Jan 072013

(We welcome Richard Street-Jammer with the following guest opinion.  I will be sorely disappointed if we don’t see comments about this.) 

Capital One’s youtube account posted the video above on December 27th 2012. If you’re reading this and can’t watch the video, it stars Dragonforce’s guitarists. They trade off leads as each one uses the Capital One mobile banking app on his cell phone. The narrator tells us that the app “lets us bank wherever, so you can keep doing what you are doing,” and then the guitars shoot huge bolts of lightning in space, because HUGE BOLTS OF LIGHTNING IN SPACE. If they’re not playing an actual Dragonforce song, I can’t tell; it sounds like a Dragonforce song, and Dragonforce has only written one song.

As metal band -> commercial appearances go, this one’s a pretty naked grab for cash. To my knowledge, the band has never taken a philosophical stance against hawking products other than musical equipment. (e.g., guitar and guitar amp sponsorships). Dragonforce is a professional band that falls on the fun and entertainment side of the artistic spectrum. They’re entertainers, and their music is a product.

I don’t know their band’s income, but I doubt they bank the kind of lucre we associate with being a rockstar. Given the downward trend in music sales, some extra money from doing a commercial spot can’t hurt. Relatively few bands are able to monetize their music in this fashion. Of those bands, even fewer still play heavy metal. It has happened before though. Suffocation did it a few years ago when they appeared in a History Channel television commercial. Based partially on a fan’s request, Falconer did a TV ad for Mini automobiles. While it does happen, it’s still a shock to see a metal band in a commercial.

Curiously, Dragonforce isn’t mentioned by name in the ad at all. Perhaps it’s not meant to be a television ad; the Capital One account lists it as “Mobile Banking with Dragonforce.” At least it’s an accurate ad, though. Guitar shredding and huge lightning bolts in space…that’s Dragonforce.

It flies in the face of traditional heavy metal ethics, but it’s good business, it’s free publicity, and there’s no hypocrisy involved. When Scion AV started throwing heavy metal concerts and releasing free EPs, many eyebrows were raised. I wasn’t bothered by Scion AV, and I’m still not. Before the advent of recording technology, musicians lived on touring income. Some of them were paid by, or really sponsored by, wealthy patrons to write songs. In some ways, the sources from which musicians earn their living are reverting back to those of the age before recording technology. It’s only fitting then that wealthy companies like Scion AV are now acting as patrons.

Traditionally, a metal, punk, or hardcore band doing a commercial like this would be considered selling out. It might be time to rethink that approach. The commercial will help keep Dragonforce on the road, give them more time for practicing shredding and rewriting their song, and give them more time to train at shooting huge lightning bolts. It’ll help them continue functioning as a professional band instead of being distracted by fulltime jobs. Maybe it’s a harbinger of things to come. I know where I stand on this: Dragonforce hasn’t sold out. They’ve picked up a new patron. What say you?


  1. I don’t have a problem with it. And not just because I don’t give two squats about Dragonforce’s music. We all know the music business, and metal in particular, isn’t raking in dollars for the artists. Honestly I’m just surprised that metal bands even have opportunities to hawk products like this, and if it’s a signal that the genre is becoming more accepted by the mainstream, I’m fine with that too.

  2. Honestly I really don’t have a problem with it. My thought when I saw the Suffocation Dark Ages video was “hey cool, music I like is being used in a commercial.” I mean let’s be real here: dudes gotta eat. If taking commercial spots helps good musicians get by then I’m all for it.

  3. This seems fine to me. I was unaware of the Suffocation commercial, but I found it on YouTube.

  4. Just to spice things up, I’ll play the devil’s advocate: Is the issue playing for pay in a commercial versus not lending your music to product advertisements? Or should it be more nuanced than that? I have trouble criticizing any metal band for doing something that brings in some bucks, as long as they’re not compromising their music in the process, but should we give some thought to what a band is helping advertise?

    Capital One’s TV ads are funnier than most, but they’re still a fucking credit card company, and credit card companies are among the lowest forms of corporate life (which is saying something). I don’t care so much about Dragonforce helping promote Capital One because I don’t really give a shit about the band. But if I think I’d be pretty disappointed if, for example, I saw Gojira or Incantation helping out with a credit card ad (like that would ever happen).

    • Islander, you raise some good points. I’d be very disappointed in Gojira if they did this type of thing. Incantation, not so much; I don’t consider them a fun/entertainment band even though they aren’t pushing any political agenda.

      I really think this has to be dealt with on a case by case basis. There are companies which I would object to any band lending their name to; Capital One isn’t on of them. Although they do offer credit cards, I see that as a user beware situation. A properly used credit card helps you in the U.S. and is often a better choice than a debit card. Capital One also offers less controversial services such as savings and checking accounts and auto loans.

      I can see the argument in “don’t advertise for a corporation, ever,” becaus there is a dark side to every company. At the same time, I think that with any celebrity advertisement, most people understand that the celebrity is just doing it for the cash and may not like the product at all. In that sense, I don’t think it matters so much what a band endorses.

