Don't Hold It Against Me – But Product Placement Will Not Save the Music Industry

Product Placement

Credit to Kyle Bylin of MusicThinkTank and Hypebot for the clever new title (who doesn't like some good word play?).

The new Britney Spears video for ‘Hold It Against Me’ got me thinking about product placement and monetization possibilities for the music industry. The video has overt references to Britney’s fragrance Radiance, Makeup Forever, Sony, and the online dating site PlentyOfFish. I have no idea how much it costs to get into a video that will most likely garner tens of millions of views over time, but I can imagine it is not insignificant (UPDATE: it's $500K, not insignificant by any means). Britney Spears isn’t the only one to include product placement in videos either—Lady Gaga didn’t shy away from video advertising in Telephone and even some rock musicians are starting to go with the trend to make up for lackluster CD sales. Clearly it’s becoming a staple of the music industry just as it has been in television for a long time. I always enjoy a good product placement bit on 30 Rock.

As Youtube increases video traffic more and more by the day, you can expect product placement to become more prevalent in the music industry and to start getting money from all those eyeballs that never seem to look down at their own wallets to fork over the dough. While advertising and product placement will help some get a few extra dollars for the stars, it won’t save the rest of the music industry from starvation.

Unlike Google Adsense or other advertising opportunities offered to people with only a small number of hits on their videos, product placement requires a calculated inclusion of an object in a video—something clear enough to get the message across without seeming too obtrusive to the actual content (the degree to which that is possible is subject to argument). The smaller artists who won’t be able to negotiate product placements with a  brand’s sales team simply won’t be able to incorporate products in their videos for small amounts of money. An efficient marketplace for product placement in music videos just isn’t feasible at this point (note: if such a marketplace exists and I’m just ignorant, please email me at and I will eat my words).

Even if product placement was possible for the more middle-class artists, that doesn’t mean it actually makes sense in a video’s context. Some artists would consider product placement to be selling-out and others would not be able to incorporate it into the style of video they produce. Could you imagine a Tool video with product placement?

No matter how much it makes me cringe, I can deal with product placement in pop music videos to the extent I can deal with pop music itself—just a little bit. However, it’s not right for everyone and certainly won’t save the music industry. For now it’s just one small tool in the arsenal of big artists. It will not save the music industry or the record labels.