of where a pretty staunch anti-establishment artist let a song be used in a film cuz he liked it and actually thought it worked is godspeed you black emperor in that apocalyptic sequence opening sequence of 28 days.

anyhow for the record all the artists i listed have been played specifically in adverts for corporations selling a product, not in movies or tv programs or in company playlists like the gap. (that list would include everybody ever). which is why i can't comprehend your scorn: all those other artists (fugazi and radiohead possibly excepting, though i have no idea) also sold their work to soulless companies who needed a catchy jingle and could give a fuck about them. but your contempt for feist stems from a bunch of shit beyond her control (except the original contract with corporation X, but if we go there we're running in circles).

also for the record i think we largely agree. your problem, and mine, is altering authorial intent into BUY MY SHIT, but ultimately my point is: why feist? because most everyone does it, or would do it if companies were interested.

Alamir

ALAMIR

Well the quote from your first paragraph was directed towards the other user named "Wordup" I should have made that more clear, My second paragraph was aimed at you and my brother. No, it's not Feist fault that she's overplayed but doesn't it seem odd that someone who is already over-exposed would go ahead and keep producing commercials for companies that create interest, like the iPod nano? (Surely, she was already famous before the nano and Lacoste ads). I just feel that your chance at using the "exposure" excuse is lost there and now you're just willing to associate the word "Chocolate coloured phones" with your "My moon my man"-lyrics..and the fan who found meaning in "My moon my man.." now associates Verizon and chocolate with it. The reason Feist manages to expose her music to commercials so well is because songs like "Mushaboom" (Lacoste) and "1-2-3-4" (Nano) were meaningless anyway. It would sound silly to whine about how "Mushaboom" has lost it's meaning, because the song was pretty crappy to begin with.

I'm going to have to find the commercials for some of the bands you mentioned, but let me say that bands like the Beatles were completely against selling their art to commercials. It was only when Michael Jackson bought the rights to their songs that they appeared in a few commercials. After that, I think McCartney sold some of solo-songs from the 90s too...which admittedly annoyed me.

chris

chris

i wouldn't say she was famous before those ads; i'd say she was a fairly well known songwriter amongst a certain demographic, but that the nano one absolutely made her a household name.

your beatles point sorta reinforces mine - they could afford to take that stance since they were THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. ironically, you have to be radiohead large these days to stick to those sorts of principles. lesser known artists need more exposure and sometimes have to make compromises.

Alamir

ALAMIR

Well your example reinforced mine when you mentioned God Speed You Black Emperor who are much less popular than Feist was before the nano commercial came out.But I wish your list helped my search a bit more by at least pointing me to who they sold out to. I mean Wilco? Sonic Youth? And I'm really starting to look for any excuse from Thom Yorke. I mean, what happened to how he ranted against sponsors after reading "No Logo" or quotes like this after Kid A:
Interviewer: "Would you ever license your music for use in a television advertisement for something like soap or mid-size Korean automobiles?"
Yorke: "No. The way ad agencies work is to suck the blood of any vaguely original or unique thing in order to breathe life into their dead creations. We expend too much effort creating this stuff to have someone appropriate it for whatever junk they're trying to flog."

I agree with his quote whole-heartedly. So why's he doing the NBA? I really hope it's just some cover-song or he had his arms tied.. or even just really loves watching basketball so much that he didn't see it as an advertisement because he's such a fan anyway.

chris

chris

well gybe! are anarchists who live in squats so i think maybe it's a little rich to ask every artist to have those same ideals. you seem to have an extremely romantic notion of the artist and their art, but they need to make their way in the world just like everyone else. most indie bandmembers have day jobs, and in todays climate (downloading, gas prices killing tour revenues, etc) i don't think it's fair to say they shouldn't be able to profit from their music via other avenues. walk a mile in their shoes, etc.

fwiw i also completely agree with that quote, but keep in mind thom yorke was also a millionaire at the time he said it and has also released 6 albums for the same corporate machine he constantly rails against.

i suspect the nba did not seek radioheads permission to use it, as i also expect no ones informed fugazi the redskins use their song at home games. all the others though:

wilco (volkswagen used "what light" in one of their ads)
sonic youth (recorded an entire album for starbucks)
mates of state (verizon/at&t;)
the fall (some car company in new zealand used "the classical" to sell SUV's, which is sorta hilarious since that one includes the immortal lines "where are the obligatory niggers?" and "hey there, fuck face!")
the magnetic fields (volvo "the wheels on the bus" one)
the thermals (GM/hummer)
cat power (forget which cell phone company)
flaming lips ("do you realize" for range rover; another one for dell)
modest mouse ("3rd planet" was used a few years ago in a car commercial)
pink reason (hilarious quote from kevin himself via LPTJ: "I had a song used in an anti-smoking advertisement that was used by the Green Bay Public School system a few years ago, and not only did I smoke, but I was expelled in that district. I didn't even get paid for it. I just wanted a chance for kids to hear my music.")
beta band ("squares" in an ad for macy's summer dresses)
daniel johnston (kids choir covered "to go home" (also recorded bu m ward) for major league baseball; "speeding motorcycle" was used in an ad for target; "to go home" for mastercard priceless commercials)
new pornos ("the bleeding heart show"is the official theme song for the university of phoenix; also used in local chicago ads for something else)
wire (victoria's secret)
band of horses ("funeral" in a ford commercial)
the books (hummer)
hum (cadiallac)
spoon (some other car comapny i forget)

anyhow there a million others and i trust your google skills. time to stop listening to music! i hear there's this anarchist punk band from england in the 80's called crass who self-released all their shit and never gave into the man. you should check them out!

Alamir

ALAMIR

I'm a little humbled by that list right now. I think you're right that I romanticize the musician a bit too much. I just realized one of the negatives of not watching TV: I don't get to hear my favourite bands in car commercials. Well I guess I can only hope that bands get big enough so that they don't rely on selling out their music. It still is selling-out to me. Maybe the bands themselves aren't "sell-outs" but I can't deny that I cringe when I hear a song I liked in a commercial. The message the music gave is diminished as it was worth more than a Cadillac commercial. ...can't they at least sell off their bad songs? One band I didn't mention was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who's lead singer sold an old song she did with another band to Adidas. The YYYs are popular now and don't need the attention but Karen O had brought attention to an old forgotten song that wasn't even that good. I thought that was a smart move b/c if it wasn't for the commercial I know I would never have heard it nor liked it (since Adidas produced a better version of the song). There's nothing wrong with making songs up under a pseudo-name ..isn't it just bad marketing to use your band's best songs in a commercial? Use a B-Side no one knows off.

Here's to hoping that most bands make it Radiohead-big so that they don't have to throw away their art. And my admission that I'm an idealist, thanks to your exhaustive list.



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