Commercial Music

One of the questions I asked Lux Lisbon in the interview was about music used in commercials. The question came from Max Bumps contributor and The Sixty One Listener Apocalypse and focused on an artist selling out. It specifically cites a song by the Rolling Stones in a Cadillac spot.

Is it really all about selling out? I don't think so at all. No, I'm not a fan of hearing 'I Melt with You' by Modern English used to sell Cheesy Beefy Melts. As much as that song has been overplayed, I still think it's gorgeous and romantic. Remember Valley Girl? Man, I love that movie. I'm a total child of the 80's and as J. Geils Band would say "My blood runs cold. My memory has just been sold."

Hearing something new is an entirely different story. I tend to have the television on in the background and ignore the visuals unless something catches my ear. Hip music in your ad can make a so-so ad stand out from the rest. It can give an unknown artist a big boost.

Just last night I swear I heard Chris Merritt on a Kia Spectra commerical, performing an unknown song. It was actually Joe Purdy, who I'm pleased to say is uploading music at The Sixty One as I type. He has a great voice with a lot of passion behind it. After a few listens, I don't think it sounds as much like Chris Merritt as I first thought, but I'm so happy to have found Joe Purdy's music, even though I never plan to drive a Kia. Joe Purdy's song in that Kia Spectra Spot made me pay attention. Now, that is a good choice for ad music!

If a commercial can turn me on to a new artist, how can I be opposed to that? My mind is always in discovery mode, especially since I've been at The Sixty One. The site has trained my brain to listen to music more actively and less passively. I've been listening more to genres I've never paid much attention to previously as well. It opened my mind to so much new music.

TV adverts can also give a big boost to an artist. Bishop Allen's Click, Click, Click, Click in Sony Cybershot spots is great example. That was the first time I had heard Bishop Allen and I was immediately hooked. I've noticed ads for tech companies seem to have the best music. Other examples are Motorola Razr spot with Goldfrapp's Ooh La La and Cingular's ad with Cat Power.

Another current ad that I'm in love with the music is Sara Bareilles' Rhapsody Commercial #2. She has a gorgeous voice and I just love that type of pop song. I'm hoping to see some Sara Bareilles at The Sixty One soon.

In the same vein as the Sarah Bareillies song is Yael Naim's New Soul, used in the Mac Book Air spots. Apple's ads are almost always really slick and whoever chooses the music can really pick them. Here are two great examples:

CSS's Music is My Hot, Hot Sex used in ads for the iPod Touch.

The first time I heard Ingrid Michaelson's 'The Way I Am' was in a commercial for Old Navy.

I also like to hear older songs that didn't get the exposure that they might have deserved. For example, Donovan's Catch the Wind was used recently in an ad for GE's alternative energy solutions. I had heard some of Donovan's music - Hurdy Gurdy Man and Mellow Yellow, among others, but I instantly loved Catch the Wind. I picked up Donovan's Greatest Hits and I was really impressed. I LOVE his voice. Plus, he's a Scot and if you read my posts, I have a special corner in my heart reserved for Scots.

So, artists, if you'd like to get a big boost to your career, put your song in an ad for Apple or HP. Listeners will not thing you've sold out and new listeners will appreciate the ease of finding you.

If you're interested in finding more ad music, check out


silkworm said...

It also seems like TV shows all have an obligatory montage scene where a good tune will sometimes pop up. did anyone catch The Decemberists' "Of Angels And Angles" at the end of New Amsterdam tonight?

Batface89 said...

Great idea for an article. Grey's Anatomy always has good music picks, especially for the montage portions right at the end of the show.

timyjl said...

I think most of the complaints of selling out come when you hear a good track used for a product or company that you dislike. For example: it would make me very sad to hear a CJizzle track used in a Tasty Lead Toy Paint Co. advert.

A ridiculous example I know, but you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

I don't tend to watch ads, I generally hate them and it breaks my heart to hear a much loved song flogging useless crap. I like some music to be just 'mine' or at least appreciated for the music rather than a connection to a desired object. There is also a cynical manipulation associated with advertisers. Emotions, lifestyles and memories are also 'hijacked' for the sake of the bottom line. Whereas music in film and TV has more integrity, the combining of art forms. Much loved music in those mediums feels more like sharing. My all time favorite band is Jefferson Airplane, few in the UK have heard of them yet Millions listened to Embryonic Journey during the last scene of Friends. That makes me happy.

K.E. said...

You are right about Grey's Anatomy, but TV shows in general are doing a lot better these days. Heck, I heard Band of Horses - Monsters on Criminal Minds (last season)...crazy, but that show has had a couple of songs that stood out at the time (though Monsters is the only one that comes to mind at the moment).

OK, I looked it up...The Cinematic Orchestra on Criminal Minds...I bought the album because of the show. Music placement works!

There are a couple of sites out there that catalog all the songs used in TV by show and episode. Might be worth an additional post.

comradeinarms said...

I have no idea what you people are talking about. I haven't owned a TV since 2001.

But I do have to say I agree with Willie in principle - associating a song with an object in order to get someone to buy the latter seems a little lame to me. I guess it's just that commercial objects were made to be sold whereas the performance of music is first and foremost to bring emotion into the lives of its hearers (or at least according to my bunk theory).

Ah well.

Batface89 said...

I agree with you all about using music to sell things... to a certain degree. Maybe my perspective is a bit different because I worked at a video post-house for 10 years and made commercials. A lot were low budget ads for car dealer ships but occasionally we got a bigger spot in that they licensed popular music. One that comes to mind was for a basketball team. They used Purple Haze and had to go through the estate of Jimi Hendrix to secure the rights. The song worked very well with the commercial and definitely got peoples attention. The spot went on to win Addy awards. The spot also had a great shot that started out in a puddle and showed the bottom angle of someone slam dunking, although the puddle was so still you didn't know it until the guy splashed down.

They are going to use music in ads and there is nothing we can do to stop that from happening. You can toss out your TV, but the music will still be used in ads.

I'd much rather see an up and coming indie band get some exposure in a spot than the Rolling Stones record company getting rich from an old song in a car ad.

Do you remember... ten years ago they used popular songs that were mostly redone in a bad way.

Also, my bread and butter still comes from people producing television commercials.

steadyT said...

It kind of makes you wonder if music is evolving in a sense. With the constant decline in CD sales, is the financial compensation an artist gets for the use of the commercial a way to offset this? I've notices more and more commercials/tv shows have music in a much more prominent role as compared to yesteryear.

Apocalypse said...

I want to clarify something. Featuring your music in a commercial may not be selling out... The question I asked is WHEN do you know you've sold out. Selling out is jeopardizing the integrity of your music in order to conform to expectations.

Remember if you will, that Metallica, a band that got big by ASKING all their fans to record and distribute their music in the early days, got on the RIAA bandwagon and became a crusader... isn't that selling out? Hearing good music is a privilege. hearing it and thinking of a crappy product- for me - is atrocious.


silkworm said...

Esquire weighs in.