Rewind the invisible tape of your memory to September 2011, London, the Burberry catwalk show venue. Play. What can you see? Yes, there was crocheting, weaving and beading, wooden beads creating tribal motifs on tops, trench coats and wedges while the hoods of parkas were trimmed with raffia. Now what can you hear in your mind that is really ruining your concentration? The music. In that particular show the supposedly emotional, authentic and emotive music that Burberry's chief executive and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey likes so much, was particularly vile, didn't go well with the clothes and proved distractedly annoying. That's why when it was announced a few days ago that the brand was starting a channel on Apple Music, the streaming music service, I wasn't probably the only one who felt nauseous.
Burberry's Apple Music channel (you will find it within Apple Music's new "Curators" section) will be officially celebrated tomorrow (21st September 2015) with exclusive videos from emerging British artists that will be filmed at the Burberry Womenswear show, scheduled during the current London Fashion Week.
The channel will also feature performances, songs and films by British artists who collaborated so far with Burberry. The brand has indeed been promoting emerging artists on its acoustic platform since 2010, commissioning over 100 performances that can also be watched on YouTube, so the Apple channel will be a way to extend this program. Subscribers to Apple Music will be able to follow Burberry, get musical updates and behind-the-scenes stories, comment and share the contents via messages, Facebook, Twitter and email.
The deal is the first collaboration between the two companies since Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry Chief Executive, was hired in 2013 by Apple to work there as senior vice president of retail and online stores, a job that included overseeing more than 420 high street stores in 15 countries and online sales via the Apple website (retailing in 39 countries).
The partnership is also a new feature for Apple Music, launched in June as a way to catch up with other already established streaming music services à la Spotify that is endangering Apple's power as the world's largest music retailer through its iTunes service.
This is not the first time Apple and Burberry work together, though: in 2013 Apple promoted the iPhone5 image capture capabilities by supplying the fashion house with the then-unreleased iPhone 5s hardware to document the S/S 14 show.
Luxury and fashion are therefore continuing their love story: at the beginning of September, LVMH appointed former Apple executive Ian Rogers as its new chief digital officer; Apple recently chose to work with Hermès making luxury wristbands for the Apple Watch (mind you, is that a collaboration or a Frankenstein monster made by cutting and pasting together two different products rather than coming up with a new one because too lazy to do so?). Burberry will also premiere its Spring/Summer 2016 collection on Snapchat today (the footage will disappear in 24 hours), and the app will be used to "curate" (among the most abused verbs of the decade this word willl push many professional curators to become murderous serial killers...) the "Burberry Live Story", a montage of crowd-sourced images and videos from fans, models and designers that will offer a vantage backstage access to the Monday runway show (it will also be possible to use the app to buy certain items as soon as a model appears wearing them on the runway).
Yet this particular "Apple + Burberry" chapter in the fashion and technology romance raises several questions: while it's plain and simple to see why Apple and Burberry would like to collaborate together (make money and reinforce their presence on the market, directing their initiatives to younger segments of the population, after all there are a few non-music brands who have their own presence on rival services such as Spotify...), the real scary point is that the music collaborations produced so far by Burberry reflect the fashion label's horrific tastes. So will Burberry channel feature emotional, cringing lyrics and annoying ukulele infused music by the sort of young and good looking performers - obviously clad not in their own clothes but in Burberry jackets and coats - with very limited music knowledge who would have been ripped to bits and pieces by a nasty music press in 1982? Probably.
Somehow you wish that Bailey would keep his personal music tastes and that of the Burberry music team (established within the company in 2013) in his house/office or limit them to the runway to torture celebrities, fashion critics/journalists/bloggers and his own PR officers, rather than inflicting them on a wider slice of the global population who has subscribed to Apple Music.
Because that's the core of the matter: Burberry is just pretending to care about new British acts, but the brand is essentially promoting them because they're young, they look good on video, they are cheaper than more famous musicians and they need the publicity. A good way to cover all this would have been to call in real music experts to "curate" the Burberry channel, like a professional radio DJ, since Bailey and Ahrendts are no music experts and while they worked hard to rehabilitate Burberry, a music channel may not be where their skills are at. And yet...
And yet this perfectly works with a major scheme called "de-skilling process". Started in the '90s via the mergers and acquisition strategies that allowed companies to mutate into huge conglomerates, this idea consisted in dehumanising or de-skilling production work. De-skilling essentially meant breaking up all the tasks required to make one thing in lots of little individual tasks that could be carried out by less skilled and trained and educated people, so that each person could do one step. You can make everything using this process, as long as you have a lot of people and you pay them less because they only learn how to do one thing in different steps. As the years turned into decades, this watchword was applied to all sorts of other fields, with huge business and business people trained to manage corporations but with no culture and no skills at managing human resources, taking over various disciplines and fields.
Based on an unhealthy passion for acoustic guitars and ukuleles, a lot of money and zero musical knowledge, the Burberry channel is the first example of the application of a de-skilled modus operandi to the music business.
Now, if this is the first branded channel to launch its music streaming service, how many will follow? Will Apple offer the same chance to other famous companies possibly spreading more shit music or will we see the rise of branded digital radios incorporating fashion marketing in our personal music libraries (it's almost too easy to imagine a Louis Vuitton or a Chanel radio station...)? Last but not least, will Apple Music convince its users to pay the $10-a-month price after its three-month free trial period (that started in June) and will Burberry channel win new supporters?
Time will tell, but this is the final confirmation that fashion is definitely not about selling garments and accessories, make up or fragrances, but it's about finance, the stock exchange, shareholders and disgusting amounts of money.
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