Friday, 30 May 2008

Hooked On Classics?

When I was a kid there were there was a company called K-Tel Records that used to advertise mail-order only compilation albums. Vinyl, of course (I know, you’re surprised I didn’t say cylinders. Even talking about cassette tapes makes you sound old these days – as does moaning about the past and using phrases like “these days”, but there you go)

They would advertise the kind of album that you find even to this day in High Street Stores with outlandish titles like “The Greatest Chilled Sessions Volume 7” or “Twenty Songs To Hear Before You Die…” (As if anyone reaching their deathbed is likely to look back and say “you know, my one regret is that I never heard a Britney Spears song”)

Morrissey (of The Smiths) once wrote a song about making money on the back of dead or gone artists, endlessly re-packaging and re-branding ad infinitum – a fate that has, ironically, befallen The Smiths since they went their separate ways.

But one sure fire way to make money on the back of someone dead is to chose someone who shuffled off this mortal coil a good century or so ago and, as such, can’t sue for infringement of copyright or demand royalties – and this is where Classical compilations come in.

These days there are only two ways to sell classical music to an unsuspecting public:
1) Get four very attractive women in short skirts and revealing tops, give them an electric violin each and a name like “Classical Babes” and sit back and watch the money roll in (Vanessa May, I’m thinking of you)
2) Sell it to the public as an “as heard on…” basis

I recently bought such a classical compilation – it probably wasn’t called The Greatest Classical Moments EVER!!! (with obligatory three exclamation marks), but it was that kind of title. Anyway – it wasn’t sufficient to just sell me the music, each piece had to be underlined with the words “As heard on the Cornflakes advert”, “As heard on X Factor” or, when they get desperate, “As heard on Sky Football channel”

To be honest I found this a bit insulting at first – implying that I was too stupid to know a piece of classical music outside of a contemporary reference – then I found myself wondering how many other unpopular things we could sell to the modern world in this way.

What about all those museums that no one ever visits? Put up a banner outside saying “As Seen On Battlestar Gallactica” and the tourists will be falling head-over-heels to get in.

Got a difficult subject to teach at school? Mathematics – as seen on Wheel Of Fortune.

Or alternatively we could stop spoon feeding people and treat them like adults. It’s a choice – but somehow I can’t see the advertising agencies going for it…


Honour said...

Laughing out *very* loud at the Battlestar Galactica reference. I'm very pleased that it would even be a selling point, as for those of us who watched the original series probably never thought it would come back again. Unfortunately, I must say -- sometimes it is because of modern movies and TV shows, that even I - who loves classical and opera -- find a new / old piece to be enamored by ... so it's not *all* bad.

Anonymous said...

In the first sentence, I think you meant to put "there was", and in the second sentence in the fourth paragraph, I think you meant "choose". I can't help myself, I apologize.

At any rate, companies have been doing that tactic for ages, taking old things and referencing them to something new.

I think, for some, the point is to tack the old piece of art on to something new that evokes an emotion amongst the public or is memorable, and have that feeling resonate when the old piece of art, by itself, comes up again. It's the best I can guess.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Samurai - the mistakes you mention are typos - I guess i need to update my RSA 3 in Word Processing! I agree with what both you and honour said about making that connection. IE when we read a particular book it takes us back to the beach where we first read it.

Honour - I also agree - music in movies, TV, adverts can expand your horizons and discover new things. I guess i'm just not sure how composers like Dvorak and Bach would feel to be forever associated with a loaf of bread and cigars respectively (New World Symphony was used in a famous "Hovis" advert directed by a very young Ridley Scott, whereas Air On A G String was used to advertise Hamlet cigars) - i like to think they had something higher in mind when they wrote them

Jenny said...

Interesting. Yes, it must be so that it actually helps them a lot to refer to something new and cool, when they want to put on the classics on the market again. Just the classics themself may seem passé.
Haha, I wonder if that would make the kids more interested in math. That's a very interesting idea.
Great post by the way. :)