Advertising Age has posted their Top 10 "2007 Best Ad Songs," noting their favorite uses of music in TV advertising campaigns.
I can see how some of these songs made the Top 10. I love the Apple, Old Navy, JC Penney, Dove and Volkswagen ads. I have mentioned the Volkswagen/Wilco partnership before, and it played out rather nicely in the execution. Ingrid Michaelson, whose "The Way I Am" was featured in the Old Navy ad, questioned her own integrity when some fans ragged on her for "selling out."
I find the whole "selling out" argument to be passe. As I commented on No Depression magazine's "Peter's Postscripts" blog - artists "sell out" to corporations every day, namely their labels and radio conglomerates. Yet somehow Z100 or Island Records, for example, are considered holy while licensing music for a :30 spot is considered blasphemy. Sometimes I just don't understand how people think.
I was somewhat surprised to see that one of my all-time favorite bands - IRON MAIDEN - had licensed their 1988 hit "Can I Play With Madness?" to Sony Electronics for a commercial about HDTV - easily listed as one of the "Most Questionable Ad Songs of 2007" by Ad Age. I was less surprised Maiden licensed the track (though this is the first instance I've seen of the band licensing ANYTHING) than the agency chose that song to help deliver the message the ad was trying to send. I found the ad preposterous just from the visuals, and when Maiden's track is added the effect is just dreadful.
From a personal perspective - I find it unbelievable that Country music has such little representation in modern TV advertising. A colleague of mine blamed it on music publishers who seek too high a price for their sync licenses. Many agencies still relegate music licensing, in terms of budget and creative importance, to the proverbial back of the bus. And supply of licensable music far outweighs demand, making it a buyers market. Sellers beware.
We can see from this list that being a current act on a major label, or even major indie label, bears little correlation to the music agencies license for their clients. My dear artist, music publishing, and label friends, take note. Be flexible and make deals happen. Be proactive. Survive and thrive - don't be watching the oncoming light become the express train as retail shrinks and radio airplay tightens. Music exists to be listened to - however people or corporations choose to consume it. Use that to enhance your own revenue streams and profitability.