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When Does Music Become A Commercial?

addicted2candy.com / Creative Commons / Google Images


Advertising has become embedded into our digital lives--I suppose if people aren’t willing to pay for music anymore, then having ads interrupt your Spotify playlist is a unavoidable. But recently, some lines have been crossed, and I worry that it’s affecting the experience.

For one thing, music videos have become a platform for product placement. I can see how this would appeal to a record company--a single Britney Spears video reportedly earned a half-million dollars to feature certain products. So, videos have become commercials. Product placement of Beats by Dre has become ubiquitous.

Worse: music giant Universal is now digitally inserting ads into older music videos retroactively. Called “product replacement,” some older videos are being treated as erasable billboards. Who knows how much of Universal’s video catalog will undergo this kind of revisionism? I never thought I’d say this, but I worry about our music video history.

Worse yet: advertising is working its way into song lyrics themselves. Jay-Z gets a cut of the profits--millions of dollars--from the brand of champagne he raps about. Sean "Diddy" Combs is half-owner of the vodka company that he mentions in his own lyrics.

Maybe it’s just me, I’d like to be told upfront if what I’m listening to is a song or a commercial.

Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.