The brainchild of music industry veterans Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris, Farmclub.com was envisioned as "a one-stop music community, which would serve the artists and the fans alike". With its mix of rock, pop, rap and hip-hop, it surely seemed that Farmclub.com would make any music lover happy. Farmclub.com was a TV show, a music label and a website where anyone who aspired to be a singer could record their own song and upload in on the site for everyone to hear. Additionally, Farmclub.com held some of the best live performances featuring a wide variety of artists. "Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com" was aired on USA from 1999 until early 2001. The short-lived TV show provided only a snippet of the multi-media enterprise spawned by Interscope/Geffen/A&M co-chairman Iovine and Universal CEO/chairman Morris.
Betting the Farmclub - A report from behind the scenes of Farmclub.com
Why is MTV's Matt Pinfield shilling for the shamelessly corporate music show Farmclub.com? Can you say "synergy"?
Matt Pinfield, the stocky, bald-headed broadcaster who established his reputation as the station's
tough-looking savant and host of MTV's "120 Minutes" show, is starting to seem a lot more like one of those
infomercial blowhards. Take a look at his new show, "Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com." He used to be gruff and
monotone; now he's chipper and overflowing with niceness, his voice a couple of octaves higher. The guy is easy
like Sunday morning when interviewing bands, tossing up softballs like "It's cool that you guys are back on the
road/in the studio again" for Gwen Stefani or Dr. Dre to hit out of the infield.
That's hardly the case with "Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com." Hosts Pinfield and pinup Ali Landry provide the first clue that something is amiss. Both refer to the company's website and record label (Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com) more often than infomercial maven Ron Popeil employs the term "rotisserie," and Pinfield has transformed from the cerebral band geek from MTV into a kinder, gentler and dumber Mad Matt - a glorified pitchman for Farmclub.com, its record label and its website.
But there's another problem with the show that runs a bit deeper than all of Pinfield's cross-promotional pitches. At its core, Farmclub.com is simply an extended commercial for the biggest record label in the world, presented under the guise of wholesomely unwholesome pop-culture entertainment. For starters, the show is a block of paid programming, like an infomercial, which means that "Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com" buys airtime from USA outright, and then sells the commercial time itself.
Now here's where it gets good. Guess who's collecting that money? It's the USA cable channel, which is 43 percent owned by Seagram Company Ltd., which also owns Universal Music Group and "Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com." Of course, it's not like anyone at Universal or Seagram is trying to bury their involvement with the show, which is, after all, named after "Jimmy" Iovine, co-chair of Universal's Interscope label, and "Doug" Morris, CEO of Universal Music.
In return for providing some cool content, some performances and interviews, Seagram (via its record labels) receives a few enviable benefits. First, the conglomerate gets the opportunity to build an alliance with consumers, making them feel as if they are part of a faceless industry. Surfers can log on to the Farmclub.com website, listen to audio files by unsigned acts and cast votes for which artists will appear on upcoming programs. The band-o'-the-week winner gets a visit from Pinfield, shiny-happy mug and cameras in tow. The procedure manages to make Seagram look like it actually cares about been-nowhere garage bands. Meanwhile, the Universal A&R team gets a ready-made test market.
Universal also gets two hours' worth of primo advertising space for its already signed artists. According to the Nielsen ratings, the show earns about 1 million viewers per episode. Of course a large portion of those numbers came as a direct feed from the prior hour of television, USA's well-viewed WWF wrestling. It's too early to see what will happen since the show switched to Fridays, but it doesn't exactly matter: The show, ratings be blessed/damned, has reserved time slots and will continue running until April 2001. (Vivendi, which is acquiring Seagram, has mentioned separating music and liquor, but it's hard to tell how that would affect Farmclub.com.)
Andy Schuon was named Pre-
Andy Schuon was named Pre-