Recent articles in Adweek, Businessweek, Fortune and the LA Times discuss the widespread use of music by indie artists in advertising. While this is not a new phenomenon, it is now a well-established practice that offers artists an excellent revenue stream. In some cases artists also get their first big hits via music that is featured in ubiquitous commercials. As one musician points out, music supervisors and creatives in marketing are the new A&R.
An article by Gabriel Beltrone, that first appeared in Adweek and was then reprinted by Billboard.biz, has gotten a lot of attention on music and marketing blogs and news sites. It includes the tale of fun., whose single We Are Young featuring Janelle Monae appeared in a Super Bowl Chevy commercial and is now in its 4th week at no. 1 on the Hot 100.
Andy Fixmer, writing for Businessweek, references the uber origin tale, the licensing of all 18 tracks from Moby's 1999 release Play for commercials and other outlets including a British tv show. This approach was, in part, an alternative strategy to marketing via radio which wasn't that interested in Moby and also based on previous experiences licensing Moby's music to filmmakers.
Now licensing for commercials is becoming a conscious strategy for building a musical brand, as Shelley DuBois points out in an article for Fortune titled "Are advertisers the new record labels?" Though she doesn't mention such branded labels as Red Bull Records or Mountain Dew's Green Label Sound, she does point to Coke's investment in Music Dealers.
In fact, corporate interest in indie music was so well established by 2010 that it made the NY Times, a sure sign that a trend has become the status quo.
The aforementioned Businessweek article focused on the growing presence of such companies as Mophonics that work with musicians to create licensable tracks that are also complete songs with hit potential. For example, Foster the People's Mark Foster wrote most of the songs for the band's album Torches, featuring the single Pumped Up Kicks, while at his Mophonics day job.
In trying to get a sense of the rise of the use of indie music in commercials as well as movies and tv beyond unique examples, I found regular references to their widespread appearance over the last five years in various blogs and discussion forums. So for many indie musicians, it's not news that, as April Smith puts it:
"These music supervisors and these creative people at ad agencies, they're the new A&R people right now."
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs about dance at All World Dance. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.