Blue Yodel #50 – Product Placement in Bluegrass

One of the words people use in describing bluegrass is integrity.

Even accounting for a few posers, let’s say on the integrity scale of 100, bluegrass is a 95. Before we start celebrating, let’s consider that on the income scale bluegrass is a 15. These figures were verified by my personal statistician, Nate, of Nate’s Fish Tacos. According to Nate, these are numbers. This paragraph was brought to you by Nate’s Fish Taco’s.

So, if there were a way to lower the integrity level of bluegrass down to, say, 63, but we could push the income level up into the mid-50s, wouldn’t we do it? Don’t give me that look—of course we would.

And I think I’ve hit on a way to do that: product placement.

Make Mine Nate’s Fish Tacos!

According to the print edition of Wikipedia, “product placement, or embedded marketing, is a form of advertisement, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, music videos, the story line of television shows, or news programs.”

I can’t think of an area more devoid of product placement than bluegrass. I know, I know, there are ads all over this page, but this is a bluegrass website. Bluegrass music hasn’t caught up yet.

Of course, we’ve had sponsors in bluegrass since Bill Monroe first stepped onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry selling Prince Albert in a can. Flatt & Scruggs & Martha White. Hot Rize. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

We’re not even very good at sponsorship. Yes, a few bands have figured out how to get their buses painted. But, really, look at all the empty real estate on the head of a banjo and tell me there’s not room for a Goo-Goo Cluster logo or a tantalizing picture of a plate of Nate’s Fish Tacos.

I envision a future where ads and product placement make it possible for even regional bluegrass bands to bring in something in the six figures.

Here are three suggestions that I thought of while dining at Nate’s Fish Tacos:


1) Product Placement in Bluegrass Songs:

With just a few changes to lyrics, songs can become sponsor-friendly:

  • I’m Using My Bible for a Garmin GPS
  • Big Sears Craftsman Hammer
  • White Dove Soap
  • Toyota Heart
  • Fox News on the Run
  • Little Glass of Heineken
  • Blue Ridge Cabin Home Depot
  • Olive Garden (to Willow Garden)

For this last example, please consider singing these lyrics:

Down in the Olive Garden where me and my true love did go,
There we dined on a nice calamari and fettucini alfredo.
We had a bottle of burgundy wine, it all came to just $12.95,
The night went well but best of all, when it was over we were both alive.

Now, I can see how you might think the integrity of the original song—which describes a brutal murder and a hanging—has been compromised a tad. But, we’ve just made a lot of money for both the band and Olive Garden. So, win-win.

And what’s with all these instrumentals? Surely, there’s room to add a sponsor’s name, even if you’re just occasionally shouting out “Hyundai!” or “Skittles!” or “Nate’s Fish Tacos!”


2) Product Placement in Band Names

Why are bands wasting valuable advertising space with names like The Gibson Brothers or Blue Highway when with just a slight change they could be pulling in more money as the Gibson Guitar Brothers or Blue Shield Highway? Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Dell McCoury
  • Dow Jones & The FedEx Night Drivers
  • 3M Tyme Out
  • Samsung Bush
  • Sony Osborne
  • The Johnson & Johnson Mountain Boys


3) Product Placement at Gigs:

Your personal wardrobe on stage is fine, but there’s no reason not to take a lesson from NASCAR and start wearing driver suits loaded up with decals and patches for everything from strings to Cialis.

For water on stage, why not a sponsorship from Dasani or Aquafina or Mike’s Hard Lemonade?

And why are we using our real names on stage when we could be using that space for products? Is there any reason not to name the bass player Giorgio Armani or Calvin Klein?

At the record table, every band in bluegrass should be sponsored by Sharpie. Just be sure to say, “Can I sign this for you with my Sharpie (trademark)?”


I’m hoping you’ll be able to apply these concepts to your band and start raking in the big money.

This prose was brought to you by Nate’s Fish Tacos. Whenever you read, think Nates!

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About the Author

Chris Stuart

Chris Stuart is a writer and songwriter living in San Diego. He was the 2008 recipient of the IBMA Print Media Person of the Year award, co-writer of the 2009 IBMA Song of the Year, and past winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting contest in bluegrass and gospel categories. You can follow him on Twitter @cvstuart, on Facebook, and at On Tuesdays you can find him having fish tacos at Roberto’s in Del Mar.