Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

h1

What does ‘selling out’ mean, anyway?

November 17, 2009

Three recent perspectives on artists licensing their songs to big companies.

The end of selling out. A predictably trite blog post in Newsweek about the ‘sudden shift’ to fans not really caring if songs get used in commercials.

What does it say about our culture? Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney, wrote a post for NPR which offers an considerably more nuanced route to the same question that Newsweek asks: what does it say about us that we are no longer bothered about music being used in commercial contexts? Brownstein argues that our infinite access to music has led to a well-developed ability to divorce music from its commercial content. But she (rightly, I think) questions this tendency to decontextualize music.

What does it mean to sell out? Amanda Palmer, as usual, got to the crucial point, even though she wasn’t specifically discussing ads:

selling out is when you go against your own heart, ideals and authenticity to make money.

selling out is an action, a 180 from a stated position.

…but if neil young were to suddenly hire the matrix to write him a thumpin’ dance album and then appear on saturday night live snogging bob dylan, i’d have reservations about his integrity.

Like everything else, there’s no single right answer. When I hear “Lust for Life” soundtracking a cruise line commercial or “Heroes” behind a Microsoft Windows ad, it doesn’t diminish my respect for Iggy Pop or David Bowie, but it sure as hell diminishes my respect for those companies, or at least their ad agencies (and I’m not alone). Boston favourites The Motion Sick getting their videogame-themed love song “30 Lives” in Dance Dance Revolution is a win all around. And I must admit to more than a tinge of sadness when I listened to Modest Mouse‘s The Moon and Antarctica for the first time in ages and found my mind wandering to minivans.

EDIT: Make sure you check out the comments for Michael and meredith’s great remarks from the musicians’ perspective.

h1

Electric Laser People in Nike campaign

February 3, 2009

nike-punchbag

While we’ve previously discussed the role of advertising in getting new music heard here at zed equals zee, it’s just come surprisingly close to home. Nike decided to use a riff from the song “Guilty,” by Boston band and z=z faves Electric Laser People for their “Be Transformed” campaign. The song is part of the soundtrack for an ad called “Punching Bag,” which features Hong Kong volleyball player Sonia Kong working out with a heavy bag, which then transforms into an animated monster. The whole ad campaign is really interesting, actually – it’s for Nike Women, and it focuses on women transforming themselves through sports and competition. Given that its target market is Asia and the Pacific Rim (including countries like India, mainland China and the Philippines), it really does send a strong message to cultures that haven’t traditionally valued women.

You can read more about it at the ELP blog and at TrashBagAesthetics, where you can also watch the ads. Or you can see them in the wild at one of the Nike pages, such as this page for India.

Because Electric Laser People are super cool, you can download their whole album, Straight Talk on Raising Kids, at their site (it’s free and under a Creative Commons license). Also, you should go check them out live at the All-Asia Cafe in Cambridge, MA on February 27, and if you are an MIT person (or enjoy hanging out with MIT people), they are playing The Thirsty Ear next Friday, February 13th. More tour dates at their blog.

MP3: Electric Laser People – Guilty [buy CD]

h1

2008: Best and worst songs in ads

January 2, 2009

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t watch it, click here]

Following up on some previous posts about music and advertising, and doing one last wrap-up for the year that’s just ended…

Ad Age magazine did a nice little roundup of the ten best songs in advertisements in 2008, together with the ten worst (which makes for much more entertaining reading, as you might imagine). Some interesting artists in there, ranging from Ennio Morricone through the Kinks through Liars. The article includes links  to video of all the ads.

(above, a mashup of Esurance ad and a video for Cloud Cult’s “Lucky Today”)

Book of Tens: Ad Songs of the Year

MP3: Liars – Clear Island [buy]

h1

Music and advertising

December 3, 2008

appleipod

Here on z=z, we’ve written previously about the alliance of independent music and advertising. Bethany Klein, now a lecturer at the University of Leeds, wrote the book on it, literally –  her book As Heard on TV: Popular Music in Advertising, is scheduled for release in April 2009. It’s based on the research in her dissertation, and a paper that was just published in Media, Culture and Society, “The New Radio: Media Licensing as a Response to Industry Woe,” gives us a taste of her work.

As the title suggests, she suggests that the rise of music licensing (providing soundtracks for commercials and TV shows) is one way in which the music industry is hoping to hedge against the widely-feared, quite hypothetical revenue loss due to filesharing. Klein paints a portrait of cultural mores in transition: licensing one’s music for advertising has gone from being construed as ‘selling out’ to being widely considered a good way to get exposure. She suggests that this change in perception is a consequence of the deregulation and consolidation of commercial radio, and the subsequent loss of diversity in playlists. As Joe Pernice says, ‘It’s almost like commercial and television placement are the new radio.’ But as with commercial radio, Klein argues, the commercial imperative of corporations and TV shows is fundamentally at odds with artistic goals (even if music supervisors present themselves as saviours of independent music). And as licensing becomes increasingly accepted as a way for new bands to get exposure, it’s going to start looking a lot more like radio, with minimal licensing fees paid to the artist or even a pay-to-play model. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, MTV is leading the way, and Klein describes their astonishingly sleazy policy: if you submit a video to be considered for airplay, they reserve the right to strip the visuals and use the music as a soundtrack to its shows, without even paying a synchronization fee.

There’s a lengthy interview with Klein at policy website Miller-McCune, which also has a sidebar on ten famous (or infamous) uses of songs in advertisements. Klein’s paper is behind a paywall, but you can read the first page here and you might be able to ask a friendly neighbourhood academic for a copy of the PDF if you’re interested.

MP3: Iggy Pop – Lust for Life

[via Boing Boing]