Activist, poet, and musician Saul Williams is catching gruff from fans for allowing Nike to use his song “List of Demands” in commercials.
Williams wrote an open letter defending the use of the song.
I received a lot of questions from some about why I would allow my song ‘List of Demands’ to be used in a Nike campaign. Ironically, half of the people now reading this post never heard of me until that commercial aired. That, indeed, was one of my reasons for allowing it. A small circle of poets and conscious do-gooders are not enough to effect the change necessary to shift our planet in peril. We must enlist people from all walks of life, people not accustomed to questioning the norm, people who may simply want to dance uninterrupted without message or slogan. I see no glory in ‘preaching to the converted’.
I think there’s an interesting point here: To create change, you need to reach out to those who don’t already agree with you. If you’re just having agreeable conversations with likeminded people, you’re probably not actually accomplishing much in the way of fostering change.
joe larsonon 03 Sep 08
then what is this blog all about ; )
Timon 03 Sep 08
Couldn’t agree more. If change is coming easy to you, then you’re probably not changing the right people.
Aaronon 03 Sep 08
What about Lieberman speaking at the GOP convention? Maybe McCain has the better idea for change after all.
Jakeon 03 Sep 08
Saul Williams is a poet? I thought he was a $hitty wrapper
Michaelon 03 Sep 08
I think you misspelled the word “definitely” in the last sentence. You spelled it “probably.” :)
MLon 03 Sep 08
then what is this blog all about ; )
Ha, yeah. We def have likeminded readers here. But also a fair amount of disagreeable people that challenge us on our views. And that’s a good thing.
We also like speaking at events where the audience isn’t necessarily used to our message (Startup School, non-web business conferences, schools, etc.). And the new version of Getting Real will hopefully reach a brand new audience.
Robert Bruceon 03 Sep 08
Great choice. In his case, there’s barely a choir there anymore. Utterly pointless…
Joe Sakon 03 Sep 08
I agree 100%
Joe Sakon 03 Sep 08
OK but seriously I do admire that quote. He’s created controversy on both sides of the fence in a single stroke.
Paulon 03 Sep 08
It’s the viral theory of change.
infect. Become a part of the problem. Change the host.
Sethon 03 Sep 08
Saul Williams has done some excellent spoken word. Quit hating. Someone give that guy the troll hat.
Tom von Schwerdtneron 03 Sep 08
I think the dangers of too much like-mindedness apply not only to fostering change, but also to developing your viewpoint.
yohamion 03 Sep 08
In the other hand, putting Fidel Castro’s image on every coke can isnt the same as taking the “revolution” to the masses. Its just selling more cokes.
Trevor Ochockion 03 Sep 08
Here it comes…
“Here’s the deal, folks. You do a commercial – you’re off the artistic roll call, forever. End of story. Okay? You’re another whore at the captialist gang bang and if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head. Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.” – Bill Hicks
Matt Grommeson 03 Sep 08
This reminds me of an old favorite interview with Dave Eggers.
Brooks Jordanon 03 Sep 08
Adam Werbach, a well-known environmental activist, consulted for Walmart and now runs the sustainability arm of Saatchi and Saatchi for this very reason.
Nirav Shethon 03 Sep 08
Excellent post Brooks. Saul Williams message is still getting across, regardless of the environment its being used in. Sometimes its best to get out of your comfort zone (your fans) and try something different. Otherwise you’re not just wasting time, but you’re effort as well.
Mikeon 03 Sep 08
If your goal is simply to “convert,” then yeah, there’s no point in “preaching to the converted” after they’ve been converted. Who cares what your actual app is like, as long as the Google Ad and sign-up page draw people in (or enough people so that you can get bought out). Who cares what your album sounds like, as long as people buy it for the one good single. Who cares if your book actually changes people’s lives, as long as it empties their wallets first.
But if your goal is “making disciples,” then preaching to your disciples – aka teaching them, training them, helping them learn how to think, learn, and live – becomes very important indeed.
5chw4r7zon 04 Sep 08
Never mind changing anyone else. You’ll never learn anything talking to people who agree with you.
Dhrumilon 04 Sep 08
“The question isn’t why Saul Williams did a Nike Commercial. The question is why did Nike do a Saul Williams commercial.”
I feel that!
Dhrumilon 04 Sep 08
Matt, how did you find the iLL-Literacy site? They are a dope group/crew.
Crimsonon 04 Sep 08
Oh, he’s not selling out for a boatload of cash. He’s “We must enlist people from all walks of life” to save the planet. Well, I’m on board with that!
Jochenon 04 Sep 08
Most people won’t make the appropriate connection between Williams song and what he really stands for and I’m relatively certain it’s not Nike. Instead most people will make a rather unappropriate connection between the song and Nike, which is obviously was Nike is counting on, and then never hear of Williams again—the commercial will stick though.
Adaon 04 Sep 08
It’s a shame that so often the “converted” turn into puritanical which-hunters more interested in perpetuating cliquish isolation than the message that they claim to want so badly to be heard. The man’s message is the same, he’s just a few dollars richer and one high-profile commercial louder.
Julio Chavezon 04 Sep 08
Preaching to the choir is a waste of time? Look where it got Obama. LOL
Mark Gallagheron 04 Sep 08
The choir at my church pays little attention to the mass between songs. I think they need preaching to. ;-)
Thomason 04 Sep 08
Who cares? And why should he have to defend it with some kind of moral or ethical excuse? It’s his work he can do with it what he pleases. If it’s a good piece of art, if it’s a good song, using it in a commercial won’t ruin it. If it ruins it for a person then they’re rather capricious and don’t have the ability to relate to art, or music in this case, beyond a superficial level.
Good art is good art whether or not it’s on the wall of a museum, on the side of a building, comprised of HTML, CSS, and PNGs, whatever.
Granton 04 Sep 08
Or to put it more bluntly, good artists need a way to make a living if they’re going to do their art full time.
His supporters should be excited by both the exposure he would garner and, presumably, those royalty checks that will hopefully allow him to focus on his art without having to worry about finances as much. Every young artist I know personally would love this kind of opportunity for those reasons.
robinon 04 Sep 08
Thomas 09-04-08 – couldn’t agree with you more.
Change comes slowly and in many forms sometimes… sometimes good art – or whatever art – makes this happen because it can be far-reaching, viral, emotional, inspirational. And we can appreciate the medium and message and make some changes ourselves if so motivated.
Join Diacon 05 Sep 08
Well I commented so poo on you this site stinks.
Avon Blakeon 08 Sep 08
It’s his music. He should be able to do what every the hell he wants with it. If the fans can’t handle it then it’s their problem, not his.
Darrelon 09 Sep 08
“To create change, you need to reach out to those who don’t already agree with you.”
Except in American politics, where that simply doesn’t work anymore.
This discussion is closed.