Fan Jeff:  I’m really mad at Pete Townsend for whoring out “My Generation” to Pepsi.

Marketer Jeff:  It’s a good commercial, and I think it works.

Creator Jeff:  A creator needs to be true to his inner voice. He doesn’t create for the fan, but if it’s good, people will respond to it.

Fan Jeff:  Yes, but this is The Who, the ultimate “stick it to the man, cause he’s gonna stick it to you” band. These are they guys who devoted a whole album to making fun of commercials and commercialism called “The Who Sell Out” way back in the 60’s.

Creator Jeff:  A creator owns his creativity, and he can do anything he wants with it. Pete needs to eat. Fan Jeff, you need to get over it and grow up. This is business.

Fan Jeff:  Rock and Roll isn’t about business. Not to a fan. It’s about meaning, and belonging, and understanding. And in The Who’s case, their songs are about seeing through the games society plays with the individual. You know, “Meet the new boss…Same as the old boss”  and “You tried to walk on the trail we were carving, now you know that we framed you.”

Marketing Jeff:  Well, clearly a fan’s relationship to a brand and its products doesn’t always work out the way a brand wants. Brands can influence the relationship, but they don’t control it.

Creator Jeff:  This isn’t the first time the Who has used a song to sell soda. And what about concert tour sponsorships?

Fan Jeff:  Yes, but this is “My Generation.” It’s not Michael Jackson. This was a battle cry. This mattered to people. How many of us do you think are going to run out and buy a Pepsi now because it’s cooler since they used this song? Did they think of that when they made the commercial? By using “My Generation” they proved they weren’t part of my generation.

Marketing Jeff:  So, Fan Jeff, you’re saying that if they were trying to appeal to fans, they’re actually disenfranchising them?

Creator Jeff:  This is rubbish. I’m not going to let a bunch of sycophantic, whiny babies who think they’re even part of the process dictate what I do.

Fan Jeff:  Fans aren’t part of the process? Look, when I was growing up, I had a few friends who were older and had been in Vietnam. When they found that out I thought Quadrophenia was the best album ever written, one of them, Terry, said to me, “To you it’s just music. To us, it was our life. It was our anthem.” Are those the whiny babies you’re talking about who aren’t part of the process, Creator Jeff?

Creator Jeff:  Creators sometimes make things that don’t resonate with fans. Dylan went electric, and fans hated it. Springsteen went acoustic, and fans hated it. Following your muse is dangerous, but it’s what you do.

Marketing Jeff:  Brands make mistakes too. They do line extensions that don’t fly. Remember McDonald’s Arch Deluxe? They change their product and sales plummet. Remember New Coke?

Fan Jeff:  Look, you’re both missing the point. I am pissed at Pete Townsend. I can’t hear “My Generation” again and have it mean what it used to mean because of what Pete has done. Just like when they licensed “Love Reign O’er Me” for a 7Up commercial back in the ’80s. It took something away from me.

Marketing Jeff:  Wait a second. You still love “Revolution,” even though Nike used it.

Fan Jeff:  Yeah, but John Lennon was dead already. And I think the label owned it, and I think the Beatles sued. But I was mad at Nike and didn’t wear their sneakers for a long, long time.

Creator Jeff:  Yeah, and later Yoko let them use “Instant Karma.” Once you die, man, everyone gets in line to pick at your corpse.

Marketing Jeff:  Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is highly-charged territory. I think one thing we all can agree with is that the relationship between brands and fans is influenced by lots of factors, and neither party controls it. So now it’s time for my question.

Fan Jeff:  What question?

Marketing Jeff:  You know, I always end every blog post with the question, “Can someone please explain…?”

Fan Jeff:  No man, not this time. Just leave it like The Who wrote it, “…Can’t explain, I think it’s love…”

Comments
  1. Marrus says:

    This is really cool, but I’d separate out the Jeffs…it’s too dense visually!

    And as for content, you can’t stick your toe in the same river twice. The stuff I create isn’t the same once it hits the canvas from what it was in my head, and once it’s out in the world, all bets are off. You own your version & memory of the song. You can accept or reject other people’s interpretations.

    And the Muse will what the Muse will. I paint for myself, with a casual eye towards a common language. Not everything I paint sells, but much of what I paint leads to something that will, and most of what I paint is provocative, and ALL of it makes a body of work of which I’m very proud.

