Music as heard in commercials
July 25, 2001 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Music as heard in commercials

Debate over whether the artists are selling out or not aside, there are some fairly great and obscure artists featured in TV commercials these days. As has been pointed out before, it's a sad thing when I'm consistantly hearing better music on MTV during the commercials.
posted by GriffX (60 comments total)
I think the folks who make the Mitsubishi ads have a good taste in music, apart from the now popular "Start The Commotion" by The Wiseguys, they even use "20th Century Boy" by T Rex, now that's good taste :)
posted by riffola at 7:11 PM on July 25, 2001

riffola: both my mom and girlfriend adore that music; wonder how much market research went into that selection.

Can anyone tell me the name of the relatively famous music used in the Infinity car ads about 1.5 years ago? I think it's by one of those post-pop bands (ad showed car in forrest of birch or dogwood trees...)
posted by ParisParamus at 7:27 PM on July 25, 2001

some pizza place is using 'Powerhouse' by Raymond Scott.
posted by clavdivs at 7:56 PM on July 25, 2001

There's a similar page on Adcritic, too.
posted by waxpancake at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2001

I've said it hear before, listening to a Minutemen song off of "Double Nickles" as background for a Volvo station wagon ad had me yelling at the screen for a good ten minutes. I could tolerate the Buzzcocks CRV ad, but the Minutemen?
I will NEVER buy a Volvo.
posted by machaus at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2001

hear=here, ugghhh, me go bed
posted by machaus at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2001

I think it would be more appropriate to never buy a Minutemen album.
posted by kindall at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2001

I felt all righteous and cheated when I heard Iggy and Stooges "Search and destroy" in a fuckn' Nike ad a few years ago.
Then I got over it.
Good thing too, because they're using Lust For Life to sell fuckn' cruise ships now.
Everything is a commodity.

Paris, there is a good chance you're looking for "History Repeating" by The Propellerheads, but I could thinking of the wrong ad.
posted by dong_resin at 8:30 PM on July 25, 2001

kindall, the Minutemen are long gone, their leader dead, and I'd guess their rights are owned by someone other than Mike Watt or someone else who was associated with them back then. (Buy 'em used if you can. They were great, great, great.)

And Iggy, well, he needs the money. I hope he's getting some from all this product placement. Far as I care, he deserves it.

That said, this particular brand of whoredom is just another way that someone in a suit is getting rich off someone in a tour van.
posted by chicobangs at 8:36 PM on July 25, 2001

good chance you're looking for "History Repeating" by The Propellerheads

Cool music, but not it. I suspect it's Stereolab, but perhaps I will never know...
posted by ParisParamus at 8:50 PM on July 25, 2001

i nearly had a heart attack when i heard this mortal coil in that commercial for noa.
posted by lunarennui at 9:31 PM on July 25, 2001

it's sad when that becomes the selling point for music though. the reissue of nick drake's pink moon comes in a slipcover with a little blurb on the back about how "pink moon" was that song in the 2000 volkswagen commercial. ugh.
posted by rabi at 9:43 PM on July 25, 2001

As has been pointed out before, it's a sad thing when I'm consistantly hearing better music on MTV during the commercials.

Whoa, MTV plays music between the commercials?! ;P
posted by valerie at 9:47 PM on July 25, 2001

Steve Prestemon, one of the guys behind the Mitsubishi ads, talks about the Eclipse ad called Fun which features the song "Start The Commotion"
posted by riffola at 9:52 PM on July 25, 2001

rabi: Even Sting's Desert Rose featured a similar sticker
posted by riffola at 9:55 PM on July 25, 2001

These days, it seems like selling out is not the stigmata it once was. In fact, you might well ask who's taking advantage of whom. Heck, I saw a commercial recently that was pitching a product I've forgotten completely about, but without it showing the name of the song being played in small text in the corner, I would never have known New Order is coming out with a new album.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:26 PM on July 25, 2001

I recently saw a video game commercial for a motocross Playstation 2 game, all the while Sum 41's "Fat Lip" played with the logo of the band in the corner. It seems there are more "duel" commercials lately, either including a product with a music artist, or a product and a store where you can get it at.
posted by Mark at 10:44 PM on July 25, 2001

who's taking advantage of whom

Yeah. It's not like most artists making music aren't trying to get rich. Or having monks press their CDs for free.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:48 PM on July 25, 2001

I leap off the sofa, foaming at the mouth (even more than usual), everytime that goddamned afore-discussed car commercial comes on, the one that uses that New Radicals song that I once loved quite a bit and now will never be able to listen to again without seeing those pearly-whited, sweater-clad, impeccably-groomed, mid-sized, health-insurance-buying, 'my-life-is-fulfilled-by-this-new-car-purchase' drones throwing back their glossy heads as the director calls for Take #127 in an attempt to convey spontaneous joy at the little corporate-sponsored sing along, zipping turtle-waxedly off into the sunset like the death-engines they are, die die DIE!

