I was one of those who immediately swore off Flaming Lips when they performed "She Don't Use Jelly" on 90210... even though I didn't even know who Flaming Lips were until they performed "She Don't Use Jelly" on 90210.
And when my favorite band, Red House Painters' song "All Mixed Up" appeared in Gap's late 90's winter knits campaign? I all but tossed the album out the window.
"How could they," I said. "Sell outs."
Why? Because they were sell outs! They sold their song to THE MAN!
Never mind that I shopped at Gap as well as worshipped Mark Kozelek. I wanted my music and winter scarves separate.
This has always been the conundrum for writers, musicians, designers of all kinds. Money taints creativity. It isn't about the art anymore. Ideas and opinions and good work is lost because art and money seldom thrive harmoniously.
But what if compromise in certain areas made sense? What if Flaming Lips did occasionally play venues Ian Ziering might frequent in the 90s. And Red House Painters, "All Mixed Up" was the perfect song to watch snow and scarves fly around the necks of models? What if it just so happens that Gap sponsoring a denim post written by a blogger with heaps of Gap jeans in her closet was .... obvious? Or at the very least, appropriate.
I've recently taken on some sponsored content here at Girl's Gone Child and more to post soon. Sponsored content by and with brands I'd support anyway. Stores I regularly shop at, have mentioned here before.
A quick explanation: when a post is "sponsored" on GGC it means just that. Sponsored posts are not assigned blog posts. Brands do not tell me what they want me to say or even write about. They express interest in working with me and/or I express interest in working with them. Then I pitch them an idea through my ad network - what I think might be interesting and fun, cohesive with my content as well as the brands that are interested in working with me. And if a brand likes my idea? They sponsor the post AKA I get paid for content I would likely write anyway.
For instance, if someone wanted to sponsor the Gone Style videos? I might be able to justify spending eighteen hours editing them together! If CB2 wanted to sponsor an Inside/Outside post about updating our unfinished living room with some lighting options or Home Depot wanted to sponsor a video series about gardening? Hell yes! I'd love to do that. I mean... this post was SCREAMING for an Anthropologie sponsor. That would have been rad. And cohesive. And yet... suddenly cheapened, yes?
Herein lies the conundrum. The trickiness of it all.
I just did a spot with Momversation promoting Fisher-Price's Moments to Share App on Facebook (see sidebar). I wrote my own script, decided what would be appropriate to shoot. And yes, I was paid for my time to do so. I tested the App first. Made sure it was something that interested me outside of sponsorship. When I decided it was, all systems were a go.
I learned a lot during my Chicken Soup for Teenage Soul days in the trenches of mass-market publishing/ghost writing/editorial-for-hire. The most beneficial being that the only way to make it as a "professional writer" was to put "professional" first. I've been criticized in the past (and present) for "selling out" and not just by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And I used to take it personally because I was an "artist, DAMNIT!" I don't anymore. Not entirely anyway. I do know that I'm lucky to be in the position to sell, no matter how many times I second guess my decision to do so.
A mag-ad I did last year with Turning Leaf 's "how do you breathe?" campaign. The quote was something I came up with on my own even if my face is airbrushed beyond recognition. Exactly, right? Well...
Much like angst is the sexier form of inspiration and happy people can't create worth a damn, a steady paycheck is doom for an artist. And so, the moment the money starts coming in, people get angry. Start criticizing bands for not living out of their cars (because the songs they wrote living in their cars? Were clearly the best.) and painters for taking commissioned work. Authors for losing their voices ghost-writing under pseudonyms.
Artists work for free. We paint and write and sew because we love to. Because it makes us feel alive. But when we're paid? It's weird and suspect and potentially compromising. Guilt-inducing, even. Because we think we don't deserve to be paid. Because making money was never the intention when we started writing or blogging or shooting photographs, painting landscapes, singing songs at age three. Because sharing ones ideas, ones "art" for money automatically puts a dent in the canvas and thick margins on the paper. Or so we think as we quote our favorite artists. Praise them for being poor and bereft, romanticize over their bohemian lifestyles, sleeping on each other's floors, living on cigarettes and coffee, with the occasional benefactor to line his and her pockets...
Sigh, those were the days...
And yet. It was never my intention to be "starving." Just as it has never been my intention to compromise my integrity to get paid.
Contrary to popular belief, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Just ask my friend, Angela, the most successful commercial + independent artist I know.
I have and will continue to reject ad campaigns advertising brands I would never support, restaurants I'd never eat at, box stores I've never set foot in. Meanwhile, I'll continue to collaborate on sponsored posts + videos with those (brands) I do.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying this to those who have (and I imagine will continue to) express concern about future GGC + brand partnerships: I am as picky about my partnerships as I am about my shoes (Hi, Clueless!). I would never step into a kitten-heeled sandal for example. Only comfortable shoes that flatter my style and opps that work harmoniously with my content. Cue music. Roll credits. The end.
ED: This post has been sponsored by.... just kidding.