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Commercial Tracks

7 Reasons For Brands to Use New Music

(This post was originally written for AdBakery)

The recent use of indie music in commercials is well documented. The days of fans crying “sell-out” are disappearing. TV appears to be the new radio, with bands breaking out when their song is played on the latest teen drama, or iPod commercial. I watched it first hand as some university buds of mine tipped from campus heroes to Canadian celebrities – no small thanks to a Zeller’s commercial.

Artists are realizing, in today’s age, the exposure and payout are just too good to turn down. Can you blame them? People don’t listen to radio outside of their cars. Myspace is cluttered with a zillion songs. TV is one of the few channels that still hits the masses. And it can come with enough cash to fund the next European Tour.

But what about the brands? What’s in it for them? Why don’t they stick with the monster Hits and household radio names? Here are seven reasons:

1. The Hits are expensive.

Putting a Cat Power song in your commercial is less pricey than using The Power of Love.

2. The Hits are played out.

We’ve all overdosed on songs. Overplay is a major complaint of both commercials, and commercial radio. Obviously you don’t want people rolling their eyes when they see your ad because they’ve already heard the song three times that day.

3. The Hits already mean something.

Everyone knows the hits. That’s why they’re hits. If someone is familiar with a song, be aware they have already associated ideas with it. For example: if you used Umbrella in your K-Way ad – you can assume that some people will connect the K-Way brand with Rihanna, her music video, a store they heard it in, and so on. Now these experiences might be negative or positive – but they exist, and you should recognize they will affect the way both the commercial and brand are received.

4. New Music means nothing.

To the majority of viewers, the under-the-radar song they’re hearing in your ad has no previous connections. So there’s a better chance it takes on the message you’re trying give it. This is especially important in an industry where muddled messaging is an all too common blunder.

5. New Music promotes discovery.

Putting a new song in your ad can spike the viewer’s curiosity. If they like what they hear, they might search for it (more on this to come). If they find it, your brand gets credit for the discovery. And if they become a fan of the artist, even better. Who doesn’t love the feeling of a great find?

6. New Music means something.

To a few, the underground artists producing the new “commercial music” are a big deal. These ‘Spotsters’ read Pitchfork, go to shows every week, and are on the look out for the next next-big-thing (disclosure: I’m a recovering one). This small group will also connect the song and brand with prior experiences. However hook-ups have more potential in this instance, because these people are often heralded for their influence.

7. New Music promotes conversation.

Ads with New Music can become social objects among both ‘Spotsters’ and those who don’t know the song. In the past, Spotsters were known for crying sell-out. But these days – as long as they’re not supporting Walmart or Hummer – many just seem pleased for the artist (and pleased they’re in the exclusive group that actually recognizes the song). Alternatively, those unfamiliar with the song might ask their ‘indie friend’ about it (see image below); or turn to on-line social resources like Yahoo Answers, Youtube, and AdTunes. Either way, conversation is good.


While it’s nice to assume that all factors are considered when choosing music for an ad, it’s probably safe to say there are usually only a few driving factors. Be it budget constraints, or just an ad exec with a cool vinyl collection – I’m glad to see some unsung artists getting the mainstream love they deserve.

[Post: Sell-out or Trailblazer? Should we be apologizing to Moby?]

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This entry was posted on June 2, 2008 by in His Nurture Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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