The true point of soul-death is not necessarily when you actually have your last authentic experience, but maybe the point at which the hucksters have colonized your mind and memory to the extent that you have product placements grafted into your own freakin' memories.

Sorry. I'm feeling a bit out of sorts today.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:01 PM on July 25, 2001

All experiences are authentic, and there's no soul, so there's no "soul-death."
posted by kindall at 11:04 PM on July 25, 2001

Is anyone else here old enough to remember Beatlemania at the Wintergarden Theatre? I think that was the first time a commercial appropriation of music made me ill.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:08 PM on July 25, 2001

You're not much fun at parties, are you kindall?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:10 PM on July 25, 2001

Well, OK, that was getting ad-hominemy (ad-eminem? the personal attack that offends pretty much everyone, but also helps to sell products? Ah, nevermind..), so I apologize.

But! (he said, flourishing his index finger) if there's no soul (and I pretty much agree with you there, mate - it was ...shhhhh...a metaphor) then what the heck is soul music all about?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:13 PM on July 25, 2001

heh. both of kindall's snarks in this thread made me laugh, and it's freaken early.
posted by spandex at 11:17 PM on July 25, 2001

Looks like I'm a freak because I absolutely loathe that damn Eclipse commercial and that stupid song. I change channels the second it rears its awful head.

The other one I detest is 'I wish I knew what I know now when I was younger'. Can't remember which car company it was, as the pain is too great to even think about it.
posted by daveleck at 11:29 PM on July 25, 2001

Hearing Umi Says by Mos Def in a Nike ad made me quite sad...
posted by buddha9090 at 11:38 PM on July 25, 2001

kindall writes:
All experiences are authentic.

Perhaps. But the context within which that experience occurs can edit my perception of that experience. If what appears to be a ghost manifests before me, my reaction to the experience, and the significance of the experience itself, might be colored by whether I am in a theme park or an abandoned house. And to extrapolate, if sometime after the experience of seeing a ghost in an abandoned house, I am informed that the my macabre house was actually a tricked-up out-of-season haunted Halloween house, my experience would be effectively retro-edited. Thus, though the experience in all cases remains the same, my perception of that experience varies as the inverse-square of the experience-context. So, though stravrosthewonderchicken's actual experiences were not diminished by his unfortunate encounter with the insensitive commercial hijacking of a beloved song, his perceptions of those experiences were irreparably altered. When stravosthewonderchicken complains of "soul death" I believe he is speaking metaphorically, and that he is merely wondering whether all the memories and experiences he has nurtured along his journey are destined to be re-formatted by what appears to be an almost infinite commingling of everything with hawking commercialism. At which point all of his experiences will have been re-packaged and he will have to buy them back in order to have any new experiences at all, and eventually, of course, the experience of re-purchasing experiences will breed with an insatiable marketing machine until, inevitably, we are all left with a distressingly negative experiential quotient - what stavrosthewonderchicken calls "soul death".

(If you did not read this as spoof, you are taking too many intro-philo classes)
posted by Opus Dark at 11:56 PM on July 25, 2001

You're an evil, evil person, Opus. But that was a splendid piss-take. If I were wearing a cap, I'd be doffing it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:05 AM on July 26, 2001

stavros: Don't worry. I have a thick skin and can cope as long as you don't get all ad-hominy. I hate that stuff.

My point, to the extent I actually have one and am not just Dennis Millering, is that the music you love is and has always been a product. It may have been a product made by passionate artists and distributed by people with more enthusiasm than business sense, rather than by people who cared not a whit for art but only for how many little plastic discs they sold, but the bottom line is the same: you gave 'em money, they gave you music. And maybe you liked it enough the first time to give 'em more of your money, so you could more deeply enjoy that "authentic" "experience" they were giving you.

In short: not much point in getting all worked up about your favorite tunes being tainted by crass commercialism when they were tainted by crass commercialism from the very beginning.

