“Brandi Carlile! Mom, it’s Brandi Carlile!
There on the screen was the Cadillac logo backed up by the aching vocals of one of my new favorites, Brandi Carlile. Right there in the middle of the Olympics coverage. Wow, I thought. Way to go. Way to make some money! If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’re already familiar with Carlile’s Indie-folky sound. In fact the very song that was featured in the Cadillac commercial, The Story, has backed up scenes on Grey’s.
Making money is good right? Well apparently if you are an extra cool, occasionally barefoot, eco-conscious rocking force of nature, lending your tune to a big car company merits explanation. On her MySpace blog, Brandi Carlile offered her reasons for selling out:
When GM first approached our band to use “The Story” in their 2008 Olympic ad visions of SUVs and full-size pick-up trucks driving through a rugged mountain range were dancing through my head. I promptly and politely declined. (Although I don’t want to be a hypocrite, our band did tour in a GM gas-guzzling van for many years) But, when they came back to us and offered to involve us in an ad campaign promoting hybrids, bio fuel, bio hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell cars and yes, even the infamous electric car the Chevy Volt, I felt the need to think twice about having the opportunity to be a part of a huge American car company creating an ad campaign for environmentally responsible cars. We feel they allowed more than a fair amount of input from us and made an honest effort to create an environmentally conscious ad. We are proud of it.
In a long and thoughtful 2006 post on Crawdaddy, Conrad Amenta explores the ‘no-sellout’ mandate of the indie-rock culture, noting:
Musicians who are lucky enough to be approached by ad execs with money bags in each hand can reconcile whatever conflicts exist by becoming directly involved in the conceptualization, writing, shooting, and editing of the commercial.
Amenta’s piece is long and somewhat rambling, but a good read nonetheless. In case you don’t make it to the end, here’s his conclusion:
Art should not be an exclusive club cordoned off behind a velvet rope, but an approach, or tool, that helps us understand and express the culture we live in. TV commercials are a part of this, stupid as they generally are. Surely if art can help us to understand massacres, religion, love, and the human mind, it’s also capable of communicating (overqualified, perhaps) something about a new pair of jeans.
Bottom line: Carlile is hot. Not only is she in a position to start making lots and lots of money, she’s got opportunities like the GM commercial to affect change. There’s nothing wrong with that. And talk about putting your money where your mouth is – Carlile and her band are donating ‘every last penny’ from the GM ad to advance the efforts of several organizations that work toward alternative energy solutions.
Way to go, Brandi!
There’s been some other talk around here about music and commerce. What do you think of artists cashing in to advance the greater good?