For as long as I can remember there has always been a villain/artist/musician. From a theatrical standpoint, this was role invented by Alice Cooper in the 70s. In the 80s Heavy Metal artists such as Ozzy Ousborne, Judas Priest and AC/DC assumed the role. Ozzy bit the head off of a bat, Judas Priest was accused of encouraging fans to kill themselves through subliminal messages and AC/DC’s song Night Prowler inspired Richard Ramirez to kill.
In the 90s we had Marilyn Manson scaring the crap out of the masses by running around and telling everyone that he worshiped the devil just to, you guessed it – scare the crap out of the masses. His tour Antichrist Super Star, put him in the public cross hairs as evil personified and later when erroneously connected with the killings at Columbine, the masses said, “See!”. In the early 2000s (as strange as that sounds) we had Eminem. A rapper who’s honesty about his own life and vision (or version) of humanity again, scared the crap out of the masses.
In all honesty, I’m oversimplifying; roughly half of listeners loved him while the other half hated/feared him.
When I was studying architecture as an undergrad, a teacher made the statement that excellent design was signified by polar reactions. Half of the people love it and the other half hate it. (Frank Gehry and Lebbeus Woods are my favorite architectural examples of this. ) If anyone feels unaffected; you have failed. By this definition, the personas or brands that these villain/artists/musicians created are examples of excellent design.
I think it’s fitting that Eminem created the most transparent persona given how the Internet has changed over the last several years with people posting everything about themselves on MySpace.
My question is; Where’s the Monster Now?
No one has stepped to the front to become the feared. AC/DC sells t-shirts exclusively at Wal-Mart and Everyone knows Ozzy is just a plodding forgetful Englishman. Marilyn has attempted to reinvent himself after a Bowie maneuver and know one cared. Eminem is MIA.
It’s hard to imagine that this “method” won’t be used any longer. Sociologists may say that real monsters like Osama Bin Laden have made the need for a musical enemy unnecessary. (Although I’m sure Osama’s musical stylings are somewhat less than riddled with talent.) If this is the reason, it can’t last long, since most can’t remember the year that the World Trade Center was brought down.
For now there is no monster in the music industry and I believe marketers (creators/owners of the brand) need to ask themselves if they can create a monster. One of the brands I think of as a little monster is Twitter. They have a rabid fan base and there are many others that would never use the service, no matter who it was provided by. Even the fans hate the service at times since it goes down regularly (or at least it used to). I think this would work better if there were an individual identified as the brand, as it is easier to like or dislike a person or persona. Most that I talk to love the latest incarnation of the Burger King and I’m sure there are those that loathe him.
Marketers, you need to ask yourself; Where’s your Monster now?