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Taking sides: Is guerrilla music marketing effective in 2010? Or just annoying?

rogerwaters.jpgPink Floyd's Roger Waters apologized when his marketing campaign postered over an Elliott Smith memorial, but should he have launched the campaign in the first place? (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

Earlier this week, the blogerati hurled criticism at Pink Floyd vet Roger Waters for a guerrilla marketing campaign promoting his upcoming The Wall Live tour. Turns out, street artists under Waters's employ had wheat-pasted a swatch of viral advertising onto a Los Angeles mural widely recognized as a memorial to the late songwriter Elliott Smith.

Waters later apologized for the goof-up, but maybe he should have apologized for launching such an uninspired "street" campaign in the first place.

In our weekly Taking sides column, Click Track's contributors tackle the question: Is guerrilla marketing an effective promotional tool for musicians in 2010? Or has it become an empty gesture? Cast your vote in the poll below and read our thoughts after the jump.

Allison Stewart: Guerrilla marketing is here to stay, but folks will need to get better at it to match the increasing sophistication of audiences. Twitter campaigns and "Cloverfield"-type mystery reveals have probably been ruined forever (and don't even get me started on Burger King's Subservient Chicken. Anyone remember the Subservient Chicken?).
Major labels, movie studios and anyone else representing The Man have proven especially clumsy at guerrilla campaigns. The idea of a Boomer-era icon like Waters bigfooting a Gen X icon like Smith using hipster-derived tools seeems to be what has gotten people so upset. That said, I think everyone is being a little too precious about the Elliott Smith Memorial Wall. I loved him, too, but come on. He might have found it funny. Probably not, though.

Sarah Godfrey: These guerrilla marketing stunts are so tired. What was once an innovative way to reach music consumers and stand out from the pack has just become obnoxious. I remember being blown away by the genius of the Biggie Smalls/Craig Mack promo cassette packaged in a B.I.G. MACK sandwich box back in the early '90s. Now you can't walk on a city sidewalk without stepping on a Ke$ha stencil. If everyone is doing this sort of thing, at some point it's no longer whimsical and cool -- it's just the standard way of doing business. I think we've reached that point. You know what would be really novel? Make great music, let people discover it, and build a following via word of mouth. Crazy!

Chris Richards: When it comes to music (or any other product), my biggest gripe with guerrilla marketing is that it's always been so painfully unfunny. In our post-Shepard Fairey cultural ad-scape, so much incredible prank potential ends up getting buried in a sluice of self-congratulatory, quasi-profound, pseudo-activist street art. It doesn't have to be like that. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails "leaking" his music by hiding a USB drive in a public bathroom stall? More of that please.

David Malitz: I liked it better when I found out about new albums by scouring the back third of Option magazine. (Grandpa Simpson voice.) But yes, this "guerrilla" marketing stuff is ridiculous. It actually makes me respect our old buddy Neon Indian -- at least he's straightforward with his billboarding efforts. These guerrilla campaigns are supposed to have more credibility than traditional ad campaigns (although I doubt Roger Waters is really fooling anyone), and they require just as much PR muscle. Guerrilla marketing is on its way to becoming the pop-up ad equivalent of album promotion.

By Chris Richards  |  May 6, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  Taking sides  | Tags: Craig Mack, Elliott Smith, Neon Indian, Nine Inch Nails, Notorious B.I.G., Pink Floyd, Roger Waters  
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But what about whoamiamwhoami.... Those videos garnered an amazing amount of publicity and I'm still not really certain who it is and remain a bit freaked out by some of those videos.

Posted by: M__N | May 7, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Simply calling it "guerilla marketing" makes it seem amateurish. When his old band floated a giant pig over Battersea, no one said it was intrusive, annoying, or ridiculous.

Ultimately, people are so self-consumed with their iPhones, Blackberrys, and oppressive need to save time/make money, that anything cool which distracting them from their work-a-day blinders is viewed negatively.

Here's a newsflash: Shepard Fairey shouldn't apologize. Banksy shouldn't apologize, and of all people ... Roger Waters owes nobody an apology for trying to be creative. Admittedly, the Elliot Smith thing was a mistake, but the campaign overall? Definitely not!

Getting into the hearts and minds of your audience is critical to success in today's marketplace. The direct-to-fan model is proving to be the only way for today's musicians to create a sustainable, viable career.

Without Direct-to-Fan (part of which is guerilla marketing!), you'll never find your way to that "four-star traveling daydream" that Roger Waters sings about...

Shameless plug here for -- providing direct-to-fan solutions for artists of all experience levels and genres.

And If Roger's reading this, we hope he plays more of his solo material when he comes through Boston in September. Radio KAOS? Pros & Cons? Yes please!

Posted by: ScottFeldman | May 7, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Who cares?

Posted by: backseatreviewer | May 10, 2010 12:45 AM | Report abuse

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