The late comedian Bill Hicks had a great bit about how all marketers are evil scumbags that deserve to die. He suggested that anyone in advertising and marketing are satan’s spawn that should kill themselves and rid the planet of their evil ways.
In case you haven’t seen it, you can check it out below:
It’s a really funny bit that made me laugh. I can relate with Hicks’ disdain for marketing and advertising. The constant bombardment of advertising and marketing in our society can be overwhelming. It seems that everywhere we turn we’re being marketed to and people are trying to sell us something everywhere we go. Whether it’s on TV, or the internet, or even the billboards we see driving down the street, we’re surrounded by advertisements. This is why the bit worked so well. It’s funny because there's an element of truth to it and we can all relate to it.
However, as I started contemplating the prevalence of marketing in our society and how so many people seem to have such a strong disdain for it, I couldn’t help but to think about the hypocrisy of it all. So many people feel so strongly about the evils of marketing, yet either work directly for corporations that engage in marketing, or market their products and services themselves. It’s a bit like people who are horrified by people who hunt animals to eat, but go to the supermarket every week to on stock up on beef and poultry that other people have killed. As if somehow if you aren’t actually present when the animal is killed you’re completely innocent.
Take Bill Hicks for example. I’m a big fan of Hicks work and admire his views on society and the evils of capitalism. Yet, I’m pretty sure Hicks marketed his own concerts and I’m sure he had a publicist that helped him promote his shows, get booked on TV shows, schedule interviews and so on. It reminds me of people who preach the evils of the internet and social media, on social media. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.
I can’t think of many jobs that don’t involve some form of marketing. Even non profit organizations market themselves to get the word out. Hospitals market themselves, churches market themselves, musicians certainly have to market themselves and on and on. Most of us engage in some form of marketing or work for companies and people that do. Very few products and services market themselves.
Is marketing evil? Marketing by itself is just a tool. Like any tool it can be used for good or bad. Marketing used to increase visibility and recognition of products and services that actually help and benefit society is good. If you created something of value, wouldn’t you want people to know about it? If you created a beautiful song that moved people who listened to it, wouldn’t you want to find a way to share it with as many people as possible? Marketing isn’t inherently good or evil, any more than the internet or the printing press is inherently good or evil. Marketing is just a way to persuade and inform people, nothing less, nothing more.
What is evil, are marketers that persuade people to knowingly buy products that are bad for them. Or marketers that focus solely on the almighty dollar at the expense of what’s good for society and humanity. What’s evil are corporations that care more about money than the safety and well-being of their employees. What’s evil are corporations that care more about the bottom line than the health of the planet and the people that live on it. Marketing isn’t evil. People are.
Musicians, being the sensitive and idealistic people we often are, tend to be even more susceptible to the line of thinking that “all marketers are evil”. Take what I do with regard to my website. I create courses and compile information that a lot of musicians find very valuable. I spend a lot of time running my website, writing blog posts, making youtube videos, recording and editing podcasts, creating courses and so on. Naturally, because it takes me so much time, I need to be compensated financially in order to sustain the whole endeavor and grow my business. So I charge what I think are very fair prices for my courses and services. I live in a society that requires money to survive in, so this strikes me as a very rational and reasonable thing to do. Yet, still there’s a percentage of people who seem to have a problem with it.
For example, I recently created a course on How To License Songs in commercials. I created the course with singer/songwriter Cathy Heller, who has had a lot of success licensing her songs in ads and commercials. I’m really proud of the course, so I of course marketed the course to my subscribers and on my social media. Cathy and I spent a lot of time creating the course together and so of course we wanted to see a return on our investment of time. I think most people get this, but I still got a message from one musician who was outraged that we would actually charge money for our course. “Why is someone making a six figure income from licensing selling a course for $37.00?” they implored. Umm, I don’t know, maybe because they like teaching and sharing information and want to make money so that they can pay for things like rent, food, etc.
I think as a society we need to get past this black and white thinking about money that so many of us seem to have. Making money isn’t evil. Marketing isn’t evil. It’s what we do with money and what we’re willing to do with marketing that determines whether or not are actions are “evil” or “good”. Money is just a tool and a way to exchange value. That’s it.
I create music and courses that teach other musicians how to make money from their music. I’m passionate about what I do and I charge money for what I do. I sleep very well at night.