Do celebrity endorsements matter?

U-News Staff

It was the final straw. I was doing homework one evening, when I heard the familiar, unmistakable voice of Raphael Saadiq. I glanced up from my notebook, and my eyes were met with the tragedy before me. Raphael Saadiq, dancing around a red Toyota full of women on my TV screen. The brilliant, classic artist I knew for singing his heart out was now selling his heart out all over my living room.

I had experienced this phenomenon before. While a tiny part of me is happy that the band is getting its deserved exposure, I also lose a tiny bit of respect for them. What is it about the music industry that is driving all these talented artists to license their songs for commercial purposes? I considered all kinds of reasons.

In a world with entertainment constantly at our fingertips, the competition among up-and-coming artists is fierce. It’s difficult to squeeze into the spotlight and stand out from the rest in this era of relentless availability.

Also, the ability to access music on Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, and other sites has likely driven down profits. We don’t have to buy entire albums; we can just buy a song or two. Also, piracy is an ever-growing issue. Many people illegally download music, taking revenue away from artists even more.

We also have to consider the possibility that perhaps bands whose songs accompany commercials are also disappointed. Perhaps they were tricked when they signed contracts and didn’t realize they didn’t have the rights to their own music.

Mitt Romney used the Silversun Pickups song “Panic Switch” for his campaign without permission, and the band issued a cease-and-desist order. Tom Petty issued Michele Bachmann the same after she used “American Girl”. Perhaps that kind of thing happens more than we think.

And because I’m really trying to play devil’s advocate, I’ll even entertain the possibility that Saadiq really does drive a Prius. Maybe The Black Keys really do drive Nissans. Maybe Florence + the Machine really love their iPads, and The Ting Tings and Feist really loved their iPods. Maybe The Avett Brothers really wear Gap clothing and The Lumineers really drink Blue Moon.

Maybe The Head and the Heart really use American Express. It would be disappointing, as their lyrics don’t exactly praise credit cards, but it’s possible. I’m not calling them hypocrites. But at the very least, what a band endorses should be consistent with its professed values. (Do a commercial for Sanuk or something!)

But most of those I’ve mentioned are newer artists, so I’ll excuse them based on their likely need to catch the public’s eye, and hope that once they’ve been heard, they’ll stop selling themselves short. But what about The White Stripes for Captain Morgan?

Eminem for Lipton Iced Tea? Drake for Sprite? The Postal Service for UPS? CeeLo Green for 7Up? Beyoncé for [insert name of corporation here]—Vizio, Armani, Pepsi, American Express, Duracell, L’Oreal—is there anything this girl doesn’t want us to use?

We know these artists don’t need the publicity or the money. So what is it?

Why does it matter if Drake drinks Sprite? Does it make Sprite taste better? Does it make you want to drink Sprite? What it actually inspires me to do is to consciously refrain from purchasing celebrity-endorsed products, because then, I feel like I’m using my money to make a statement:

I’m perfectly capable of making purchases based on what I like, not what Drake likes.

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