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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Corporate indie.

So throw those curtains wide… it's time to write another cash cow

How do you judge when an ‘alternative’ band has really made it big? A number one album? Maybe. A sell-out tour? Possibly. Or is it when they find their cash cow? That song(s) that just keeps cropping up, especially in places that it really shouldn’t.

Advertising, TV montages, presentations, conferences – for me, these are the real indicators of when a band has made it, and by made it, I mean swapped coolness and credibility for fame and fortune. C’est la vie, but can we blame them?

Indie and guitar music dominate these mediums far more than they do the charts these days, with a handful of bands used to such levels that the royalties alone must be a significant part of their earnings.

Elbow's One Day Like This is the obvious example for me, and as we approach London 2012, yawn, we face the prospect of them releasing another, the only difference being that this song will actually have been written specifically for something as uninspiring as athletics, so will surely be worse.

You can imagine the pound signs in certain bands’ eyes as they write new songs with adverts rather than audiences in minds, but I don’t think Guy Garvey had the Olympics, a dramatic finale of Waterloo Road or Holby City, or a montage of the best bits of Big Brother 9 in mind when he wrote One Day Like This, so I doubt their Olympic song will be as inspired, but I digress.

Clearly cash cows annoy me, that much is obvious, so who should I be annoyed at?

Elbow? Like I said I don’t think this is what they had in mind when toiling away for 20 years to make it to where they are today, and everyone gotsta get paid, but they have agreed to their song being used relentlessly and degradingly. They’ve allowed something that, while not the best or worst song ever, you hope meant something to them, to be ruined, squeezed of its sentiment and left as a meaningless cliché.

I’m not just picking on Elbow, there are plenty more out there, you all know the songs I’m talking about, Florence’s You’ve Got the Love cover was an obvious cash cow from day one, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, anything by The Killers.

All have been milked beyond belief. And it’s not just established bands that are in on the act, PR-savvy young bands pop up all over advertising all the time, a good example being the bizarrely-popular Two Door Cinema Club, who were unavoidable in advertising throughout 2011, this list showing over 20 advertising appearances already, such as this one, apparently a Debenhams advert is what young bands aspire to now, yuck.

It all makes me think of this and, while Ricky Gervais is pushing the limits with Chris Martin here, there are people like this surely out there, if not in the bands then around them.

So, if I can't blame the bands, that are only being smart some would argue, should I be annoyed at the users? The people endlessly and mindlessly using these songs. Using a song like One Day Like This is such an obviously cheap and lazy attempt to improve something that lacks heart or feeling that it shouldn't be allowed any more. Can't they just stick to Take That or Adele?

Shouldn't we hate them for thinking a song like Elbow is appropriate to soundtrack soap actors reacting to yet another statistically-unlikely disaster in their workplace or footballers’ faces distorted with agony at failing to make the last 32 of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy?

Or should I just be annoyed at myself? For being annoyed by this, for thinking bands on the left of mainstream should be better than cash cows, that they earn enough money without needing to whore out their songs? For writing this rambling blog?

I don’t know, but I know one thing, I’m not excited to hear Elbow’s song for the Olympics. Why they don’t just trot out the cash cow they have again is beyond me.

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