Starbucks Supports M83 but Not U.S. Troops

Agree or disagree, I’m not one of those people who lets an individual’s personal life or ideologies impact my impressions of their art or products that they produce, to a larger extent. Harboring love-hate feelings toward artists is not a problem for me. I’ve always been a Guns N’ Roses fan, though I owned a copy of G N’ R Lies and, at a very young age, had to contemplate the depths of Axl’s homophobia and racism. I think that it was stupid for Dixie Chicks fans to denounce those women when they verbally protested the war in Iraq. I think that Johnson & Johnson, the ‘family company,’ makes wonderful products, despite arguments over whether their top executives do or do not worship Satan.

My problem of late with Anthony Gonzalez, aka M83, is, quite simply, that his music has become a bore. The dragged out, droning time-sucker that is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming did little to impress musically, especially given Gonzalez’ previous works, notwithstanding the fact that the record was supposed to somehow positively emulate those epic, story-like records of the 70s that so inspired him as a young music lover. But the M83 record that failed musically has soared commercially, and right into the hands of, arguably, one of the most easily defined groups of musically-illiterate humanoids in America – Starbucks patrons.

In October of 2011, M83’s newly made over self (press photos now depicting a boring, ‘serious,’ monochrome Gonzalez rather than artistic creations or lush 80s imagery) linked up with iTunes and Starbucks for a campaign that consisted of the coffee chain gang providing paying customers with download cards good for one free M83 song on iTunes. Of course, this little gem was only available to Starbucks and iTunes customers – that’s right; you didn’t think you could download the song without signing up, did you?!

By April of this year, it appeared that Gonzalez had forgotten about his Starbucks campaign – or, maybe, that some hypocrisy was seeping through. During an interview with Spin (April 17, 2012), while talking about trying to get fans to buy the newly released Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on CD or vinyl he told the interviewer, “I know 90% of them will get it on iTunes, and that makes me sad.” If Gonzalez is not a supporter of iTunes, why did he run a commercial campaign with them?

iTunes is not the only thing Gonzalez has been vocal about not supporting. Also in the Spring of this year, French political group the Front National used a piece of his song, “Midnight City,” in one of their television commercials. Gonzalez was furious. “I am appalled at their lack of artistic respect,” he told Pitchfork (April 10, 2012), obviously differentiating himself from right-wing politics in his native country, but not saying so overtly. “Artists should be asked if they agree, or disagree, with being associated with a certain image or brand,” he said.

About the same time that Gonzalez was complaining about artists’ rights to associate or disassociate with certain causes, Starbucks started being slammed as anti-U.S. troops via a chain email written by U.S. Marines Sgt. Howard Wright. The email contained the following testimony: “Recently Marines in Iraq wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffees and to request that they send some of it to the troops here. Starbucks replied, telling the Marines thank you for their support of their business, but that Starbucks does not support the war, nor anyone in it, and that they would not send the troops their brand of coffee.”

Starbucks recanted by claiming that they could not send coffee to troops because of a company policy that prevented donations of any kind except to charities. Sure, private companies have the right to operate however they so choose. But why didn’t Starbucks just say, ‘we don’t want to send them coffee?’ We have to assume that they didn’t want to sent coffee or that the company is not set up efficiently enough to allow for sound, beneficial policy changes as needed.

Instead of sending coffee to U.S. troops, Starbucks copped out by sharing stories of their employees saving individual weekly coffee allotments and shipping those, in bulk, to their military friends and family overseas [this is something that has been going on long before Starbucks corporate ever took notice or made mention of it, mind you]. Starbucks makes a textbook fallacy of lost cause and customers swallow it. And having been pressed to recant his statement, that’s exactly what Sgt. Wright has done – again citing the robotic company policy excuse that Starbucks executives have already used.

So we know that being associated with an Iraqi War supporting organization like the Front National makes Gonzalez uncomfortable. But does being associated with an anti-troops private company like Starbucks not? To my knowledge, Gonzalez has never made any public statement regarding his stance on the Starbucks/Marines debacle. If his own ideologies about branding support as an artist hold water, maybe he ‘should be asked.’

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