Friday, September 05, 2008

Attention Heart: Be careful, you're about to blow it!

As the Republican National Convention came to a close on Thursday night, thousands of balloons fell from the ceiling, and Heart's song Barracuda began to fill the arena. The song was a nod to a nickname that VP candidate Sarah Palin earned earlier in her political career.

But Heart was NOT amused, and Universal Music Publishing along with Sony BMG quickly fired off a 'cease and desist' letter to Republicans, over their use of the song to end the RNC.

Now, assuming that the Wilson sisters are Obama supporters (or simply don't like McCain and/or Palin), I can understand why they wouldn't be thrilled with the RNC using their song. But thanks to the RNC, a completely new generation of music fans are likely 'discovering' the song, and Heart's music as well. Why would the band want to kill buzz that's literally fell into their lap?

First, the Wilson sisters should have THANKED the McCain campaign for being fans of their song, and promoting their music. Because that's exactly what just happened.

Second, since they do now have a lot of sudden interest in their music, how can they use this interest as a tool to leverage support for Obama (again, asssuming they are Obama supporters)? This is a lesson that 'big label' music has always struggled with, but you don't attempt to control how your fans purchase your music, you accept their behavior, and make it as EASY as possible to engage in their current activities. Right now people are buying Heart's music, so we need to ENCOURAGE that activity, not stifle it.

Third, announce that while the Repubs might like the song Barracuda for McCain/Palin, that Heart thinks of Obama as more of a 'Magic Man', an obvious nod to their hit of the same name.

And here's the kicker: Heart should set up a contest on their website between Republicans and Democrats. Offer both singles, Barracuda (Republicans) and Magic Man (Democrats) for sale on the site. Add that a set amount of proceeds will go to charity. Add a ticker that shows which side Repubs or Dems are selling more songs, and thus 'winning'.

Now if Heart was REALLY smart, they would be engaged in social media and have buttons available that could let fans show their support for either McCain/Palin (Barracuda) or Obama/Biden (Magic Man). These buttons could be added to their blogs or other social profiles, and link back to Heart's site where they could purchase the song of their choice.

End result for Heart? Sales of both songs go through the roof. The band is exposed to a completely new generation of fans. A lot of money is raised for charity, which further benefits the band in the form of even more buzz.

Or maybe the band should issue a C&D and attempt to kill the first meaningful buzz Heart has had in 2 decades.

BONUS: Ike comes up with the perfect name for this promotion: I HEART DEMOCRACY! Gold.

Pic via HeartTribute


Ike said...

Great points, Mack.

Even worse, the error of "commission."

Heart's statement could be read by conservatives and Republicans as a slap in the face. "Thanks, but we don't like your politics and don't want to be associated with you."

Look at the demographics of those 35-50 who rocked out to Barracuda when it was played on something OTHER than an oldies station, and tell me what percentage of them are in the GOP. Big oops.

Mack Collier said...

See my chief concern here is how can the band expand the buzz and attention that's been dropped in their lap? I don't care about who likes which party, from a marketer's POV, I am interested in how Heart can use this sudden momentum to continue to expose itself to new fans. Instead of sending a C&D, this is a way to get a lot MORE fans excited about their music, to drum up interest for BOTH parties, and give some money to charity.

Sounds like a win-win for everyone. But of course when big labels get involved, the fans often end up being the losers.

Jane Chin, Ph.D. said...

I think this is an excellent example of anyone who owns/runs a business or brand to regularly go back to the basics and revisit WHY they are in the business they are in.

Is it...
To express themselves?
To change/serve the world?
To make a lot of money?
To make a political statement?

Chances are, many would sooner pick the first 3 of 4 options I listed than the last, yet many jump the gun and shoot off their emotions before deliberating the possibility that their product or services may be valuable enough to be liked by people of dissenting political opinions.

Then instead of "uniting" with their art, artists begin dividing. I doubt most artist goes into the art with the intention of pitching groups against each other, but that is what many of their behaviors end up doing.

[note to artists: hire Mack Collier and get with the times.]

Frank Martin said...

Mack, something tells me this is going to be a perfectly delightful political season!

You are going to have several more opportunities, I'm sure, to make chicken salad from a less savory alternative before November! Nicely done!

Mack Collier said...

And BTW, if an artist sends a C&D to Obama for playing one of their songs, IMO that's the wrong approach as well. A music label/artist should NEVER do ANYTHING that stifles excitement for their music. That sounds like Marketing 101 to me, but who knows...

Tara said...

