Sting’s Sting (Sounds Familiar)

Rolling Stone Senior Editor David Fricke put together a cover story on The Police reunion last month. The piece has some interesting echoes for those who toil in advertising, or any creative field.

Sting, sitting on a wooden stool as he sings and plays bass, abruptly cuts the song in midchorus. “Is there another way to play that chord?” he says, looking across the stage at guitarist Andy Summers, who calmly asks why. “There’s a fluff in there, to be honest,” Sting replies bluntly. Then he turns to drummer Stewart Copeland. “Is that the right tempo?” Sting asks, adding with polite authority, “Let’s try it again.”
So it goes for the next two hours. Sting repeatedly hits the brakes, fussing with the groove or Summers’ guitar tone. At one point, Sting and Summers debate a three-note lick in “Walking in Your Footsteps” for half an hour. Sting has Summers play it over and over, in different ways. Summers obliges with the poise of one who’s been here before.
“It’s all in the detail,” Sting says after rehearsal, without apology. “Andy and Stewart may disagree with me,” he goes on. “They think we should jam more. I want the details to be precise.”

One of my favorite metaphors for the agency business goes like this: Working for an agency is like being in a band. As a writer (or art director, account person, etc.) you’re like a bass player (or drummer, singer, etc.). The question is what kind of bass player are you? Are you a rocker playing in a country band because it’s a paying gig? I know I have been. When you’re in this situation, you have to perform to pay the bills, but you also need to find the right band for your particular gifts.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.