The only thing preventing people from continuing to have a personal relationship with a work of art, even loving it, and at the same time admitting that the thing they love is and always has been at its foundation a product they were willing to pay for, is a naive idealism that declares that the two are somehow mutually exclusive. How much simpler it is to just admit that you were willing to pay for it because you loved it! Yes, you loved a product, it was a product all along even if you denied its product-nature, and you developed an emotional relationship with it, and furthermore there's nothing at all wrong with that. Art and commerce are both essential facets of the human condition, both intertwined in our past, present, and future.

What is special to you is your relationship with the music, not the music itself, and that relationship, since it exists entirely in your mind, is in the end completely under your own control. No amount of marketing can take it from you unless you allow that to happen. Be at peace; the music, and your love of it, is still with you, and always will be with you, for as long as you want it, no matter what others may think of it.

Hell damn fart, guess maybe I did have a point after all.
posted by kindall at 12:18 AM on July 26, 2001

At least these ads under discussion are (somewhat) non-awful. The ads that really get me filing down my teeth are the fucking Taco Bell ads. Apparently determined to prove that their talents lie far beyond a loathsome chihuahua, they have come out with some of the most skull-clutchingly awful ads in recent memory, to wit:

*The unspeakable spot featuring the four "regular guys" riffing on "My Sharona;"

*The ghastly and ineradicable ad with the same four mooks trading "Ol' Western" nicknames;

*The currently-running crime against humanity with the army of yuppies waddling their merry way to TB while abusing the "Bonanza" theme.

Dismal. Abhorrent. Unforgivable. And, I see now, completely off-topic. I suck, but I'm a man on the edge.
posted by Skot at 12:44 AM on July 26, 2001

Suckin' on the Edge - A new daytime talkshow, starring Skot! Crowd goes wild....

kindall - you're right. I started out just planning to register my low-grade nausea at the whole rock-soundtrack commercial thing, but (and good call by the way) a low-rent Dennis-Millerian rant just welled up and I went with it. Bad habit, yes, but hopefully amusing, somewhat.

And you're right about this : "Be at peace; the music, and your love of it, is still with you, and always will be with you, for as long as you want it, no matter what others may think of it." Very right. I-wanna-buy-you-a-beer right.

Only problem is, controlling that years-later shiver-up-the-spine that I get from some music that was the soundtrack of hugely important events or times in my life is pretty much not an option, and if thanks to some (rant welling up again) goateed, PDA-toting, overpaid marketing shills some piece of music that has meaning for me is mentally grafittoed by an underwear commercial or some damn thing, well...(sound of air escaping from balloon) it's just annoying is all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:00 AM on July 26, 2001

the best ever is one of those "My Anti-Drug is..." commercials which uses "4" by Aphex Twin off his "richard d james" album. the irony is that aphex is a self-proclaimed (more than) recreational drug user.

his new album is titled "drukqs," or "drug use"

posted by afx114 at 1:01 AM on July 26, 2001

buddha9090: "black people" changed to "my people"...huh?

what's the gold dang song in the earthlink commercial by Michel Gondry with the privacy issues going on? anyone know?

afx114: nice
posted by modofo at 1:05 AM on July 26, 2001

I recently saw a video game commercial for a motocross Playstation 2 game, all the while Sum 41's "Fat Lip" played with the logo of the band in the corner.

A lot of new video game releases actually come with a soundtrack, much like a movie. In the Gran Turismo 3 book, the soundtrack credits (everything from Snoop Dogg to Motley Crue) take up 2 pages.

Curious if people feel any differently about this than about a band contirbuting to a movie soundtrack.
posted by jewishbuddha at 3:03 AM on July 26, 2001

Hearing Umi Says by Mos Def in a Nike ad made me quite sad...

i know what you mean buddha9090... however, as much as i like mos def, i never really felt that song.. must not have enough soul...

hooverphonic makes some commercial worthy-music. renaissance affair was done to death by volkswagon (i think? maybe someone else.). i'm surprised i haven't heard anyone use Battersea yet, possibly one of the best intros to any CD, with the buildup and ethereal vocals being absolutely beautiful.
posted by lotsofno at 5:20 AM on July 26, 2001

Umi says shine your light on the world, shine your light for the world to see. I want black people to be free, to be free. Want them all to wear Nikes, wear Nikes.
posted by shinji_ikari at 5:32 AM on July 26, 2001

A lot of new video game releases actually come with a soundtrack, much like a movie. In the Gran Turismo 3 book, the soundtrack credits (everything from Snoop Dogg to Motley Crue) take up 2 pages.