Mack - a well-crafted post as always and I wholeheartedly agree with Jane in that the music industry needs a great strategist like you on their side. From a marketer's point of view, you are right on the money.

However, I think in this case it's about something bigger than sales and garnering fans. It's about ideology and having your work used to support ideas you actually oppose. I agree with Ike above in that the statement might be and probably is offensive to conservatives and Republicans. I'm guessing Heart is fully aware of that and that for them it's an issue of "selling out." I know I personally would not sit still for someone using my work to promote ideals that I vigorously opposed. At what point to am I supposed to sacrifice my personal beliefs for the sake of uniting people? At what point would the use/association of Heart's work be so objectionable that it's okay to do what they did?

Mack Collier said...

Tara I understand your point, and again, understand completely how and why Heart could be upset.

But my thinking is, why not use this as a way to generate excitement for the candidate they do (assumingly) support? Use this as a way to announce that they support Obama, and rally their fans to do the same.

My guess is that this would do a LOT of generate buzz and excitement for Obama's campaign, and also for their music.

Their C&D doesn't generate any real excitement for Obama, and my guess is to many nonpartisans, it comes across as 'oh look, another big label is sending a C&D'.

And we haven't even talked about how the promotion could be tied into Rock the Vote! Perfect companion piece there.

This is the same reason why we have said that many bigger companies should be blogging, cause the discussions around their companies are happening anyway, so why not participate? Like right now, we are discussing Heart and *assuming* that they support Obama. Why not clear the air and state if they do, and if so, use this buzz as a tool to energize their fans to support their candidate?

Jim said...

I think the cease and desist order will do even more to generate publicity. After all you are writing about it as will, I'm sure, many mainstream news organizations.

James said...

Great post. People get so hysterical about things, and especially about politics, and fail to see the opportunity. I like what PT Barnum said, “I don't care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

Tara said...

Mack, a 2-for-1: This doesn't show Heart supports Obama, but it does show their actions are about more than just infringement AND a link to a story about Obama's use of the RNC favorite "Only in America" by Brooks & Dunn. The second one is actually a fascinating read...I'm glad your post prompted me to dig deeper on this! (Entertainment Weekly report link) ("Only in America" story link)

keif said...

I have to respectfully disagree - I'm going to make several assumptions and do no fact checking, but hey - it's all in fun!

The RNC crowd - scanning through it I didn't exactly see a big amount of "youth" as I noticed at the DNC.

Do we know the average age of someone who watched the RNC from start to finish?

And in terms of C&D - artists usually do this because they don't want to be associated with candidate X (but you're right, they could be).

And I honestly think Heart's involvement with Guitar Hero/Rock Band would be more likely to garner new fans than being at the tail end of the RNC.

Scott Schablow said...

A very insightful post, as in inciting a riot kind of mentality when the band/artists were probably not aware of the use of the song. Nice dig at the music licensing bulldogs who picked up on it. I agree that they should take advantage of it, but their entire focus is to search and destroy. Unfortunate, because instead of expanding the music industry, they are removing themselves from it. I am astounded that the RNC would use anything without licensing it, but hey, I had a client once that was an Intellectual Property law firm and they asked me to use a photo they had no rights to. I raised a red flag and they said, "Doh, we should know better." *sigh*

BIG Kahuna said...

I wrote on this very subject as well, check out some of the comments:

Madison McGraw said...

I think you should be working for a record label or as a manager for a band/artist.

Karen Swim said...

Mack, I love these ideas and the I Heart Democracy is brilliant! This is yet another case of big business not being able to see the forest for the trees. When companies begin to focus on opportunity rather than control, beautiful things can happen.


Mack Collier said...

Girl Arsonist, I haven't done any blogging/social media consulting for any labels or artists yet, but would LOVE to do so. The potential for labels/artists to use social media to connect with their fans is HUGE.

Jim Kukral said...

You have great ideas Mack. Although, I'm pretty sure this vitriolic response is because they are democrats. I could be wrong though.

Mack Collier said...

Tara thanks for the links. I can see why Heart would be upset, but I've already said enough about that.

From the second link, it seems that Brooks and Dunn are just happy to see their music being used in conjunction with the last two elections. I think that's the right attitude to take, but I'm a bit puzzled at Obama for picking a song that the Repubs have used before? Seems a bit odd to pick a song that Bush used, when he seems to be campaigning that he's completely different from Bush? Oh well that's a different argument from this one.

Debbie Petras said...

