“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”, declared Johnny Rotten on stage at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1978 as he finished the Sex Pistols’ last ever performance. Selling out to the man and using music for commercial purposes was once a no-no for artists who wanted to maintain their credibility with fans and critics.
Legendary comedian Bill Hicks once infamously said, if artists were to sell themselves or a song to an advertisement, they’d be “off the artistic roll call forever. You’re another whore at the capitalist gang bang … Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”
In a day and age where most artists can barely afford to live off their recording sales, it’s suddenly an ambition for a band or artist to soundtrack an ad or have their song used in a TV show – it’s one of the few remaining decent paydays out there. However, does it erode their artistic credibility? Join us as we countdown some of our favourite rock n’ roll sell outs!
John Lydon – The Sex Pistols
Many old punks would have choked on their dinner in 2008 when faced with the sight of Sex Pistols front man John Lydon advertising Country Life butter. Despite the chorus of disapproval and bemusement from music fans, the man who once wanted to ‘destroy, block supply’ saw the resulting media coverage rake it in for the brand.
In between Bono saving the world and being the biggest band on the planet, U2 are also one of the most wealthy entertainers around. However, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to team up with Apple and have the distinction of being the only band to have a branded iPod, complete with etchings of each member’s signatures.
Bob Dylan might be revered as one of the most influential anti-establishment artists of the 1960s and 1970s, leading the counter culture and inspiring your parents to stick it to the man. However, he was more than happy to take some of the man’s money to plug Cadillac cars in 2007, which naturally had all their vehicles fitted with digital radio that could receive the station Dylan has his radio show on.
The godfather of punk starring in an ad for insurance? Despite the flak Iggy Pop copped for doing this ad, perhaps he was having the final laugh when it was revealed that his ad was to be banned in the UK because it breached he country’s Advertising Standards Authority guidelines as the insurance firm doesn’t cover musicians.
The Rolling Stones
Ah ha. Remember when everyone had desktops and dial up internet was a novelty? Many fans called sell out when The Rolling Stones accepted a rumoured $6 million from Microsoft to soundtrack the launch of Windows ’95. Perhaps proof that you can always get what you want – for a price.
Oh dear God, what was Alice thinking? The shock-horror master managed to find himself reduced to letting a school supply firm use his hit ‘School’s Out’ for a back to school stationery sale commercial, as well as finding himself to appearing in the ad with a lame joke. Truly, truly dreadful, and it still has over 700,000 hits on YouTube.
Complete with lame puns referencing his songs, Ozzy’s appearance as the Prince of Darkness in an ad for World of Warcraft, is a shocker – although his bumbling performance just seems like an outtake from his ‘performances’ in The Osbournes.
In 2009, Groove Armada teamed up with Bacardi in a 360 deal to promote an EP which was to be downloaded from a customised website and legally shared by fans on social media. Like many record company tie-ups with commercial sponsors in 2009, they bled money like stuck pigs and the website has since closed down. None the less, check out the self-congratulatory overview of it below.
Not only did Madness flog their song ‘In The City’ to Honda in the 1980s, the band are depicted imitating their iconic group walk… in an ad for a car!
He may have done his best to save the starving of Africa with Live Aid in 1985, but Bob Geldof was never to fond of shaving – almost perpetually sporting a three day growth. Hence you can see the advertising ‘synergy’ in getting him to plug razors – or can you? Either way, you have to wonder what was he thinking?
Dame David didn’t want you to know about this Japanese sake ad from 1980. It’s been common for Western film and music stars to star in ads for the Japanese market which were never to be used in the West. This cushy little agreement was all okay until the arrival of YouTube which means that nothing can be hidden from fans any more. This ad was supposedly the inspiration for the lead character’s role in the book/film Lost In Translation.
Hello? Was it me that you were looking for in your ad? Obviously Richie was the man for Walker’s Crisps in a TV ad because he agreed to star in it, parking his dignity at the studio door when this little number was filmed.