Bands and Brands: Music to my ears


Image by kpishdadi via Flickr

Ever since a group of people climbed a hill to sing, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, people have understood music’s importance to brand communications. Music plays a huge role in connecting people with brands. Simply put, the perfect music choice can make or break a spot. Heck, I’ve even had music that has actually saved a spot with respect to watchability and interest.

In an earlier blog post found here, I talked about how the definition of success for music has changed in the digital age. Well, the process around how we get music for external advertising has changed, too. Here’s why:

Bands are more entrepreneurial. 

10 years ago, if you asked an indie band to use their song in an ad, they’d flip you the bird and tell you to keep walking. They wouldn’t sell out their integrity for a chocolate bar. Or orange juice. Or a car. Well, that all changed with the arrival of 2 things:

1. My Space
2. Feist

With record labels acting only as distributors, bands were forced to market themselves. For that, they turned to My Space. Suddenly, the very people who thought advertising was evil were cultivating relationships, building exposure, communicating upcoming gigs, and talking about their brand. That made them more entrepreneurial and open to corporate partnership discussions.

In 2007, Apple licensed Leslie Feist’s 1, 2, 3, 4 video for an iPod Nano spot. This was huge because she wasn’t just a musician, she was an indie darling. If it was ok for Feist to sell her soul, it was ok for anyone to sell their soul. Especially because it worked. Apple got credibility by partnering with a critically acclaimed musician and Feist got to be introduced to a whole new audience that hadn’t heard her before. Sounds like a win-win to me.

And it was.

1, 2, 3, 4 is still Feist’s most successful single to date. It was nominated for a couple of Grammys. It won a Juno. Time named it the second best song of 2007. Digital sales went from 2,000 before the spot to close to 100,000 after it. Suddenly, success was a good thing.

Clearly, music and commerce can co-exist. In fact, bands are now lining up to have their songs considered for licensing because they know that the exposure from a commercial can be the difference between scraping loose coins together for food and actually earning a living from your craft on a full time basis.

We’re all better for it. The music is better. The content is better. And the commercials are better.

For the record, here are some of my favourite songs featured in commercials. What are yours?

(Full disclosure: I did this one)


  1. Trev Gourley

    Probably helps that it’s one of my favourite commericals ever but

  2. Ron Tite

    Love Nick Drake.. nice choice.

  3. Paul Love

    Although I never warmed to the car itself, I loved the spot VW did when they unveiled the New Beetle.

  4. Ian Galloway

    One of the most extreme examples of an indie”artist partnering with a major corporation for advertising is the band “Pomplamoose” who not only provided the music for this Hyundai Christmas themed spot, but allowed their entire shtick to be converted into an advertisement. They took it one step further however – they released a Christmas album to capitalize on there new fame. The catch? In order to purchase the album you needed to donate a book to their local Library Book Drive. The result? Pomplamoose made some money which allows them to continue making music. Pomplamoose keep their indie cred by partnering with a local initiative that is important in their community. And the local library got over 10,000 books.

  5. Ron Tite

    Totally forgot about that…. thx!

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