I have seen rock and roll future … and it’s a full range of lifestyle products!

Posted by Rob Walker on October 9, 2008
Posted Under: Foolhunting,Music,Products,Subculture Inc.,Things/Thinking


The band Of Montreal recently published something that reads like a short manifesto, or possibly a parody of a manifesto, with the title, “We Will Only Propogate Exceptional Objects.” The first paragraph riffs  on identity:

To project our self identity into the outer and, to amplify the howl of our self expression, we have many tools at our disposal; our art, our clothing and hair style, the way we talk…, and, for a lot of us, the objects that populate our living spaces. There are myriad vendors, attempting to contribute to our identity campaigns, creating rather dull and uninspiring products. Making the production of any new objects, at this point, almost seem criminal.

This sounds like a complaint about consumer culture. Or, again, a parody of a complaint about consumer culture. “The howl of our self expression”?

Anyway, whatever the intent, it goes in a direction that seems a little odd after having just asserted that “making the production” of new identity-stuff seems “almost criminal.” Because the real point of the piece is to announce that the band’s next record will not simply be a record. It will be a “collection.”

Skeletal Lamping Collection 08 includes T-shirts, tote bags, buttons, wall decals, posteres and even a paper lantern. The idea is that with most of these objects, if you buy the thing, you get a code for a digital download of, you know, the band’s next batch of music. If you’d like this entire lifestyle suite so that you can immerse yourself fully in the Of Montreal-ness of your “identity campaign,” that’ll be $90.

I guess this is a creative way of promoting a new release — making it more “relevant,” as they say.

It also seems like kind of a reversal of the longstanding trend of trying to make products “cool” by associating them with certain music, whether it’s the background at a hip retailer, or the soundtrack to a TV ad. Maybe at this point music seems incomplete without products — and it’s the music that now needs to be made “cool” by being associated with on-trend merch.

On what I think is a very related note: Carrie Brownstein writes about the death of the “rock star” idea here. More about that later, but a line from closing paragraph: “Maybe the death of the rock star is due to the fact that brands are the new gods and musicians merely the preachers.”

Via PSFK and Marginal Utility.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

The music used to be the first priority. Most of the time I didn’t know about the goodies in the album until I peeled off the plastic. Here, you buy the crap first then download the music.

But, the “art objects” look kinda cool. I think it’s smart marketing to their fans. And it’s harder to steal a t-shirt or lamp than a digital download.

By-the-way – Alice Coopers School’s Out remains in my top ten – but I’ve since misplaced the paper panties it came with.

#1 
Written By Allen Weaver on October 9th, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

The last album I purchased was an LP. Not because I’m an audiophile, but because it’s an object that’s big and pretty and I can hang it on my wall, and I already downloaded the album anyway. The purchase was to support the band, but I also got an object. With music reverting to intangible form, selling objects that come with the music actually makes a lot of sense.

Cat and Girl makes good points here:
http://www.catandgirl.com/view.php?loc=611

But I’ve come to a different conclusion. I do not feel the same sense of ownership of MP3s as I do my physical books or CDs. DRM is one of the things that kills the magic. Also, there is beauty in a physical object. Yes, I’m a design nerd who still has her first iPod box, but I think there is some delight for everyone in something they can hold, feel, and pass around.

#2 
Written By fontgoddess on October 10th, 2008 @ 2:26 am

I just realized . . . they’re selling music souvenirs. That’s the secret extra that sheet-music, records, and CDs all had: you get the music and a souvenir. Of Montreal has just taken the logical next step: now that most of their audience is listening to the music digitally anyway, they give their audience the music and the souvenir a little more physically separate than has been traditional in this century.

#3 
Written By fontgoddess on October 10th, 2008 @ 2:35 am

RADIOHEAD- ANYONE CAN PLAY GUITAR

Deessstiny, Destiny protect me from the world
Deessstiny, hold my hand protect me from the world

Here we are, with our running and confusion
And I don’t see no confusion anywhere

And if the world does turn, and if London burns
I’ll be standing on the beach with my guitar
I want to be in a band, when I get to heaven
Anyone can play guitar
And they won’t be a nothing anymore

Growwww my hair, Grow my hair I am Jim Morrison
Growwww my hair, I wannabe wannabe wannabe Jim Morrison

(refer to the actual song…more so, the band, if you haven’t already)

#4 
Written By Anthony Huff on October 11th, 2008 @ 12:42 am

Notice in the comments: “your music and marketing strategies are lightyears ahead of everyone”. As if the marketing strategy was itself part of the art of being in a band.

Are they so different? Marketing tells you who you can be. So does art.

The real problem isn’t that we’re being told who to be instead of “thinking for ourselves”. It’s that the identities that we end up with aren’t that great. Even (or especially) the ones built around “self-expression” are shallow.

Identities seem at least partly aspirational — the person that we want other people to think that we are, but we are satisfied with surfaces, and unconcerned with any deeper dimension.

#5 
Written By alsomike on October 11th, 2008 @ 6:25 am

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