      • I’m of two minds about this issue. One of my minds agrees with you. The other one has an idealistic view of metal as underground music created by people who have some standards about who they’ll take money from, even if they’re not a band whose music has a political/ethical message. But since I’m not broke and trying to figure out how I can afford to continue making music, I’m very reluctant to pass judgment on bands who pick up money where they can find it (at least if they’re remaining true to their music and their own beliefs).

    • Well, I’m not so sure that the example you give is all that cut and dry, Islander–at least not in most cases. Now sure, some bands are explicitly political in their lyrics and stances, at least around some issues (e.g. Gojira). But the vast majority are not. As a whole, politics are typically left out of Metal’s various subgenres. As a result, most of us don’t pick the bands we listen to and enjoy based on said politics. We may choose to love some a little extra because they espouse views that we endorse (e.g. I loved Testament’s “Low” for that). But, unless a band crosses a line (a line that we each define individually–whether around race, gender, religion, etc.), we don’t typically investigate a band’s politics and moral values. And in fact, I bet that in most metal bands, there isn’t a consensus in the first place around these beliefs.

      So let’s say an extreme, apolitical metal band that I really respect (e.g. Katatonia) does a commercial for a corporation that I don’t respect (McDonald’s). Beyond the obvious cheese factor and ill fit here: should I lay hell on Katatonia for advertising for such a terrible (in my eyes) corporate monster? After all, nothing about them explicitly ever told me they cared about this issue in the first place. My answer would be no. Artistically, I’d argue that it was a poor choice that will hurt their image. Then again I also find a lot of the skinny jeans that bands wear to look ridiculous. But fundamentally, I don’t think this hurts their credibility, as they didn’t violate anything.

      Now if, say, Napalm Death made a commercial for a large corporation, I’d accuse them of being full of shit, since so much of their identity ad lyrics is tied around anti-capitalism.

      Just my 2c.

      • Well, that’s a fair point, which I do get, and that’s why I started by saying I was playing devil’s advocate, because i”m not convinced I’m right and you’re wrong.

  5. I’m sorry, was anybody taking Dragonforce seriously to begin with? Fuck ’em.

  6. Now I want an add from a mortician entrepreneuer with Swallow the Sun and I want it now GOD DAMN IT!

  7. “Based partially on a fan’s request, Falconer did a TV ad for Mini automobiles.”

    As a devout follower of Falconer, I feel it necessary to point out that the band’s music and logo was in the commercial, but the band was not. The band featured in said commercial was not Falconer, but likely some hired actors.

    Regarding the Dragonforce ad, I found it amusing. I have no problem with bands finding ways to make some extra money, and it could have been a lot worse.

  8. Yeah, I can’t make myself come down on bands for needing money and being willing to team up w/ corporate entities for it. As someone mentioned, I’d be a bit leery if say, Napalm Death was doing it, but otherwise folks got to eat.

    But this has made me imagine a hypothetical person who both has a problem w/ bands doing this and doesn’t pay for the music they listen to, or thinks that if music’s all free it’ll weed out everyone except the “true artists”, etc, and the thought makes me so angry I’m literally pooping myself w/ rage right now. So thanks a lot, Richard Street-Jammer, for making me do that

  9. But seriously though, being against bands making money however they can comes from the same Font of Infinite Entitlement as being against paying for music

    • This dovetails with the recent rant of Lord K Philipson (The Project Hate MCMXCIX), which is unanswerable, and can be condensed as follows: “We made this music. We own it. If we wanted you to have it for free, we would have given it away. It’s our decision, not yours. If you take it anyway, then you’re stealing. Fuck you.”


      • I have never heard of this guy or band before, but I already respect him so hard. The “how can I get your CD for free?” question from “blogs” and “webzines” has already been asked too many times. And when we do pony up a free download of the album (because we’re nice people) to these small communities, we either get no response or, my personal favorite, “we only review albums if we have a physical copy”.

        Infuriating. I love this rant though.

        • I got the drift of it pretty fast, but read straight through the whole thing because it just so pungeantly punctures all the bullshit justifications that have been offered for downloading.

  10. I don’t see any issue here. This is Dragonforce after all. How many Guitar Hero games were they in?

    While we can try and group bands into political, artistic, or entertainment circles where things like this are “allowed”, it’s really not our say. It’s the band’s choice (and the contract they have with their label) to decide what is best for them. If Gojira decided they needed to help make a McDonald’s commercial, who am I to judge them? I wouldn’t think any less of their albums.

    I don’t pay attention much to any band’s lyrics or message much as it is anyway, so that’s kind of where I’m coming from. That’s why I find the irony in bands like System of a Down or Rage Against the Machine so laughable. For all the anti-American, anti-capitlism preaching they do, they sure make a lot of money off the system they “hate”. Which is just fine. Make money and be happy! Who cares what anybody else thinks.

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