1. Music & Audio
  2. Roundups

6 Most Idiotic Publicity Stunts In Rock Music History

Scroll to top
Read Time: 8 min

Imagine if you will, your band is sitting at the very edge of rock greatness. All those years spent in cramped vans touring the sleaziest of clubs have finally paid off.

You've signed the big money contract and recorded what, most everyone involved tells you, may be the greatest damn album ever made. But there is one problem. Nobody is paying attention. So what do you do to get yourself some much needed publicity? No idea, but here are six things you may want to avoid, if that helps.

  • 6. Don't Make a Sex Book

    Madonna's infamous sex book, cleverly titled "Sex," was a huge seller when it was released in 1992. Initial printings in the US sold out, with similar sales numbers overseas (except in Japan, where the book was banned after one week). But, as successful as the book was, it also spawned the first backlash in Madge's career that didn't involve burning crosses and making out with Jesus.

    Many fans and critics saw the book as nothing more than a publicity stunt designed to draw attention to the release of her up coming album. Others felt the singer had finally "gone too far" after seeing the racy scenes depicted in the book. If all of this seems like a small price to pay for a boatload of cash and the undivided attention of the rock media, consider this...

    Yep, that's Vanilla Ice.

    The unfortunate timing required to be making a sex book precisely during that insanely small window of time when including Vanilla Ice in it seemed like a good idea borders on being incalculable. But that doesn't mean it can't happen to you.

  • 5. Don't Get In Pretend Fights

    Everybody loves a celebrity feud. There is just something about two pampered, overpaid entertainers squabbling incessantly about the kind of shit that normal people resolve by just ignoring each other for a few days that sets the entertainment gossip world on fire every time.

    So it's no wonder that when news broke of a brewing feud between Kanye West and 50 Cent back in August of 2007, people were transfixed. But not for long. It started with 50 Cent vowing to retire if West's Graduation album outsold his album, Curtis, which was set to be released on the same day. I'm not sure what Kanye's initial response was, but you can bet it was whiny as all hell and almost certainly included the word "fam."

  • Let's settle this feud the old fashioned way...with a kiss.

    But there was something different about this feud. It was a total sham. OK, so most celebrity feuds are probably not much more than publicity stunts, but for the love of God, you're not supposed to admit it. But sure enough, almost as soon as the "feud" erupted, the two spotlight loving lyricists were appearing together at every turn laughing it up like long time friends.

    To put the final nail in the facade of this being a legitimate beef, West went on record to admit that the whole idea of a fake feud was thought up by him as a publicity stunt. In case you're wondering, 50 Cent lost. And didn't retire. Thanks for nothing.

  • 4. Don't Kiss Madonna

    I really can't stress this one enough. Don't do it in a coffee table book (lest you go the way of Jose Canseco, Vanilla Ice and Big Daddy Kane), and don't do it on the MTV Video Music Awards either. When the 20th annual MTV VMA's opened with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera dressed in wedding gowns singing the Madonna classic "Like A Virgin" it seemed like a fairly decent, albeit ridiculously blasphemous, idea.

    When Madonna popped out of a wedding cake dressed in a tuxedo to sing her new single "Hollywood" while groping the two former Mousketeers, it seemed like an even better idea. If the people at home had to sit through a live performance of that god-awful song, somebody BETTER be getting groped.

    But when, during a lull in the action, the one-time Material Girl pulled Britney close and threw her Kabbalah flavored tongue down Brit's throat...shit just seemed desperate. For those of you looking to relive the magic, here's the video, edited down to its most vital moments (and with some chick commentating in Spanish).

    The performance was plenty steamy already, what with Madonna pawing and pulling at her much younger counterparts' naughty bits and all. With that kiss, things went from implied to overdone. And it was no mystery why. Britney was just barely removed from her "I'm not that innocent" days and was looking to spice up her image a bit.

