According to the New York Times, Jon Bon Jovi has signed what some characterize as a first-of-it’s-kind deal with a major TV network. He will be NBC’s “artist-in-residence” for a period of two months. During that period, Bon Jovi will be seen exclusively on an array of shows and platforms of NBC Universal, including The Today Show, The Tonight Show, The Jay Leno Show, Saturday Night Live, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo, which the peacock network owns.
What does “artist in residence” mean? It means, writes the Times,
he won’t be anywhere else. “Of course you usually try to be out there everywhere, when a new album is coming out,” Mr. Bon Jovi said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “So we have to sacrifice certain shows and relationships. We hope this doesn’t jeopardize any of them. But in a shrinking media environment, you have to kind of reinvent the wheel.”
Well, not only reinvent it if you’re Bon Jovi, but you want to spin the wheel, too, so it lands on your number. Bully for Bon Jovi. Bully for the idea that there’s something innately valuable in the word “artist,” to the extent that a network is giving this marketing nomenclature a shot. Interestingly, the idea was proposed to NBC by Bon Jovi’s representatives. The network didn’t come up with it on their own.
What this means, of course, is that if the idea works, all the networks, large or small, will get in on the action. I’d like to think there could be a place for high culture in this scheme: “Artist-in-Residence Damien Hurst,” say, or “Artist-in-Residence Joshua Bell.” In truth, we’d be lucky if one out of 10 deals involved a high-culture figure. Much more likely it’ll be “Artist-in-Residence Jessica Simpson” or “Artist-in-Residence Spencer Pratt.” As for what genre or discipline of art Pratt would represent…is it true that being famous for doing nothing on reality TV is still an art form?
Joking aside, what else could being a network’s Artist-in-Residence mean? Will Bon Jovi be expected or asked to endorse certain programs, products or advertisers? And anyway, will guesting on Saturday Night Live constitute product placement?
Then there’s the news angle. Bon Jovi promoting his album exclusively on NBC for a period of two months doesn’t hurt anyone if his appearances are on entertainment programming. What if, however, Bon Jovi is also receiving cash from this deal, or if the deal, in CD sales, has a cash value? Isn’t his appearance on a news show, like NBC Nightly News, an indirect way for the network to “pay” for news content?
The blurring of news and entertainment goes on.
But now for the upside. Imagine a lighthearted Fox News segment near the conclusion of a broadcast in which two artists-in-residence, one for the right, one for the left, sketch their interpretations of a story? What if those drawings or paintings were auctioned off for charity? It may seem far-fetched, but at least networks’ artists-in-residence would be free of taint.
Or maybe Artist-in-Residence is little more than a euphemism for “multichannel promotional deal.” Nothing wrong with that if you’re Jon Bon Jovi. How much better would our society be, though, if the idea, executed well, succeeded?