    That’s enough.

    • jlsimons says:

      Marrus: First, the technical point. You’re reading it in email, right? On the blog, the paragraphs are separated. When Feedburner sends it out, it loses the breaks. But if I put in an extra break, then it’s too spaced out on the blog. I’m very open to suggestions/solutions.

      Now, the creative. I don’t think any of the Jeffs were suggesting that Townsend didn’t follow his muse. The question here is whether you would you sell a painting you did for yourself decades ago to a packaged goods company now, and whether your fans would feel good about it and more likely to buy the product, or pissed off and less likely to buy. The issue is more contentious when dealing with content that has come to represent something important to a large number of people. At what point does the greater context outweigh the rights of the creator? I don’t know the answer, if there is even a single answer. I just know I’d never sleep on “I Have a Dream” pillow cases or wear an “Imagine” branded yarmulkah, whether they’d been licensed by their creators or not.

  2. Faithful Reader says:

    Marrus’ philosophy is a healthy one for any creator–letting loose your progeny on the world for better or worse. I’m in your corner, however. I had a similar reaction the first time I heard one of Bob Seger’s songs in a truck commercial and worse, hearing Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” in a commercial for some product I can’t even recall. There are just some things that are iconic to some of us and we’d like them to stay that way.

    F.R

  3. James says:

    Jeff,

    Pete sold out a long time ago, come on “reunion tours”? Who’s not in THAT for the money? (pardon the pun)
    What you need to do as a fan is remember where you were, what you were doing or what makes the song special or important to, YOU the FAN, when you heard “My Generation” or “Love Reign O’er Me” or “Revolution” (which there are plenty of other reasons not to buy nike) and not what the commercial is offering. Rather what the song offered you.

    (for the record i kinda liked it when 7UP used it because i was a 7UP drinker who felt i stood alone against the “brown cola” world that i did not want to associate myself with. and using Rock and Roll made me feel like the rebel i thought i was)

    The sarah connor chronicles uses “Rise Today” by the band Alter Bridge, but when i hear that song it reminds me of something that is not related to the show, (airing Mondays, 9pm ET (Fox)) but of someone very dear to me. (ok, i’ll admit, that may sound a little weird)

    If you want to blame someone for where the music industry has gone, why don’t we start with the Anthony Yerkovich.

    i’m going to leave you this.
    It may not be “Imagine” but marketers will, and have branded everything.

    http://goldendraydel.com/index.asp?page=kipah&depth=3

    And the dust in the wind commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzvYymGEuhs

    In not quite the words of shoeless Joe(Field of Dreams) “If you google it, it will have results.”

    james

    P.S. loved your blog concept.

    P.P.S. Did a get enough movie, music, commercial, and TV references in there? :) Yes, i am a “cable baby”

  4. jlsimons says:

    Faithful, thanks as always for the comments. You’re an artist and a writer, so it’s interesting to see you have a split perspective too when it comes to being a fan.

  5. jlsimons says:

    James, I think you could have squeezed in a few more references if you really tried, but I loved your comment so I’ll let you slide.

    For the most part, part of me agrees with you. As a TV baby (pre-cable!) and a huge music fan, I don’t normally have a problem when my worlds collide. I usually love it. (One of my favorite things about Stephen King is how well he integrates pop culture and music into his writing!)

    My specific issue with The Who and Pepsi/7Up is that it’s The Who. I just heard Dylan is letting some store in England use “Blowing In The Wind” for a commercial. He says the store has a good social agenda, but how many children of the 60’s are going to see it that way? I think that if you make your bones sticking it to the man and fighting crass commercialism, then you have to take the hits from your fans when you switch sides.

  6. jlsimons says:

    James, one more thing: I do agree that we need to ground our relationship to a song in our experience with it. It’s just that my relationship to the Who and their songs is one of anti-establishment, wake up and smell the agitprop. Now, if Pepsi wanted to use a Ramones song, I might actually buy a bottle just to laugh at the joke.

  7. I follow your blog for quite a long time and must tell that your posts are always valuable to readers.

  8. […] owns a creator’s work (please read my posts about Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and The Who’s My Generation). In this instance, while “Ain’t No Grave” is Johnny Cash’s final studio […]

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