Say it ain’t so: Did Weezer sell out?
Confusion reigns in the blogosphere about whether Weezer named its latest album after its newest business partner, US-based clothing brand Hurley, or the Lost character. MEC's St.Denis and Rethink's Labre weigh in on brand-band collaborations.
When Weezer guitarist Brian Bell last week told a reporter that the band’s latest album, Hurley, is named after the clothing brand and not the plump Lost character whose face appears on their cover, music blogs immediately started trying to make sense of the collaboration between the geeky rockers and the Nike-owned brand.
‘This is getting even more confusing than Lost itself,’ writes Samuel Lu, an Exclaim! reader, on the magazine’s Facebook page.
Buzz around the album started some time ago, but intensified last week when Hurley announced it is launching a Weezer-inspired clothing line in time for back-to-school in September. The line includes men’s and women’s apparel and reflects the band’s sartorial sensibilities, Greg Teal, music and entertainment marketing manager, Hurley, tells MiC.
Hurley, the album, is also launching the week of Sept. 10, and consumers who purchase the Weezer clothing will receive free download cards and bonus content offers, as well as the chance to win a ‘lunchtime concert’ by Weezer at their high school or college. In June, the brand also ran a Weezer-inspired T-shirt design contest, the winner of which would have their artwork sold as a tee on Hurley.com.
The confusion with fans started, however, when Bell said on the band’s blog that the clothing co had also funded the recording of their new album.
Some fans cried sellout and now both parties now insist the album was not funded by Hurley, nor is it named after the brand. But no one’s hiding the fact that parts of the album were recorded in Hurley’s studios, says Teal.
‘I don’t think Brian [Bell] got his facts completely straight,’ he explains. ‘[The title is] kind of more of a play on words as well. The band does really funny stuff like that and I think it’s really cool.’
The relationship began when the brand’s manager approached Hurley for a collaboration, because lead singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to connect with the younger demo that buys their surf-rock clothing, he says. The brand, which has its own recording studio, had done similar partnerships with other musicians, including punk band Alkaline Trio.
‘They started recording at Hurley. But they didn’t do the whole thing there and didn’t finish it there,’ says Teal, of Weezer’s eighth studio album.
As long as Hurley didn’t dictate the artistic direction of the album (which they did not), Dre Labre, creative director at Rethink Communications, sees no issue with such elaborate partnerships.
‘If fans are accusing them of selling out, which is some of the stuff I read – is making a living selling out?’ Labre tells MiC. ‘Distribution has become a whole lot easier, but it’s still expensive to record and create albums.’
Travis St.Denis, communications, social media and digital strategist at MEC in Toronto, agrees, although he is concerned about how the band handled the PR side of it.
‘[The band] just should have been upfront with their fans,’ says St. Denis. ‘But from the point of view of Hurley, it makes complete sense for their brand.’
‘I think it will open the doors for other bands to get revenue, and other brands to find ways to associate with those talents in whatever industry they are,’ he continues.
Labre thinks so too – a lot of reputable musicians now work with sponsors without any negative impact on their cred. Working with Coca-Cola made Canadian artist K’Naan’s ‘Wavin’ Flag’ a monster international hit, for example
‘I don’t see why [Hurley] wouldn’t come out a winner. Ultimately, what it’s done is it’s brought their brand to light. If they helped them create more music then that’s a really great thing,’ Labre says.