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Ads: The new indie radio?

OPINION

  • Eminem's music has been used in Chrysler commercials.
Eminem's music has been used in Chrysler commercials. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune…)
August 14, 2012|By Matt Kuttan, For RedEye

When I first heard "Starry Eyed Surprise" by Paul Oakenfold in a Diet Coke commercial, I fell in love, and the song made it onto my wedding soundtrack. Later, I ran across Black Sheep's "This or That" in a Kia commercial and was compelled to dust off some of my favorite old hip-hop records.

There may be few of us who admit it, but the truth is many of us discover—or rediscover—some of our favorite bands and songs through advertising. As a creative director for an ad agency, maybe I'm just more likely to notice—or more likely to cop to it.

That's why I was so disappointed to read Rolling Stone's report last week that the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys wrote in his will that his music and "artistic property" were prohibited from being used for advertising purposes.

If Yauch feared "So What'cha Want" becoming an anthem for Applebee's or a riff from "To All the Girls" becoming synonymous with Vagisil, he could have left more specific legal directions. Not that I want to bash the dying wishes of a humanitarian and visionary artist who passed away of cancer all too young. I'm a huge fan of Yauch's and fought for my right to party all through college.

My point is that one of the best avenues for his music to live on in future generations has been taken away—and ads are becoming an ever-more-prominent place to discover good music.

A simple Google search will demonstrate the public's demand for the names of songs used in commercials. And last year's most-viewed ad on YouTube? Well, it was Volkswagen's Darth Vader kid spot. But No. 3 was Eminem shilling for Chrysler, according to adweek.com.

Think about it: Not many hard-core music fans still want their MTV, and the network hasn't aired a decent music video since Carson Daly was roaming the halls. Terrestrial radio isn't exactly taking chances by exposing us to new artists. (Just say no to LMFAO, pop radio!) Along with digital radio outlets such as Spotify and word-of-mouth, shouldn't commercials be just as viable an outlet as any?

Music artists love to dismiss the ad industry after they've made it to the top, but they conveniently forget that they too are part of the commercial industry. If they didn't appeal to the masses and didn't sell, then no record label would pay the hotel bills for the rooms they trash.

Is it selling out to write a song with the purest intentions only to have a corporation offer the artist more money—and more exposure—to help sell a product? No. Sellouts write pop songs with the sole purpose of someday moving boxes of cereal or antiperspirant. That's music I cannot stand.

From firsthand experience, I can tell you that Writing Jingles 101 is no longer required course work for advertising students. After all, wouldn't you rather hear a hot new single from Phoenix that evokes the Cadillac brand than a lame attempt from an ad guy like me, trying to find puns that rhyme with automobile?

Matt Kuttan is a RedEye special contributor. @mkuttan

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