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  • Carl Z.
    They can always use another Who song instead... Bah Hummer Indie rockers reject
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2006
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      They can always use another Who song instead...


      Bah Hummer
      Indie rockers reject big money from the king of gas guzzlers
      By Otis Hart
      Tuesday, February 21, 2006

      The Thermals, a rambunctious rock band from Portland, Ore., were en
      route between gigs last year when they got a phone call from their
      label, Sub Pop. Hummer wanted to pay them $50,000 for the right to use
      their song "It's Trivia" in a commercial.

      "We thought about it for about 15 seconds, maybe," lead singer Hutch
      Harris said.

      They said no.

      Washington D.C.'s Trans Am were offered $180,000 by Hummer for the
      song "Total Information Awareness."

      "We figured it was almost like giving music to the Army, or Exxon,"
      guitarist Philip Manley said.

      They said no.

      The post-punk band LiLiPUT, who broke up more than 20 years ago, could
      have pocketed $50,000 for "Heidi's Head" after making close to nothing
      during their five-year existence. But they, too, said no.

      "At least I can sleep without nightmares," Marlene Marder reasoned.


      GM's brand of luxury SUVs may be one of the most fashionable modes of
      transportation in the world, but Hummer ad money is turned down like
      ... well ... like nothing else. That's even more shocking when you
      consider many of the artists in line to benefit could double their
      yearly income by saying yes. The offers generally begin at $50 grand —
      a ton of money for relative unknowns.

      Lyle Hysen runs Bank Robber Music, a licensing group that pitches
      songs to film, television and advertisement companies. He's gotten his
      clients featured in shows like "Six Feet Under" and "The L Word" and
      in car ads by Volkswagen and Jaguar.

      Hummer, however, has been a nonstarter.

      "My standard line is you guys will play a hundred million gigs before
      you see this amount of money," Hysen said. "Usually they come back
      with, 'We'll do anything BUT Hummer.'"


      The problems always seem to start with the environment, or rather
      Hummer's effect on it.

      Hummer has a miles-per-gallon rating pushing single digits (10 in the
      city for the H2), which has earned it posterboard status in arguments
      about the United States' increased dependency on oil. The company
      defends its fuel efficiency, considering its heft.

      But the Sierra Club has led the backlash, even creating a spoof Web
      site called hummerdinger.com. It's also a descendent of the
      government-designed Humvee (the civilian model arrived in 1992 after
      seven years of military duty).

      "It's not about the money," Manley said. "It's the principle."

      While multi-platinum artists like Talking Heads and Smashing Pumpkins
      have declined, more of the "thanks-but-no-thanks" crowd are musicians
      who would benefit greatly by the exposure that accompanies a national
      ad campaign, like electronic artists Caribou and Four Tet, or
      acid-bluesmen the Soledad Brothers.

      "It had to be the worst product you could give a song to," Harris
      said. "It was a really easy decision. How could we go on after
      soundtracking Hummer? It's just so evil."


      Perhaps it's easy to understand why these stridently independent
      artists are passing on Hummer. The more intriguing question is, why is
      Hummer targeting those artists? Why not ask more mainstream artists
      who have already embraced corporate financing?

      "I will say about the Hummer guys, they are some of the most intense
      music listening guys out there," Hysen said. "They are on my A-list.
      They find music on their own, go to shows, they aren't waiting for a
      major label to call them."

      Lance Jensen, president of the advertising agency Modernista, is the
      creative mind behind the Hummer campaign, and has seen firsthand what
      prime-time, 30-second spots can do for unheard artists — six years
      ago, he used cult-folk hero Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" in a Volkswagen
      commercial, which single-handedly triggered a Drake renaissance and
      probably led to what we now call "yup-rock" (polite indie rock for the
      upwardly mobile).

      Jensen insisted that he and the rest of the marketing brains at
      Modernista have no strict M.O. when it comes to the music they pursue.

      "We just pick music that we like as people," said Jensen, a former DJ
      at Boston College's esteemed WZBC college radio station. "Being a
      music lover, there's so much interesting work out there, I wonder —
      why not let people hear it? I don't know, I guess I just want artists
      to make money. I don't want them to be poor."

      Jensen's Modernista has produced some of the most innovative car
      commercials ever. They avoid pitchmen — hell, they avoid people most
      of the time — and focus on visual spectacle. And a big part of
      attracting eyeballs is giving people a sound that will turn their

      Unfortunately for Hummer, many artists aren't listening.
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