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Jay-Z, Beyonce: Music Artists or Advertising Jingle Writers?

Jay-Z and Beyonce, the king and queen of commercialism.

Jay-Z and Beyonce, the king and queen of commercialism.

Jay-Z and Beyonce may be the reigning King and Queen of music, but both have morphed into high-priced advertising jingle writers. Their latest work has commercial tie-ins with Samsung, Pepsi and H&M, the European retail giant. If that ain’t advertising what is?

The music industry is in the toilet, no doubt about that. And isn’t likely to climb out anytime soon.

The days of making money solely off of writing, recording and selling music are long gone in the digital age, and so too, it seems is artistic integrity.

Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant kind of said it all at the 2009 Grammy Awards when he and Alison Krauss won the Grammy for Album of the Year for their collaboration Raising Sand.

“I’d like to say I’m bewildered,” he told the audience. “In the old days we would have called this selling out,” and he was talking about winning what’s considers music’s most prestigious award.

An even more telling statement was Paul Simon’s “Saturday Night Live” skit. He plays an old man who finds out he’s in hell, living his worst nightmare. He’s condemned to spend eternity in an elevator while his most cherished songs play as background muzak.

But even Simon and Garfunkel eventually sold out.

Microsoft once used “Homeward Bound” in a commercial; “The Only Living Boy In New York” was used to sell Hondas and “Slip Sliding Away” was reportedly used to sell snow tires, according to music references.

These days, musicians have to make money where they can, but it’s one thing for a song to be adapted for a commercial long after it’s recorded, and it’s another for a song to be written specifically for a commercial and then passed off as “music.”

The question is are commercial interests bending to the wishes of the artists, or is it the other way around? As the old saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune. So, you can bet, directly or indirectly, the music was shaped to meet the advertiser’s expectations.

Pepsi certainly isn’t complaining; it’s commercial featuring Beyonce has been viewed nearly 12 million times on YouTube since its release in April.

When you have a high-flying lifestyle like the Carters, you probably have to make money anyway you can. Those who have no problem with the arrangement say it’s just another way to get the music out at a time when radio airplay can no longer be counted on to popularize songs.

Maybe so, but it still isn’t music. Jay-Z and Beyonce are the best advertising jingle writers going. Check out two of Jay-Z’s latest songs off his new album, Magna Carta… Holy Grail!

If you own a Samsung phone the album is free. Everyone else has to pay. How sweet is that.

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