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End of Year: Worst Artist Marketing Ideas

by Max Willens on December 16, 2010 · 56 comments

Much like the bacon tuxedo, this year's Worst Marketing Ideas failed at every level.

As much as we love to recognize and celebrate the wonderful work done by others at the end of a year, we also really, really like making fun of their mistakes.

Here, without further ado, are some of the worst marketing moves made by bands this year:

Irrespective of who funded what, the cover of Weezer's album, Hurley, is still atrocious.

Weezer’s Hurley. As in Clothing. Not as in Lost. Or Maybe As In Lost. Maybe.
As anybody who reads this site knows, we have nothing against corporate sponsorship and partnership. Like it or not, that’s what’s going to drive most large-scale, ambitious creative undertakings for the foreseeable future. But our regulars also know that these kinds of things have to be handled carefully, and after Weezer pulled a bait-and-switch on their fans – putting Jorge Garcia, who played Hurley on Lost, on the cover, then announcing that their album had largely been funded by Hurley, a skate and surf clothing company owned by Nike – a lot of their fans got fairly pissed off. A few days later, the band back-pedaled (and deleted that, too), video of guitarist Brian Bell saying that the album was paid for by the clothing company was pulled off YouTube, and people went back to complaining about how the band hasn’t made a good record since Pinkerton.

Train’s Publishers Really, Really, Really Over-Licensing “Hey Soul Sister”
If a song becomes so ubiquitous that people get sick of hearing it, then somebody at a label is doing a great job. But if it gets to the point that somebody creates a website complaining about how many syncs that song has gotten, then maybe that label/publisher has gone too far. Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” a Grey’s Anatomy-ready piece of MOR rock/pop, actually did drive Brad Meyers and Keith Stoeckeler to create “Stop Advertising From Pulling a Train,” and the site’s raison d’etre resonated with the people. Everybody from Fuse to CNN picked up on it, and at one point the site got so much attention that it crashed.

Imperial Stars Blocking the Freeway…for Charity.
Generally speaking, a little scandal never hurt a young band. But you can’t try to wrap said scandal in altruism, because that will make people go from annoyed to angry. Specifically, if you’re going to do something as stupid as blocking the freeway during rush hour and then blasting your new single out of speakers, don’t pretend you did it for a good cause. Not only will people ignore the cause, but they will come to hate you. Imperial Stars, the electro rap group who thought the above stunt would be a good idea, claimed after they’d gotten arrested that they would be donating proceeds of the song’s sale to a children’s charity. Amazingly, nobody changed their minds about the song, the group, or what they’d done.

Roger Waters’ Marketing Team Defaces Elliott Smith Memorial in Los Angeles
Defacing public property in the name of promotion has become pretty commonplace, but defacing community memorials is usually a no-no. Yet that’s what the marketing agency that Roger Waters hired to promote a summer tour did, when they covered a fan-made Elliott Smith mural with posters that were supposed to be part of a viral marketing campaign. Waters apologized for the move, calling it a mistake, but the damage was done. And while it’s hard to blame Waters, who admitted that he’d never even heard of Smith, for what happened here, you’d think that he’d be able to hire marketers that are savvy enough to know where not to put their posters.

The Marky Ramone Marinara Sauce
As unlikely as the pairing of rock n roll and food might seem, it can work successfully. One of our favorite tour tactics involved Zac Brown Band’s eat’n'greets, where the band would cook for a select batch of fans and eat a meal with them before the night’s show. This works because Brown started as a restaurant owner and cook, because he’s actually a good cook, and because his music is the kind of thing you could put on during a barbecue. The Ramones, on the other hand, are not something you could eat to (except maybe at a speed eating contest?), which is what makes the Marky Ramone Brooklyn’s Own Pasta Sauce such a strange fit. The reception to this idea has been more confused than anything else (punk rock and food? “Brooklyn’s Own” for a guy raised in Queens?), which probably explains why the introductory video Ramone made has been taken down.

There are one or two things we probably could have mentioned, but we weren’t sure they were worthy. Are we missing anything? Leave your own nominees in the comments!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Ostrow December 16, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Seriously… what the hell was Weezer thinking???

.. Come'on Rivers, when I heard you were revisiting and re-releasing Pinkerton, I thought things were FINALLY headed in the right direction after all of these years… Guess I spoke too soon. haha

MaxWillens December 16, 2010 at 10:24 pm

It's weird, I almost took them off this list when they announced their Nostalgia tour. The Pinkerton side of that tour is going gangbusters!

And yes, I just wrote gangbusters.

Rose Robbins December 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm

An old friend who is an ex-manager wanted to put my face on those plastic ad-covered placemats you see in greasy spoon diners in the Midwest (and no doubt other places). Ick! My music is smooth jazz/elegant rock, and the last thing my “image” needs is a lot of ketchup and bacon grease smeared on it.
I guess that is a worst ALMOST idea.

Musette December 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Come now, Marky Ramone is a drummer. His sauce is postiviely “smashing”!!!!

MaxWillens December 16, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Badump-tch!

MaxWillens December 16, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Hmm. Smooth jazz, greasy spoon diners…sounds like a perfect fit to me. o_0

I'd ask why your friend's an ex-manager, but, well, I think you've kind of answered the question in advance.

Pinki Tuscaderro December 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Blocking the freeway for charity takes the cake in my opinion. It sounds like an idea that came straight out of the head of a naive, attention starved teenager. If the Imperial stars are not current high school students, they should seriously consider going back. Dumb rockers antics are a huge bore.

However, understated kitsch like Marky Ramone's special sauce is just the type of bizarre music memorabilia that collectors cannot resist. Of course, the tomato sauce will rot in hell before a pop pack rat would ever actually consider cooking up a pot Ravioli a`la Ramone.

Befound Marketing December 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

i read your post. i understand what you want to say here. that is great.

MaxWillens December 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

You have 6 six hours to prove that you are not a spam bot. Starting now…

MaxWillens December 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Mmmm, perishable collectibles. Now there's a great idea! ;-)

Rodeo_slang December 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm

“…we have nothing against corporate sponsorship and partnership. Like it or not, that’s what’s going to drive most large-scale, ambitious creative undertakings for the foreseeable future.”

gross. really? you believe that? i can't imagine which example of “large-scale, ambitious creative undertaking” you'd use to prove the accuracy of this insane statement. besides, why does music have to be “large-scale” to somehow be ambitious or creative? plenty of artists are making amazing music on crappy equipment in dank basements for crowds of twenty people. the idea that great music can only be created with corporate levels of capital has been proven patently false time and time again. people don't need Lady Gaga-esque media saturation to better appreciate good songwriting. thanks, but no thanks corporate masters.

kidcouture December 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm

note to self, do not deface Smith's memorial. Done! What a bone head move…

MaxWillens December 20, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Rodeo, I didn't say ALL large-scale, ambitious creative undertakings. I said most. Some of my favorite albums of all time were made on shoe-string budgets, by people who didn't know what the hell they were doing. But the simple fact is that artist development and production budgets at major labels are drying up, and artists who want to do anything more ambitious than make a record in their basement is probably going to have to turn to outside entities for help. Whether that's crowd-funding or what is up to you.

YESnack December 28, 2010 at 5:41 am

If it is executed properly even the worst ideas can generate major publicity. Add some six-pack killer abd and big biceps, then maybe “Dude Gaga” could pull off the “bacon tuxedo”…

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