Of Montreal’s T-Mobile Ad: Cell Phone Companies Now Pandering To The Blog Demo

Nov 19th, 2007 // 16 Comments

When Of Montreal’s ad for T-Mobile came on during last night’s American Music Awards, my initial reaction was along the lines of, “What music-blogger hell did this crawl out of?” And it still stands. I mean, reunion-show jokes? Band meetings that are conducted in fancy-ass hotel rooms while Kevin Barnes and Co. are in full stage makeup? I’m going to hazard a guess that most of the Daughtry fans watching the show didn’t realize that Of Montreal is, you know, an actual working band with records out, especially with the feather-flying celebration at the ad’s end.

In any case, Barnes penned a colorful defense of his band appearing in this ad–and that Outback spot a few months ago–for Stereogum, in which he throws down the generational gauntlet and says that punk rock basically screwed up everyone’s idea of what the “right” way to make a living is. And while I can see his point as far as getting paid–those six seconds of “Gronlandic Edit” will probably make more money for him and his bandmates than any show–I have to wonder whether or not this commercial will do anything for him and his band as far as awareness goes. (I’ve also wondered the same thing every time one of those Wilco VW ads has come on, because while they sound really great in the context of crappy sports-broadcast commercial breaks, there’s almost no identifying of the song itself.) Or has the shattering of the mass music market made crossover impossible for anyone who isn’t borne from the American Idol stable, a new truth that’s further proven by last night’s American Music Awards results?

of Montreal Talk T-Mobile: “Selling Out Isn’t Possible” [Stereogum]

  1. extracrispy

    Oh, that was a real band?

    I spent the entire 30 seconds trying to figure out if the manager was Edward Norton.

  2. Al Shipley

    I like how Idolator today is a liveblog of everything from the AMA’s liveblog as it reaches YouTube, piece by piece (I mean that sincerely, since I didn’t watch the show and wouldn’t mind actually seeing some of this stuff firsthand after reading about it).

  3. Bazooka Tooth

    @extracrispy: I had the same reaction when I saw them live. This is the most annoying, over-hyped band in the land.

  4. Maura Johnston

    @GovernmentNames: Hey all our AMA clips are ripped from our own TiVo, I’ll have you know! YouTube can YouEatIt. (Except in the case of the Next Great American Band clips, that is.)

  5. graeffufighting

    Did anyone else get a serious Ayn Rand vibe from reading Barnes’ Stereogum piece?

  6. SuperUnison

    @graeffufighting: Yeah. He comes off as a jackass in his defense of capitalism. He’s right to a point, at least as far as trying to call bullshit on the whole notion of selling out, but giving the same global capitalism that’s behind so much of the inequality in the world a blanket endorsement is amazingly naive. Maybe if your worldview is about Outback Steakhouse, Myspace Drama, and T-Mobile you can think that way (largeley cause you can afford to). However, if you have any kind of awareness that extends beyond yourself and the assumptions about society you were raised with, going on about how capitalism punishes the weak and unimaginative makes you sound a fascist steakhouse jingle author instead of an artist with a sense of empathy.

  7. AquaLung


  8. Anonymous

    Well, bagging on an artist making a living by selling their material to consumer electronics producers (or steakhouses) while hammering away on your laptop or home computer made in China or the like kind of makes you come off like a hypocrit, no?

  9. Matthew Perpetua

    I mostly just feel bad for The Late B.P. Helium because people are going to running up to him shouting “DUSSELDORF!” for the rest of his life.

  10. Lucas Jensen

    @Matthew Perpetua: Oh, I thought about that, too. He is gonna hear that a lot around here.

  11. Jon Can Dance

    So that’s what happened to the Ultimate Warrior…

  12. Fraid

    Look KB, it’s very simple. Yes, most of us have grown up enough at this point to realize that licensing songs for commercials does not a sellout band make. They need the money, it doesn’t really hurt the song as much as people say it does, and the idea of the big evil corporation using Of Montreal money to pollute America’s redwood groves or whatever is for the most part half-cocked bullshit. Still, it’s equally obvious that selling out is indeed possible. Imagine Bloc Party appearing in a commercial for the U.S. Navy. Or Bright Eyes writing a song for Exxon. Or Liz Phair. In other words, it’s not as simple as black or white. But that’s not to say that black and white don’t exist.

    The only reason Kevin Barnes is writing this whole polemic is that he has probably veered the closest towards actual significant selling out of any contemporary indie artist with the Outback thing. I personally don’t care about oM, but it frankly it is questionable to let a company insert its brand name into your song. And I’m pretty sure Kevin Barnes knows it. So rather than come clean and admit the complexity of the situation, he sets up this straw man position that is in fact only truly held by 16 year old goth and punk kids who couldn’t even make debate club. I call foul.

  13. Anonymous

    Couldn’t they have picked a better way to sell out? Like being featured in a good commercial for once?

  14. Anonymous

    I’ve been to some OM shows, and they were fun! But maybe Kevin realizes that he won’t be able to pull off the the semi-androgynous, non-threatening cute twee guy act for much longer. It’s really hard to do that after 40 or so, and he’s more than likely hedging his bets now that (I’m almost certain) he’s past 35. OM’s probably made not much money on its own, so selling these songs while he can is a logical choice. I don’t like it myself, but I can’t blame him for it; his kind of act has a short shelf life.

  15. Swankster

    @graeffufighting: “they won’t think of any sonic density or thematic complexity that went into the song; they’ll think of strip mall steakhouses.”

    Not trying to be crude…but so what? How many people are honestly – more importantly consciously – thinking about those things anyway?

    I sorta agree with the piece posted on stereoggum more than I disagree with it. At least Barnes’s defense is much better articulated than the opposing “anarchy > capitalism” stuff, which is basically: “making money off art is bad and thats all there is to it.”

  16. graeffufighting

    @SuperUnison: “Going on about how capitalism punishes the weak and unimaginative makes you sound a fascist steakhouse jingle author instead of an artist with a sense of empathy.”

    Exactly. He can do whatever he wants with his music, but I think that doing so sort of negates whatever his intentions were with creating his music. When people hear that song, they won’t think of any sonic density or thematic complexity that went into the song; they’ll think of strip mall steakhouses. If that’s what Barnes wants, then fine. But then why put that much effort into it in the first place?

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