What a great idea! You're absolutely right; more people were exposed to Heart's music because of the Barracuda song. Instead of complaining, they could use it to their advantage and promote more sales. Stay out of politics and sell their music, which is what they're good at!

CK said...

But Heart is not big business. Heart is a band. They are artists that created work (amazing work) and any and all songs should be cleared first (that's using Heart's celebrity at a HUGE event).

Heart obviously creates music for the love of their craft and for their fans, perhaps they want to remain a-political. And that is their artistic and democratic right.

That said, I loved the song playing and I think the GOP picked a "winning song" with Van Halen's "Right Now." But at an event that is the scale of the GOP, one should respect artists to clear the song.

Actually, it's legally correct to do so (ASCAP/BMI). I think the same thing with Obama using U2, btw (which is a much poorer choice for his platform). Playing to millions of people (yep, I'm including the TV viewers), it's only right to get the artists to OK one's use of songs.

Of course I'm respecting the artists first before talking about making gobs of money for an old hit to become "new" again. I'm in the minority like that.

On a democratic note, why the heck would we give our citizens the right to vote and not our artists (who are, our citizens) the right to approve their celebrity song being used to--no doubt about it--influence votes? (All marketing, including songs, is to influence public perception and favor.) Seems wrong. But the choice of song was terrific. Thanks for sharing this with us, I didn't know that Heart hadn't approved it.

CK said...

Actually, I respect the heck out of Heart for NOT focusing on profits, but their own principles. (When does that EVER happen these days?)

It is Heart's American right to support or oppose any political party...and the fact that it was important enough to them to forego profits, makes me respect them that much more. Maybe they don't like the GOP, or maybe they don't want to be political. Whichever way, they really rock for putting their own principles ahead of any profits that could be made. See what I mean?

Beth Harte said...

Mack, A campaign that bridged the gap between political affiliations is ingenious Mack! At the end of the day, it is about democracy.

From a business perspective I totally agree with you, they could have reached out to a whole new generation, reinvigorated their brand & potentially earned some money from it all. But... bands/musicians tend to be very political. I guess this is one case where you can be very vocal about your politics w/o ramifications.

Chris said...

You must've forgot about the HUGE push that Heart got from having their song on Guitar Hero. It landed them a spot on a big award show last year.

So they've been back with Barracuda, they press they recieved for calling out Palin makes it that much more "real" to the new generation that was all about it.

Mack Collier said...

"So they've been back with Barracuda, they press they recieved for calling out Palin makes it that much more "real" to the new generation that was all about it."

Explain to me how their 'calling out' Palin helps their music sales among Republicans? Because if you want to claim that 'calling out' Palin helps them with Dems, then it must also hurt them with Republicans.

And on some level, it probably does both. Which is why I wasn't worried about political leanings so much as I was the band missing a chance to excite and expand their music base. But as others have pointed out, their not wanting to 'support' Palin is fine and completely understandable, if they don't agree with her stances/ideals.

Some will see it as being true to their ideals, others will see it as opportunity lost. But IMO adding political biases just muddies the waters.

-g said...

While your ideas are stellar, you're missing the point.

I'd love to see you write an article about making the best of it, say, when someone scrapes your blog, steals your content and pockets some ad money and links. It's always a little different when it happens to you.

McCain used a John Cougar Mellencamp song illegally. Mellencamp quietly asked him to knock it the hell off. No news, it died before it lived.

While Heart may do a little better with buttons and blog contests today, the more they raise a stink, the longer they'll get lots and lots of press. Once the conflict is removed, so is the coverage.

Mack Collier said...

"I'd love to see you write an article about making the best of it, say, when someone scrapes your blog, steals your content and pockets some ad money and links. It's always a little different when it happens to you."

Actually that happens all the time. I am constantly seeing my content from this blog and others I write for being republished on other blogs. Other bloggers can say the same, but I don't mention it because the other guys are likely making pennies, at best, and because if I draw attention to them, that possibly changes.

"McCain used a John Cougar Mellencamp song illegally."

How did he use the song 'illegally'? Just asking. Obama used a Brooks and Dunn song during his campaign without the band knowing or 'approving' of it. They thought it was cool cause it brought more attention to them. Was that 'illegal'?

"While Heart may do a little better with buttons and blog contests today, the more they raise a stink, the longer they'll get lots and lots of press. Once the conflict is removed, so is the coverage."

I don't see them getting much coverage as it is now. I heard a bit the day after the RNC, and haven't heard anything since. Are they still complaining? I have no idea.