johnvarvatos_crop.jpg

John Varvatos has been drawing on music-industry cool for long enough, it was only a matter of time before he made the connection official. But we were hoping it wouldn’t be quite so much like a reality show.

It’s called Free the Noise, and to be fair, it’s closer to the more credible custom known as the Battle of the Bands. Aspiring bands upload clips of their act onto the website, finalists are chosen to face off at JV’s Bowery location (former home of CBGBs, if you recall), and the winner walks away with a development deal from Island records and a series of spots in Varvatos’ Star USA ads.

Sounds like a good deal, but a record deal isn’t what it used to be. And doesn’t the whole thing seem a bit rockist?

Of course, Varvatos has always preferred his rock stars a little long in the tooth. It was a perfect fit, since by now Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop are about the same age as his target demo. There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia—especially in advertising—but this is his first move that’s rang a little hollow, and we have a guess as to why.

It isn’t that Varvatos is any less cool, or even what he’s looking for. The problem is the prize. A deal with Island Records and a short-lived modeling contract isn’t a quick ticket to being a rock star anymore, and anyone with the chops to make it to the top of the pile will probably know it.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom