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Words: Gordon Stribling
Illustration: Graeme Samuels
I’ve spent the past five minutes doing a quick Q&A with gatekeeper of trance, Armin van Buuren. Not entirely unlikely for a dance music journalist, you might think. Except on this occasion it was Armin asking the questions as we ‘sat’ next to each other on a virtual KLM flight as part of some online competition.
I was only mildly surprised to see Armin’s friendly face popping up on a Facebook ad for an airline. In the past year or so more and more mainstream brands have cottoned on to the growing popularity of boom-boom music and hired big dance names to help sell their wares: Deadmau5/Nokia, Calvin Harris/Pepsi, Guetta/quite a few. Naturally, TV execs have got it on the act, too – Simon Cowell’s baffling Decks Factor being one horrific example.
There are those who condemn these artists as sell-outs and berate the TV channels for exploiting dance culture for commercial gain. But rather than trying to stop this inevitable tide of capitalism from further intruding on our beloved scene, I’m going to adopt the Alan Partridge approach by using my insider knowledge of hip, cool music to pitch some ideas of my own. I can’t just stand aside and watch so many DJs limiting themselves to apps and record labels instead of really exploiting their commercial potential. Who knows – there might even be a few quid in it.
As the relentless Olympic adverts showed us, the link between the product and the person promoting it is often tenuous at best.
I was more than a bit baffled by the decision by Head & Shoulders to use Mark Cavendish, a man with a clearly receding hairline, to advertise their shampoo. Surely Paul Oakenfold lathering his luscious locks on an Ibizan beach would provide a much better demonstration of the product’s shine and lustre-enhancement properties? Plus they could show the obligatory party scene where young, sexy people dance to a generic ‘techno’ track that editor Dave knocked up in the studio.
Sticking with the personal care theme, how about DJ Fresh deodorant? Much like Lynx, it’s guaranteed to send the girls flocking in your direction, though it’ll be more about bassface and gunfingers than bikinis and g-strings.
Then there’s the food market. How about the Annie Big Mac, complete with only the freshest and heaviest cuts, or Steve Aoki’s BBQ Smoky, a delicious sauce for dipping and marinating. Hell, you could even combine it with the Annie Big Mac to create some kind of super electro barbecue bass-burger! Anyone else’s mouth watering?
Hmmm, what else are consumers crying out for? How about a game of Benga Jenga for the kids? I’ve recently heard rumours that Rentokil are bringing out a range of Deadmau5 traps, and Maya Jane’s charcoal is ideal for summer barbecues. When it comes to lucrative endorsements for high street opticians, Visionquest are surely pushing at an open door. And hardy perennial Jon Digweed will be kicking himself if he misses his moment to bring out his own branded line of garden tools for Homebase.
Of course, we live in times of austerity, so not everyone can afford to splash out on Carl Cox crockery and Lisa Lashes laptop covers. But surely stars of dance music can barter their burgeoning fame into fame to building a TV career. We’ve already heard rumours of David and Cathy Guetta’s reality TV series, but let’s broaden the reach a bit. I don’t know about you, but I’d happily tune in to ‘Claude VonStroke’s Roadside Café’ every week on ITV 7. Imagine the drama as he toils over profit margins and compares different types of bacon at the cash and carry! Consider the comic potential of cameos from Hot Chip and Eats Everything! And watch the tension unfold when Mark Knight’s Quick Bites opens 500 yards down the road. This stretch of the A505 ain’t big enough for the both of ’em.
In all seriousness, dance music stars exploiting opportunities to cash in on dance music’s popularity is no biggie. Everyone would rather see DJs who have earned fame through their talent getting corporate moolah than some goon from Geordie Shore. No-one complained when Run DMC were penning paeans to trainers, after all. And as Diplo quite rightly pointed out at this year’s IMS, many artists now rely on sponsorship to make a living because records don’t make them money. And if they wholly disregard our previous list of suggestions, there’s no reason they can’t come out of it with their credibility intact. Though on the subject of credibility, I have a confession to make, Armin. The first record I bought wasn’t Joey Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’ – it was East 17’s ‘Around The World’. Don’t judge me. You weren’t there, man.