While most artists (or owners of the artists music) license songs for use in commercials, that Gran Turismo soundtrack features a song that Snoop Dogg wrote exclusively for the game. With better audio in todays video game systems, it looks like we might see more songs being recorded specifically for video games.
posted by ry at 6:37 AM on July 26, 2001

We discussed Apples in Stereo shilling for J C Penney a while back---the article linked in the original posting was a really good one, I thought.
posted by Sapphireblue at 6:41 AM on July 26, 2001

Amon Tobin for Coca Cola?

Low for The Gap?

I feel so dirty!!
posted by preguicoso at 6:57 AM on July 26, 2001

Does anybody know what the music is that plays behind the "What Is Drama" commercials for TNT?
posted by spilon at 8:07 AM on July 26, 2001

"it looks like we might see more songs being recorded specifically for video games."

Remember Atom Bomb by Fluke?
That was written specifically for some game.
posted by dong_resin at 8:21 AM on July 26, 2001

Some of the best original game music is by Rockstar games. Have you guys heard "Taxi Drivers Must Die" from GTA2? :) One of the first games that I know used songs by Soundgarden, etc for in game music was Road Rash.
posted by riffola at 9:02 AM on July 26, 2001

Recently I seem to hear The Who on commercials with a stunning regularity. The weirdest is the mixed-Who metaphor of having a bunch of goobers playing polo in their SUVs on cliffs that very much resemble the end of Quadrophoenia....yet the song ain't from Quadrophoenia. Maybe they'll do a Quadrophoenia song while showing Ann Margret rolling around in baked beans...or Elton John in huge Doc Marten's. Oh, that's right...they used "Love Reign O'er Me" years ago for Sprite....or was it 7up?

Of course, much of this started with the Nick Drake Pink Moon commerical, as everyone knows by now. As it says on the liner notes on one of his posthumous collections, he longed for fame and recognition and never got it while he was alive. It took VW to make him "a fucking star", to quote a low-selling Pete Townshend concept album. I can't help but be a little self-conscious when I am playing that song in my Golf, though :)

Of course another facet of this discussion is "Get away from my cool music! You can't have it!" I feel that every now and then, but as I get older it bothers me less and less. Hell, Neubauten did a Jordache commercial, right?

There is an interesting phenomenon tangentially related to this discussion: Why is it whenever you hear a song being blasted from someone's car or apartment, it is NEVER a song you like?
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:32 AM on July 26, 2001

I could be wrong, dong_resin, but I believe Atom Bomb was written for the game Wipeout (at the least, it was on the soundtrack for the game). BTW, Wipeout is a perfect example of music-game synergy. Without the music, I believe the game wouldn't have nearly been as fun to play (or done nearly as well) and without the exposure the game provided, some of that music might well have never reached mainstream consciousness.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 9:44 AM on July 26, 2001

A couple of good (but not comprehensive) lists can be found here and here. The second is geared towards the selling of the music, of course.

I'm finding that a lot of the downtempo, more mellow music I own is being used in commercials these days. K&D, Tosca (which of course is the aforementioned D), and Thievery Corp spring to mind at first.
posted by sauril at 10:05 AM on July 26, 2001

Kafkaesque, I was about to respond to your post by saying that actually, the first major instance of music advertising I remember was when Microsoft used the Rolling Stones's Start Me Up for the launch of Windows95. But then I realized that there is a quantitative difference between Microsoft's use of the Stones and VW's use of Drake. In both cases, you have companies trying to co-opt the positive feelings you get from listening to the music to promote their product. However, with VW, you also get the advantage of having a previously not well known song and artist get lots of exposure to the world at large. This is not true in the case of Microsoft, who I believe deliberately used a song that most people would recognize.

If a company uses a Beatles song because it's a Beatles song to promote their product, then it's a turn-off for me, because in my mind they're saying their product isn't strong enough to stand on its own without celebrity to prop it up. If, however, they pick music to fit the mood of the commercial then I am all for it, as it will expose me to potentially new music that might never be played on the radio.

In fact, there are three scenarios that I can think of, all with a good conclusion. Either it's a piece of music you hate, in which case who cares if they use the music; if anything, you'll just turn the channel when the commercial appears, which is probably a good thing. Or you've never heard it before but you love it, which means that you'll have gained a new band to listen to, which is also a good thing. Or you have heard it before and love it, in which case be happy that the band you love is making money, which will hopefully allow them to keep making music instead of finding real jobs. And, you can always close your eyes and enjoy while the commercial is playing.

