Friday, July 29, 2005

And the Grammy for Best Metal Song goes to... Burger King


In another instance of music marketing genius for Burger King (think subservientchickent.com, the greasy-meat-slinging corporation has launched Coq Roq, a band-slash-marketing campaign that takes square aim at youth demographic, which is increasingly tuning out marketing and advertising as a whole.

You absolutely have to see the site for yourself. It's basically a straight rip-off of Slipknot in terms of imagery, and the sound is borrowed from pop punk and rock and roll to create accessible audio but edgy visuals. In the TV commercial, they make a derogatory reference to Insane Clown Posse, another band-via-marketing project. Not only is Coq Roq a fake band, but they fight with other fake bands!

The photo you see here had its risque caption changed shortly after launch, though BK denies it was due to any specific complaint. It's nothing that will offend your average American 12-year-old, but recent ridiculousness with Grand Theft Auto proves that our "family values" in regards to sex are still stuck somewhere in the Victorian period.

The real point is that BK has raised the bar for so-called 'subvertising' by a corporation. Normally, subvertising refers to a spoof of corporate marketing, but now corporate marketing is literally spoofing their audience. Just as culture jammers can alter "Enjoy Coca-Cola" to say "Enjoy Capitalism", so can Burger King alter "with the lights out / we're less dangerous / here we are now / entertain us" to say "one nation under chicken fries!"

I'm all torn up about this because while I have to admire the marketing genius, this kind of culture co-opting makes me sick to my stomach. Not just because Burger King chicken fries are disgusting and not really food so much as an excuse to separate you from your money, but also due to the relentlessness with which corporations feel the need to infiltrate the minds and bodies of the youth with worthless product.

Think about this: thanks to a massive TV and internet advertising campaign, more young people have heard Coq Roq than, say, Ornette Coleman, Iggy and the Stooges or Ani DiFranco, probably combined. Real music is getting marginalized by marketing. It's nothing short of tragic for creativity, but in the eyes of extreme capitalism, it's necessary.

Finally, read Mat Callahan's The Trouble With Music right now. Go get it this instant. If there was ever a book written with the best intentions of future musicians in mind, it is Callahan's illuminating, intelligent yet easily digested manifesto. In it, he clearly explains why so-called 'McMusic' is threatening to devalue the listening experience, which will in turn devalue music product, which isn't good for anyone, corporate and independent alike.

Here's how I would have marketed it: CoqSparrer.com, where a battle of the bands takes place in which 12 performances are videotaped at city venues across the US and streamed online. Users vote online for the best bands, and the winner gets to score the next BK commercial and get a serious licensing paycheck. That way you have regional buzz, you champion the artist, and you get to market to each musical demographic with a wider selection of artists. You break a band to the mainstream that would not normally have such exposure, and you know they're good because your audience says so. You don't risk alienating anyone with rock-and-roll groupie stereotypes, but it still has the edge of an illicit activity (cockfighting). In the music video, when a chicken is defeated, it magically turns into a pile of chicken fries that is bum rushed and eaten by a hungry audience.

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