When music and marketing don't meet (f*!? you)

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In recent weeks we have covered one story on our Blagger’s Blog from two very different angles. Firstly, Goldieblox, a firm that makes engineering toys aimed at kids, put out a fantastic advert containing a parody of a Beastie Boys track, Girls. We loved it, and so did many other people.
It then transpired that the band responsible for recording the original hadn’t given their permission. More so, they had actually vowed never to allow advertisers to use their work. Of course, there’s a clause here- no permission needs to be obtained in order to create a musical pastiche. But, nevertheless, a complaint came in from Beastie HQ, which is understandable, and then the toy manufacturer responded with a pre-emptive lawsuit, which has subsequently been dropped (whilst an apology to the band, or rather the remaining member, was swiftly issued).
This is a classic example wherein the world of pop, or rather rock and hip hop, hasn’t quite met with the mindset of marketing folk. Often happy bedmates, not least when a group is no longer recording new tunes, the potential payout for having a track featured on a prominent commercial is huge, and there’s also a good chance people watching the clip will take steps to find out who made the music; increasing overall exposure.
Of course there are several reasons why bands don’t want this to happen, despite the promise of those rewards; credibility being of paramount importance here. One look at the number of recording artists that have opted for ‘anti-Google’ names is enough proof that some of the more irreverent names on the release schedule hold any kind of marketability in disdain. But what about pop acts, in the true meaning of the term pop act? If you’re trying to reach mainstream audiences, surely it pays to take the necessary steps to ensure you are reachable?
Lily Allen provides an interesting reference point here. This week the Advertising Standards Agency have been busy judging whether an email sent to Spotify members recommending that they hear the songstress’ track, F*!? You, was likely to cause offence. An automated message created from an algorithm that analyses what recipients have listened to in the past, realistically speaking all that actually happened is a load of people were advised to consider playing a tune containing a profanity or two. It sounds innocent enough, but realistically it’s indicative of a branding problem more and more bands and artists will have to face.
Given the vast number of people signed up to Spotify, and the fact that, try as we might, there is no sure fire way of pre-empting how the public will respond in the event of possible controversy, steps should have been taken to ensure this kind of track name was either toned down, or removed altogether from the pot. However, we’re not sure the responsibility lies with the online network, as Ms. Allen is directly targeted at a demographic ranging from the very young to the relatively mature. At least 1990s gangsta rappers had the excuse of the intrumentals being ‘clearly aimed at adults’, rather than sharing in the harmonies of nursery rhymes (as Allen often seems to).
Her work has frequently contained bad language, but her latest song’s chorus, “It’s hard out here for a b!t?h“, is probably one of the most eyebrow-raising of her outings to date. Of course it’s supposed to be ironic, but you tell that to the kid who just heard her singing on the John Lewis Christmas advert. The point being that with global fame of this kind must come some degree of responsibility, but instead the artist hasn’t really taken into consideration who is likely to pick up on her lyrics, whether sung with a wry tongue in cheek or not.