Finally, from the artist's perspective, anything that allows my music to be heard by more people is a good thing. And even if they have to edit the song for the commercial, the music on their album remains untouched.

BTW, apologies for the long post.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:08 AM on July 26, 2001

Qualitative, not quantitative. Sorry.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2001

if thanks to some (rant welling up again) goateed, PDA-toting, overpaid marketing shills some piece of music that has meaning for me is mentally grafittoed by an underwear commercial or some damn thing, well... it's just annoying is all.

Maybe it's annoying to you, but have you considered that the goateed PDA-toting marketing shills like that music as much as you do? They're going for emotions, and maybe they choose a particular song because they know it hits people's emotions, because it hit theirs. Those guys making the commerncials might be the same age as you, they might have grown up listening to the same music you did. It's as much "theirs" as it is "yours," which is to say they may well have as much a relationship with it as you do.

Yeah, yeah, if they loved it as much as you do, they would have more respect for it and not sully it by associating it with selling product. Which is a fallacy I've already addressed, and beyond that, it's hardly fair to demand that others' relationships with a piece of art adhere to the same restrictions you place on your own.
posted by kindall at 10:16 AM on July 26, 2001

To follow up on what kindall said, the ad guys, if they really love the music, may even see using it as a good thing. After all, if you love something, don't you want to share it with as many people as you know? These guys are just sharing what they love with the entire world. And if you're going to use music for a commercial, might as well use good music.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 10:34 AM on July 26, 2001

I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure Advertising guys aren't capable of love.

"By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. No, this is not a joke: kill yourself... I know what the marketing people are thinking now too: 'Oh. He's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market.' Oh man, I am not doing that, you fucking evil scumbags."

-Bill Hicks

posted by buddha9090 at 11:25 AM on July 26, 2001

I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure Advertising guys aren't capable of love.

Oh, don't be an idiot.
posted by kindall at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2001

Lighten up guy.
posted by buddha9090 at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2001

I guess it's okay to tell people to go kill themselves, as long as you smile when you say it.
posted by kindall at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2001

Well, I'm not going to say too much. It's my job to pick the songs you see in movies/tv/and commercials. Yes I am in music supervision.

There is a hell of a lot more involved than you realize. More often than not, artists are dying to have their music in any kind of media they can. Don't shoot me, shoot the record labels, I just pick the stuff.
posted by remlapm at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2001

Way late, here, but I just found this Geoshitties link to a long list if anyone wants to know which tune=which commercial. Not that I condone this stuff. Nope. Uh-uh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:16 AM on July 27, 2001

Note to self : stop posting while drinking beer (see above).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:42 AM on July 27, 2001

I'd like to hear more from remlapm...I'm really curious about the process involved in choosing music for commercials. A lot of the time (it seems to me) pretty much any song would work, but a short segment of an "underground" track is used. A great example is a Tylenol commercial where a Sam Prekop song is used, but it's just solo piano...why the Prekop? Why not royalty free older music?
posted by modofo at 1:56 AM on July 27, 2001

modofo. No music is royalty free, unless it is older than 75 years ( public domain ). I can choose from a library, which is stock music, but I still have to license that, or pay per use. All music that you see in commercials is paid for, sometimes over-paid for.

As for the process, it's a long one. Generally, for a motion picture, the music makes up 10% of the budget. My fees are 10% of that, the other 90% goes to licensing popular artists, getting a composer or using stock music. I have to clear all songs I use for trailers, cinema, video, and worldwide release. It takes a while and is very boring.

As for actually choosing it, that's simple, any idiot can do it if you have enough CD's around you. Sometimes clients have more money than sense, that's why you would hear Sam Prekop rather than a similar sounding , and cheaper, song.
posted by remlapm at 6:25 AM on July 27, 2001

Does anybody know what the music is that plays behind the "What Is Drama" commercials for TNT?

This is late, but I believe the song you're talking about it There She Goes, originally by The La's, later covered by Sixpence None the Richer.
posted by Aaaugh! at 4:44 PM on July 29, 2001

I don't really mind commercial coopting of music. But I will slit my wrists if I ever turn on the television and discover Elvis Costello singing:

Anacin, I know this pain is killing you.
Oh, Anacin, my pain is through.

posted by ParisParamus at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2001

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