Independent twee pop act The Weepies announced a “music initiative partnership” with Whole Foods supermarkets, which will place the band’s new album “Be My Thrill” prominently in check-out aisles across the country starting Sept. 7 for two months (general release is on Aug. 31). The CDs will likely sit next to organic breath mints, yoga magazines and discount bottles of white tea.
The chain’s blog, Whole Story, will also have exclusive rights to start streaming the whole thing starting on Sept. 3, marking the first time the site’s hosted a full album stream. The feature will be wedged between posts on likely topics like grass-fed cattle, chewable vitamin spotlights, seasonal changes in diet and mood or focus on farms.
I’m not being facetious in the distinctions between products: these branding touchstones are items that Whole Food have long sought to propagate, and, no doubt, the decision to align themselves with a brand identity such as Whole Foods’ was one long considered by the band and its label Nettwerk.
Because at the end of the day, Nettwerk needs to sell product in order to stay in business, and The Weepies thus far have admirably sold their artistry as product.
To get a tip on what the band has to offer, check out the duo’s new song “Please Speak Well of Me” below.
BostonCambridge-based act has been featured in prominent TV advertisement for JC Penney and Old Navy before, and have been all over the map in licensing to TV shows. They play soft-hearted, harmless adult-leaning music — a hot commodity in licensing these days — stuff that a lot of people would like but conceivably would never be discovered if they hadn’t pulled the trigger on what was once considered “selling out.” They’re not hipster blog sweethearts, and even if they were, that hardly means a guarantee of any sort of paycheck.
Starbucks is a comparably brand that came to mind when I read this announcement. While the coffee chain’s record label wasn’t exactly a bustling success story, Starbucks has been a brand spanked onto many an album artist — even ones that didn’t stock their albums on shop shelves. Andrew Bird, Wilco and, most recently Ray LaMontagne have been “Select” artists there before, alongside James Taylor greatest hits sets or Christmas compilations and easy listening covers collections.
There’s media “brand” bands too — like Grizzly Bear’s “Veckatimest” becoming an unofficial NPR darling in 2009, or when The National let the New York Times stream their “High Violet” earlier this year. Then there’s tours like Paramore going out for Honda, or Jagermeister covering all its lovers with country act Pat Green or schlocky modern rockers Korn. (As I mentioned earlier this year, music has a long history with beverage brands.) Devo handed over their entire “Something For Everybody” marketing and promotions campaign, appropriately, to an ad agency (which, by the way, would have made an outstanding episode of “Mad Men”). And that doesn’t even get into the “branding” of licensing music to certain shows, movies, networks or picture houses.
Where I think that this Weepies announcement strikes an odd chord with new music lovers is the span of the Whole Foods brand. Sure, it’s a yuppietopia with a penchant for overpricing, but it’s a huge, entire line of products, not just ceramic mugs and coffee gift sets. And it’s not the music passivley playing overhead as customers push carts of pineapple and specialty chocolate. It’s kind of a big deal, though I’m unsure of how much money was exchanged into whose hands.
This brand identity and opportunity to the Weepies is an expanding of the corporate music mind for labels and music consumers — since our CD stores have been shut down or cornered into Targets and other big boxes, how else do we get our new music recommendations? Word of mouth, engines like Pandora, terrestrial and satellite radio, shops from Hot Topic to Hallmark, TV programs, movie soundtracks.. and now, the grocery aisle. It isn’t that novel, except in maybe scale.
Whole Foods and the Weepies? Sure. In my head, it works. Forget “pure” artistry — it’s not like the album are songs written about gluten-free baby food or Amy’s Burritos — the band found itself a better bedfellow than most.
It got my head spinning about other artists who would make for good branding synergists*. Drake should hook up with Axe — “Thank Me Later” should be a name of a new body spray. Thievery Corporation could drive Lexus and Vampire Weekend could fly JetBlue. Instead of just keeping with album exclusives and clothing lines, Miley Cyrus should go all the way with her love affair with Walmart while the Ting Tings could add some flare to the rows and the extra-long fitting room line in H&M. And what’s to keep them?**
* Not a real word.