Music and Sales – Let’s Get Naked!

In the 50s, 60s, and 70s American corporations and manufacturers commissioned reputable and successful composers (such as Kander and Ebb, who also wrote Cabaret) to write large-scale Broadway-style musicals that would energize the sales force. These Industrial Musicals were fully staged and lit, and professionally performed at sales conferences and corporate events, with big budget production values that married musical entertainment with employee motivation.

In these elaborate extravaganzas capitalism harnessed the upbeat energy of the musical to increase employee’s tribal allegiance. Such shows as Diesel Dazzle! and The Bathrooms are Coming! were replete with songs like I’ve Got a Wide Range of Features, My Bathroom, and An Exxon-Dealer’s Wife, and were aimed at indoctrinating the salarymen into the world of products, sales, and corporate expectations.

If he gets to store before the light of dawn
And he stays until the sun has come around and gone,
O man, he’s a Penney Man, in the great tradition of a Penney Man.

 Songs like He’s a Penney Man supported a culture of unquestioning dedication, extended working hours and enforced jollity. Happy rhythmic music with motivating lyrics was enlisted for the use of Capitalist expansion and worker attitude control. 

If he can’t join the other fellas for a romp
For he stays working later to protect his comp

O man, he’s a Penney Man, in the great tradition of a Penney Man.

Comparisons with Party-controlled Soviet music are unavoidable. While American industrial propaganda tended to be upbeat and aligned with popular dance and song styles, Soviet music was stylistic progeny of the spirit of Revolution, characterized by marches and stolid, exhortatory texts, on subjects like village electrification and reliable tractor production.

Through the village from hut to hut
We have not seen such a time.
The fun and the beauty are the envy of Heaven.

America sugar-coated its agenda to feed the relentless needs of the Military-Industrial Complex with pop culture production values and offered this to the workers as harmless, convention-concluding entertainment. American happiness and innocence infused the songs with the spirit of optimism, differentiating themselves from Communist examples, which were grim and mirthless. But the purpose of both musics was the same; to encourage extra effort from the work force and to lower expectations.

American fun and innocence was wearied by the Vietnam War, to be replaced by a spirit of cynicism and ennui, and so corporations and manufacturers abandoned Industrial Musicals at the end of the 1980s. Perhaps the costs outweighed the benefits, perhaps they were not willing or able to compete with the increased sophistication of TV, and perhaps the rise of the internet had made the dissemination of corporate cultural values cheaper and easier.

Today, Post-Soviet Russian pop music is still instilled with the spirit of enforced gaiety, encouraging optimism in the face of reality –

Tomorrow will be better than today,
better than today,
better than today.
Tomorrow will be better than today

And American pop music is a model of vacuity that indulges teenage wish-fulfillment in order not to alienate its customers –

I’m just trying to be cool, cool, cool.
What you expect me to do?
I’m just trying to find, find, find,
The sweet love of mine.
I’m running out of time,
Where is my runaway love?

But the purpose behind both is motivational selling. The very shape of pop songs facilitates maximum sales because the standard AABA pattern plants the purchase tag message (the title of the song) three times in the listener’s consciousness.

Verse – “If there’s anything that you want…”
Chorus – “With love FROM ME TO YOU.”
Verse – “I got everything that you want…”
Chorus – “With love FROM ME TO YOU.”
Bridge – “I’ve got arms that long to hold you…”
Verse – “If there’s anything that you want…” 
Chorus – “With love FROM ME TO YOU.”

Is The Beatles’ song From Me To You salesmanship in the guise of entertainment or entertainment that cannily promotes sales in order to perpetuate itself? Whatever. It’s just not so far from the hard sell of You Gotta Let Them Know

You gotta tell the folks in the city
and the people down on the farm.
Hit ’em hard, hit ’em often with the Westinghouse name;
it’ll work just like a charm.

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