By Cassandra Thomas
Product placement has been since 1908 when the earliest sign of a product in popular tunes was in famous baseball song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by Jack Norworth with references to Cracker Jack.
For years, product placement has been lingering “behind the scenes” in movies, shows, and other forms of media; however, product placement in today’s music stands as powerful as word of mouth.
Most people want to be a celebrity or live that glamorous lifestyle. What better way to appeal to these “wanna-bes” by plopping the product into a mainstream song, giving it credibility. Songs like Busta Rhymes’s “Pass the Courvoisier” and Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It On” has contributed to the rise in liquor sales. The hit record “Blame It On” mentioned drinks like Grey Goose, Patron, Circo and Nuvo --- some of hip-hop’s famous liquors.
Once the youth are exposed to these name brands that are praised in their favorite songs, they will feel the need to purchase the product. According to the New York Times, Grey Goose sales went up 10 percent after Foxx’s well-known lyrics: “Blame it on the Goose, got you feeling loose.” The advertisement seems much more subtle and convincing in a popular hit single, making the propaganda less prominent. Courvoisier sales went up 20 percent a year after the song was released. Thank you, Busta.
With the help of money-hungry musicians, companies are able to expand by seamlessly placing their products in either a shot of a music video or in the lyrics of a song. The logic is simple: for every time the radio plays that song, an artist receives $1 to $5, which makes this strategy of advertising cheaper and more effective than the average in-your-face ads throughout daily life from the television set to a t-shirt.
All genres of music consist of product placement, but hip-hop and rap artists have been targeted to do most of the name-dropping in their upbeat tunes. For the past couple of years, there has been a collapse in hip-hop’s freshness --- materialism being the theme of every lyric, from cars to clothes. These artists jump at the chance to trade their lyrics to corporations to receive billions of dollars.
Artists are able to use their talent of wordplay and their popularity to sell off shelves of products. A five second reference to brand names like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and can boost sales as well as expose a product that doesn’t live up to the hype. Rappers Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z were always given Cristal champagne as props for their video; however, after helping owner Frederic Rouzand earn billions, Jay-Z later found out Rouzand was racist and took advantage of the hip-hop industry, which is more gullible to propaganda. Liquor companies like Dom Perignon and Krug jumped on the chance to take Cristal’s place.
There are plenty of songs we listen to whose products fly past our heads because we’re so accustomed to hearing them. Product placement can be obvious as it is in RUN DMC’s “My Adidas” or Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” but it can also be a silent as the Cadillac Escalade in Ludacris’s video “What’s Your Fantasy” or the clothing line The Billionaire Boy’s Club in all of Pharrell’s music videos. An artist that endorses a product deserves much more respect than an artist who gets paid by placing name brands in a song --- it kills the creativity of music.
This strategy advertising with product placement in our favorite tunes may seem ludicrous, but many of our beloved musicians are signing contracts and getting paid because listeners as well as followers fall victim to the tactic. If it wasn’t for the fans, artists would not be getting the paycheck they get today. Anyone would rap about a candy bar or sing about a condom just to be rewarded more than $30,000. So we can’t really blame the artist for that decision; we can only understand where they’re coming from. Next time you see Kanye West sporting the latest Louis Vuitton backpack, think about how much he’s getting paid and how much you’ll be spending.