Advertisers love using popular music in commercials in order to generate a positive reaction or forge strong bonds with potential consumers.
When done well, a song can become an effective spokesperson for a product. Think Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” and Chevrolet. Or The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” and Microsoft Windows 95. Or for a sad, but equally effective example, Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” and the ASPCA.
In some cases, a good ad campaign can re-invigorate an artist’s career and re-ignite interest in their music. For instance Volkswagen’s 1999 ad featuring “Mr. Roboto” served as a springboard for Styx’s comeback. Meanwhile, Sting’s decision to license “Desert Rose” for Jaguar gave him one of his biggest late-career hits and buoyed his 1999 album, Brand New Day. A few years later, an innovative HP commercial exposed a new generation to “Picture Book,” a fairly obscure Kinks album track and B-side that has, since, become of their best-known songs.
Sometimes, it can even give artists much-needed exposure. For instance, Moby’s 1999 album, Play, had largely been ignored until it was aggressively licensed for commercials, TV and film. The move allowed Play to become a multi-platinum hit and served as a template for subsequent artists like The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend and Imagine Dragons to follow.
Of course, it can also lead to accusations of selling out. Some artists, like Neil Young, Tom Petty and The Beastie Boys (until recently) have adamantly refused to license out their music, while others, like The Beatles, got upset when their songs were used in ads without their blessing.
When it came to the Violent Femmes, it was a 2007 Wendy’s ad that led to a bitter lawsuit between band members and a subsequent breakup.(more…)