By Yash Egami
For years, the artist Moby
was known on the DJ circuit and club scene, but it wasn't until his critically acclaimed album Play
was released in 1999 that he became a household name. His success was anything but typical, his gospel and blues-infused techno music gained momentum only after it was used in numerous commercials ranging from Nike to Bailey's to American Express. Not only did Moby help usher in a new wave of electronica to the mainstream, but advertisers also took note and abandoned traditional jingles for techno and "real" music. We caught up with the musician in the middle of his tour for his latest album, Hotel
, and found out about his side project, Teany, for which he and Graham Clifford won a merit award in this year's One Show Design.
So what is your opinion of advertising?
It's hard to generalize something that's that complicated. Advertising can be a $200 million campaign for the iPod or some guy in a Pakistani deli putting up a sign that says he has goat meat. It's not inherently good or bad, it's just a medium.
But I went to the University of Connecticut and studied philosophy. What I really wanted to do was go to Brown and study semiotics, but unfortunately, I couldn't afford it. But I've always been fascinated by semiotics, and advertising is about the subtle and not-so-subtle manipulation of people through images and sound. As a medium, I find it incredibly fascinating.
Does advertising ever catch your attention?
Occasionally, a Web site will come up with like, the 20 most clever ads or the 20 funniest ads. And invariably, you're struck by the ingenuity and intelligence behind these campaigns.
But for as long as we can remember, advertisers have had a captive audience. When I was growing up, we had five or six channels and no remote control, and a few radio stations to choose from and a few magazines and that was it. It seems like one of the biggest challenges now is to actually get people to pay attention to advertising.
With technology like iPods and satellite radio, people are saying that traditional radio is dead. Is this good or bad?
The problem that the music business and radio has faced over the last 15 years is consolidation. There used to be a time when you had lots of radio stations essentially run as mom and pop businesses. You'd have a radio station in Cleveland owned by a family who had owned that station for 40 years. That station had autonomy, it was independent, they determined their own play lists. Then along came Clear Channel and Infinity and all the other mega-corporations that bought up all the radio stations and made them homogeneous. I don't want to slander it too much, but they really dumbed it down. They took stations that had a lot of autonomy and integrity and made them suddenly start pitching to the lowest common denominator. And they changed formats seemingly at the drop of a hat. One day you'd turn on your favorite radio station and suddenly it would be a Spanish language station. And then six months later, it's all talk. Six months later it's Country Western. They've removed the concept of loyalty from radio. When I was growing up, I'd find a radio station and listen to it nonstop. But you can't be loyal to a station when one day it's talk radio, the next day it's Spanish language and the next it's heavy metal.
Are you a fan of satellite radio?
For the longest time, terrestrial radio had a stranglehold on the medium. Then along came satellite radio, Internet radio and cable radio. I took a trip with a friend of mine recently and we rented a car that had satellite radio, and I swear after 15 minutes of listening to it, you can't even think about going back to terrestrial radio. From a musician's perspective, I see this as being incredibly healthy. As radio over the last five or ten years has just gotten worse and worse, suddenly there are lots of alternatives. And I guess from an advertiser's perspective, it must be kind of daunting.
To read more of our interview with Moby, pick up a copy of the latest issue of ONE. A MAGAZINE.