The Weekly DiScussion: 'selling out' to sell stuff on the telly...
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It’s hardly a new concept – Band X allowing ‘Song Y’ to be used to soundtrack a television advertisement – but now, more than ever, it seems acts from the margins of popular taste are being exploited – or should that be given a boost? – by marketing men with their ears tuned to the sounds of the underground.
If it’s not Cat Power’s ‘The Greatest’ cooing its way from pictures of naked yet bronzed torsos or Camera Obscura’s achingly gorgeous ‘Country Mile’ embellishing Tesco’s Florence & Fred campaign (link, or see below) quite delightfully then it’s some pounding beatz ‘n’ piecez from Hard Knox selling a crappy Fiat as something the So Hot Right Now want on their driveways. With each and every advert break – between CITV shows and the Champions League alike – we’re bombarded with could-be hits from beneath the radar of popular radio. What DiS wants to know from you, our faithful many, is this: does it make a blind bit of difference to an artist if their material’s used on a TV ad, or has the medium as good as surpassed MTV as the way of getting your music onto screens nationwide?
Hits from advertisements have, after all, been fairly few and far between: for a period Levi’s seemed a pot o’ gold to many an act operating on the peripheries of taste, but neither Stiltskin nor Babylon Zoo achieved long-term success after their Levi’s-generated one-hit wonders, ‘Inside’ (1994) and ‘Spaceman’ (1996) respectively (although Jazz Mann has clearly been an influence on both Battles and The Mighty Boosh). Then, of course, there was Mr Oizo’s ‘Flat Beat’ in 1999… although that was, admittedly, The Aceness (link, or see below). More recently, José Gonzales’ ‘Heartbeats’ went top ten off the back of an advertisement for Sony televisions, but his follow-up singles failed to mirror his breakthrough form. On the plus side, his album Veneer did peak at seven on the UK chart. Successes elsewhere include Jet (‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ made 16 on the singles chart after its use in an iPod commercial) and The Dandy Warhols, whose ‘Bohemian Like You’ leaped from 42 to number five on the singles chart after Vodafone picked it up.
So, what fate awaits Camera Obscura, or Pink Mountaintops, whose ‘Can You Do That Dance’ is currently promoting lower-than-usual-alcohol German booze? Will these tracks – great tracks, incidentally – be released commercially to chart success, only for the bands to fade away again? Or will their powers that be purposefully fail to strike while the proverbial iron’s burning, keeping the loyal few happy in the process? Camera Obscura, certainly, could benefit from increased exposure – the highest-charting single from their current Let’s Get Out Of This Country LP, ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’, only managed to limp its way to number 124. Additionally, just why are advertisers now turning away from the Fatboy Slims and Chemical Brothers of this world (Adidas and Pirelli, since you asked; click for links) and focusing their attentions on the rather leftfield likes of Mazarin (Puma), Vashti Bunyan (T-Mobile!) and Lucky Jim (Kingsmill Bread… WTF!?; link, or see below)?
Do you see using your music to promote someone else’s products as a move for the better, or as ‘selling out’? Is having your track on a popular advert better than having it on rotation on MTV, which only a select few can tune into? What about television show tie-ins? Didn’t hurt The Gossip any, eh? Or actually writing material for a commercial: oh, Jack, you teeth-rotted red-and-white sexy, you. Could be worse, we suppose – someone somewhere might go and let EA Sports use an old Nirvana song for some rounders simulation or something…
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