BAND VS BRAND (MVD Visual / Cleopatra) BAND VS BRAND (MVD Visual / Cleopatra)

It’s always been one of my bugbears, seeing the hip young things in town, that if Ramones had sold as many records as they still do t-shirts they’d all have pegged it much happier and considerably richer. Such a point, amongst many others, is made in ‘Band Vs Brand’, an intriguing and – despite the rather dry title – engrossing and highly entertaining DVD.

‘When does a band become a brand?’ is the tagline, and a number of talking head interviewees, ranging from the likes of Jack Russell, David Ellefson and Gus G to Saxon’s manager Adam Parsons and Jean Beauvoir all line up to explain and elaborate how, over the years, an act’s brand has become bigger than the band itself. Obviously KISS are the daddies here, having put their name to all kinds of tat over the years that still sold well despite the band issuing some patchy albums, but the point is well made that the days of just making a record and going on tour are long dead, and that bands – or at least their names – have, to a degree, become just another commodity to be marketed and exploited. Director Bob Nalbandian toes a fine line between presenting an elegy to artistic purity and the realities of today’s music industry where albums are units and exploitation is a business model rather than a misuse of power.

“I think the argument can be made that the brand is more important than the band,” says Marc Ferrari, the blond-streaked guitarist probably best known for his days in Keel. “These days I would venture to say that a lot of bands make more money merchandising their name than they do selling their records. The profit margin is so much greater on the sale of a t-shirt than it is on a record.” Which I guess is where we came in with Ramones. Longevity comes at a cost, as does artistic autonomy.

© John Tucker February 2019