Artists Give Madison Ave and American Eagle Outfitters a Lesson in Messaging. Meanwhile Ghost Beach Gets Buried.

Last week we covered the strange and divisive “Artists Vs Artists” campaign brought to you by   American Eagle Outfitters and Madison Avenue firm TBWA Chiat Day.  In case you’ve been in a cave for the last week this consisted of four story high LED billboards on the front of the American Eagle Outfitters store in Time Square.  On these billboards provocative slogans like “Piracy is Freedom” and “Piracy Is Our Generation”  were displayed. The related (Chiat Day registered and owned) website mirrored the campaign.

Now as reported by and Digital Music News an anonymous group of artists has responded with their own campaign.  “Artists VS American Eagle Outfitters.”  The campaign parodies the original site and recycles the same “conversation starting statements”  except  “Piracy”  is replaced with “Shoplifting From American Eagle Outfitters.”  The fake twitter comments are a must read!

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 6.39.50 PM

Overlooked in all of this has been  the fact was that this campaign was partial compensation for the band Ghost Beach.  The band had earlier supplied a song for an American Eagle promotion. American Eagle paid the band back by giving them the billboard space.  In theory this billboard campaign was supposed to generate sales for Ghost Beach.

 Personally I have empathy for the band.  They are just trying to make a name for themselves in a very difficult time. But as usual when the artist’s agenda meets the corporate agenda the artist always gets buried.  The band has become a footnote to the story.  Despite some chatter in the tech blog echo chamber we can objectively conclude the campaign has generated little real engagement for Ghost Beach.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 6.33.43 PM

Above  are publicly available metrics for Ghost Beach’s social media activity.  In this case facebook likes. The big spike you see is generated by Ghost Beach’s touring activity on the west coast.   On the right the solid line indicates the duration of the  $50,000 Times Sq Billboard campaign which appears to have generated almost nothing for the artist

Younger acts don’t often don’t want  advice from legacy artists like myself, but I’m gonna give them my two cents anyway:  Touring is the most reliable way to engage fans and sell music. One wonders what $50,000 worth of tour promotion  and support from American Eagle Outfitters  would have done for the artist?

It is also rarely mentioned that the band itself Ghost Beach is Anti-Piracy.  In a thoughtful statement the band clearly states on it’s website:

 “In no way do we want to encourage theft of intellectual property.”

Whatever one thinks of this campaign, this fact has been lost in the story.


The other metrics generally agree. SoundCloud spins for Ghost Beach.  To be fair there looks to be a small bump up  after NY Times article which was clearly the result of the billboard campaign. 

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.49.14 PM

YouTube Views are always very “noisy” but this is  trending down slightly.  But I still like YouTube views cause they are now harder to manipulate then SoundCloud. 

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.49.30 PM

Twitter may show a spike almost as big as the one generated by their touring activity. But the twitter followers start from a very low number.  So the spikes are a daily gain of a little over 30 twitter followers.  Also after looking at the actual tweets it seems like this spike is just before the start of the  billboard campaign and is more likely the result of their SXSW live showcase.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.53.43 PM

About Dr. David C Lowery

Platinum selling singer songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; platinum selling producer; founder of pitch-a-tent records; founder Sound of Music Studios; platinum selling music publisher; angel investor; digital skeptic; college lecturer and founder of the University of Georgia Terry College Artists' Rights Symposium.

6 thoughts on “Artists Give Madison Ave and American Eagle Outfitters a Lesson in Messaging. Meanwhile Ghost Beach Gets Buried.

    • Yes! Thumbs up to the anonymous artists for an excellent parody to make a statement against piracy. It was unexpected, and a brilliant comparison. Piracy=Shoplifting. Either is outright thievery. Hey, count me in next time this anonymous group wants to do something interesting. As an anti-piracy artist, I’ld love to lend a hand for the cause.

  1. Ghost Beach is a victim as much as willing participant in this matter. Although I’m sure they didn’t intend it as such, and they’d much rather have people talking about the music rather than the politics and ethics involved.

    We used to joke that U2 and the Rolling Stones would never break up because they aren’t bands so much as Brands™. Now that’s true of every band out there with a social media page. It’s not easy for musicians in an age where they have no choice but to grow up in public. Where every tweet and gif and analytic spike can be so easily scrutinized.

    The all-access pass via social media is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it democratizes the band-fan relationship. On the other though, it seems even more onus is put on the band to mind its P’s and Q’s. Sometimes unfairly so.

  2. Might I add, Ghost Beach’s “free download” offer from didn’t even require an email address. It was just a link to download a file. Huge missed opportunity…if you’re gonna give something away for free, at least get some fan information in return.

Comments are closed.