    Madonna, now staring down the barrel of 70 (approximately), had to prove that she could still keep up with the young whipper snappers who she so clearly influenced. And what better way to do that than with some girl-on-girl action? Why they had to drag the still popular and fairly well adjusted Christina Aguilera into the ploy is beyond me. But I know's a dark day in MTV history when "Xtina" is the most credible person on the stage.

  • 3. In Fact, Don't Kiss Your Wife on the VMA's Either

    Oh, Michael Jackson. This whole damn article could be about you. Over the past decade or so, MJ has spent countless hours giving up his "King of Pop" title in favor of the much less sought after "King of Publicity Stunts Gone Haywire" crown. We're talking about a man who, after already being accused of child molestation once, decided appearing on a documentary cuddled up with a 12 year old boy was a good idea.

    But there was a time when Michael was knee deep in live-in sex. With a woman! Or so he would have had us believe when, in 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley. The couple swore the marriage was legit, but the public had their doubts. For one thing, she was kind of hot at the time and had plenty of loot thanks to being the daughter of Elvis and all. The only thing she was really lacking, as a budding musician herself, was any real reason for the public to give a damn about her. What was in it for Michael? Nothing, other than the possibility of quieting all that "Mike REALLY loves kids" talk. Unfortunately for the young couple, the public wasn't buying it. Looking for a way to change public perception of their sham marriage, the couple appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards and did this...

    Kind of sends a chill down the spine, doesn't it? That public display of "love" and "affection" was about all the evidence anyone needed to know that, indeed, something wasn't right. And sure enough, the couple divorced a short time after their VMA appearance. Go figure.

  • 2. Don't Participate In Internet Piracy Without Knowing How It Works

    When Los Angeles band Buckcherry found out that their new single had leaked via BitTorrent, they were furious! "We hate it when this s*** happens, because we want our fans to have any new songs first!" That's what they said in a long since removed press release. Curiously, the press release had a lot less to do with griping about internet pirates and more about extolling the rocktastic virtues of the band.

    This piqued the curiosity of the people at, who decided to investigate further. With the help of some friendly BitTorrent users, they were able to identify some of the initial seeders of the song in question. I'm not sure what song it is, and because it's friggin' Buckcherry, I'm not going to bother finding out.

  • "Interwhatnow?"

    Anyway, as it turns out, the person who initially uploaded the song shared an IP address with someone who had edited the band's Wikipedia page and added the name of the band's manager to another page. After sending an email to said manager, their suspicions were confirmed when his reply came from, SURPRISE!, the exact same IP address of the person who uploaded the song in the first place. Sad.

  • 1. Don't Send Yourself Down the River

    No, I'm not referring to getting yourself arrested. Everyone knows that is wonderful publicity. Unless you're Michael Jackson. Speaking of Mike, that's exactly who I'm talking about. Again. It's hard to believe that, in terms of stupidity, he could have possibly done anything to top marrying "Scientology" Marie Presley. Believe it.

    You know who thinks Michael Jackson is the shit? He does. When it came time to think up a promotional plan for his 1995 album HIStory, Mike decided to invade Europe. Not really, but, much like Saddam Hussein before him, he did decide to place 50 foot tall statues of himself all over the damn place. That place, of course, being Europe. We here in the U.S. won't even put up a damn windmill to save on energy costs. No way are we letting a statue of Jacko foul up the scenery.

    Anyway, it wasn't enough to just put the statues up in various landlocked locations. To add an extra bit of crazy to the idea, he also floated one of the statues down the River Thames. As ungodly stupid as the idea seems, it may have worked. While the HIStory album didn't perform incredibly well in the U.S., it absolutely killed in Europe. At deadline, rumors that the statues were programmed to come to life and cause massive destruction if record sales were not up to par have been confirmed to be untrue. But it would have been pretty damn awesome. If for some reason you want to see said statue floating down the River Thames, forward to about 2:40 of the video below. To hear some British dude imply that building multiple 50 foot statues of yourself is a stupid publicity stunt, watch the whole video.

    Subscribe to the AUDIOTUTS RSS Feed featuring great content for music and audio lovers.


Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Music & Audio tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.