February 8th, 2009

Pop Fans Click on to Stars’ Sing’n’Sells

By John Harlow and Jan Battles
The Sunday Times (UK)

Artists are using a new generation of interactive videos to market their look and lifestyle

You’ve seen the video, now buy the lifestyle. Fans are clicking on to a new generation of interactive pop music videos that allow them to buy the clothes, instruments and even mobile phones featured by artists.

The Pussycat Dolls and Natasha Bedingfield are among the performers who are turning to the new technology to boost profits as worldwide music sales continue to decline.

The “enriched” pop videos are being pioneered by the Script, an Irish band. Fans logging on to the group’s website to watch their latest song, Breakeven, can move their computer mouse across images of Dublin’s waterfront and well-dressed teens, and click through to other sites where they can buy what they see.

The video flashes through 242 clickable “hotspots” in 255 seconds, in which the artists have been filmed wearing clothes such as an Alexander McQueen coat and Levi’s jeans, playing a Les Paul guitar and posing in front of a Mercedes-Benz — an image that links through to a car dealership.

Underage fans who click on Whelan’s pub in the video are not offered beer but are directed instead to an Aer Lingus website for air tickets. The most popular item so far is a winter coat sold by Topman.

Bedingfield, 27, who is in Los Angeles this weekend for the Grammy awards, is shooting a video with Clikthrough, the Californian company that created the technology for the Script.She was the first singer to perform an exclusive internet concert that could be accessed only through a Microsoft Xbox games console.

Talent agents for the Pussycat Dolls have contacted clothing companies suggesting that they will wear their jeans for a fee in their next video and help promote the brand.

Paul Lisberg, of Phonogenic Records, the Sony label to which the Script are signed, said: “This will provide fans with a chance to get closer than they’ve ever been to their favourite artists, and it will provide record companies and advertisers with an unprecedented way to share in previously untapped online revenue streams.”

Rampant levels of illegal downloading have led to music sales falling at about 10% a year, prompting record companies and artists to seek income from alternative sources.

Top musicians now make more than half their money from live concerts, memorabilia and mobile phone ringtones, according to Billboard, the US music magazine.

Promoting clothes, unthinkable more than 15 years ago when grunge rock bands revelled in their scruffiness, has grown up with the new generation of hip-hop dandies.

P Diddy blazed a trail with his own range of tailored clothing, a sartorial torch picked up by Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, who also promote their own brands.

Experts believe there is a huge market for pop star fashions, from Bono’s Bulgari sunglasses to Beyoncé Knowles’s Versace dress worn in the video for Crazy in Love.

Supporters of the new form of product placement believe it will allow retailers to reach teenagers who are turning off television and ending magazine subscriptions in large numbers.

However, critics say it could spell the end of the imaginative pop video if every image has to be approved by sponsors.

Paul Gambaccini, the Radio 2 DJ, said: “We already have artists who are more interested in maximising the take than expressing art. (The interactive music videos) are like a moving version of Seventeen magazine, where you see what the artists’ favourite colour is and their favourite candy bar. Now you can just click and get it. Music always moves forward — it will take us to some places we are happy to go, and others less so.”


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