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Don't Hold It Against Me – But Product Placement Will Not Save the Music Industry

Product Placement

The new Britney Spears video for ‘Hold It Against Me’ got me thinking about product placement and monetization possibilities for the music industry.

The video has overt references to Britney’s fragrance Radiance, Makeup Forever, Sony, and the online dating site PlentyOfFish. I have no idea* how much it costs to get into a video that will most likely garner tens of millions of views over time, but I can imagine it is not insignificant. Britney Spears isn’t the only one to include product placement in videos either—Lady Gaga didn’t shy away from video advertising in Telephone and even some rock musicians are starting to go with the trend to make up for lackluster CD sales.

Clearly it’s becoming a staple of the music industry just as it has been in television for a long time. I always enjoy a good product placement bit on 30 Rock.

As Youtube increases video traffic more and more by the day, you can expect product placement to become more prevalent in the music industry and to start getting money from all those eyeballs that never seem to look down at their own wallets to fork over the dough. While advertising and product placement will help some get a few extra dollars for the stars, it won’t save the rest of the music industry from starvation.

Unlike Google Adsense or other advertising opportunities offered to people with only a small number of hits on their videos, product placement requires a calculated inclusion of an object in a video—something clear enough to get the message across without seeming too obtrusive to the actual content (the degree to which that is possible is subject to argument). The smaller artists who won’t be able to negotiate product placements with a  brand’s sales team simply won’t be able to incorporate products in their videos for small amounts of money. An efficient marketplace for product placement in music videos just isn’t feasible at this point (note: if such a marketplace exists and I’m just ignorant, please comment below and and I will eat my words).

Even if product placement was possible for the more middle-class artists, that doesn’t mean it actually makes sense in a video’s context. Some artists would consider product placement to be selling-out and others would not be able to incorporate it into the style of video they produce. Could you imagine a Tool video with product placement?

No matter how much it makes me cringe, I can deal with product placement in pop music videos to the extent I can deal with pop music itself—just a little bit. However, it’s not right for everyone and certainly won’t save the music industry. For now it’s just one small tool in the arsenal of big artists. It will not save the music industry or the record labels.

Editor’s Note: Britney made $500,000 from the product placements.


Jonathan Jaeger is the co-founder of social music platform HypedSound. Contact him directly at 

Reader Comments (6)

For the record, before all of you start chiming in, I posted this because I thought it would be a good conversation piece about the role of product placements in music.

A nice, short post for a change.


February 23 | Registered CommenterMusic Think Tank

I think a viable alternative to product placement for indie artists would be "community placement." Feature fans in your videos, rep the local guitar shop, get other acts to endorse your music, and show off your community. Instead product placement cash, the end result would be better relationships with fans, venues, potential tourmates, and local business.

For example, East Tennessee band The Dirty Guv'nahs uses these elements in their music videos.

Locals recognize the landmarks and TV personalities. Fans got their say-so in the video. And they received a couple of high profile endorsements to appeal to a wider audience. It's more interesting than someone flashing a Mountain Dew can.

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterWes

Wes makes a great point -- small businesses may not be able to get their products featured prominently in Big Leagues pop videos, but they can certainly get in to the indie scene, which are helped a great deal by social networking services like YouTube and even BitTorrent.

The other thing to remember about indie musicians is that they generally have a much more loyal following than the pop stars, who have a broad yet shallow fan base in general.

If I saw one of my favorite bands record a music video at the local guitar shop I would assume that they had some positive history with them and then would be more likely to go there -- simply because I want to support the band and I can do this by supporting the businesses that support them. It may be indirect, but it would most likely be quite effective.

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterJohn J. Walters

In reply to John Walters, I would definitely like to see more possibilities for artists to tastefully use advertising if it helps them to make ends meet. An efficient marketplace for that could be a viable business, if someone could make it work. I don't know all the technical and legal infrastructure that would be necessary for that, but it would be cool (and hopefully profitable).

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Jaeger

I randomly turned it to a music station recently, and thought it was HILARIOUS to see Avril Lavigne's new video full of product placement! Mostly all her own "brands" (perfume, clothing line, plus I think a camera or something - Canon? Sony?). It was ridiculous! Knowing now that Britney Spear's video did the same thing is that much funnier!

February 23 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

There's a friend of mine who's a photographer & all of his cameras that he uses (the professional ones) he has gaffing tape over the brand name on them. I asked him about it & he said, "When they are willing to give me free cameras, I am willing to advertise their brand." Kind of an interesting take on things.

February 28 | Unregistered CommenterBrian John Mitchell

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