Just about every commercial we see these days, whether it is on television or the web has an integrated musical component. If properly selected, music can focus the advertisement to a particular target demographic. More importantly a song may be associated with a product and define its tone long after the advertisement’s run has concluded. While consumers rightfully focus the majority of their attention on the advertised product, the musical selection is often being advertised in its own right as well. The commercial therefore, is equally as important for the product as it is for the featured artist or group, particularly if they are lesser known or new.
With such importance and focus riding on the musical component accompanying an advertisement, it’s understandable how having a song paired with a national advertising campaign would be an attractive alternative for artists seeking to gain broad, new exposure. Three relatively unknown groups and three very well known products recently employed this extremely lucrative pairing of music and product. Local New York musician and DJ Hesta Prynn, California indie rock group Grouplove, and British artist Alex Clare have recently become the exposure beneficiaries of campaigns launched by Verizon Wireless, Apple, and Microsoft. These three mega companies licensed the new artists’ songs for use in national ads for some of their most popular products, instantly propelling these groups onto a national platform.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP, PLUS LINKS TO THE COMMERCIALS AND SONGS
Hesta Prynn’s single, Turn It Gold, was licensed by Verizon Wireless for use during its Super Bowl ad for the new Motorola Droid Razr. According to Newsday, the massive exposure for Prynn is bringing her “loads of new fans.” With the addition of new fans, and maybe more importantly, came an increase in the number of downloads for the Long Island musician. Prior to the Verizon ad, Prynn was selling a few hundred downloads a month on the iTunes online music store. After the ad debuted, according to Newsday, Prynn is selling a few thousand downloads a week. The ad illustrates the customizability of the Droid Razr. The commercial is also one of the first Verizon Droid ads not to feature violent, destructive robots – a welcome change and minor rebranding effort. Prynn’s song serves as a nice compliment to the uniqueness and chicness of the phone while appealing to people who may also take an interest in her music.
Grouplove’s single, Tongue Tied was featured in the new Apple iPod Touch campaign this past holiday season. The ad titled Share The Fun, is seemingly aimed at a younger demographic. This fun commercial appeals to the hipster inside of us all. Ironically, Grouplove’s album is titled Never Trust A Happy Song. The album name doesn’t seem to stop their new fans from downloading Tongue Tied or buying tickets for their new national tour, though. Pairing Tongue Tied with a “fun” product like the iPod Touch helps position both the product – fun, uplifting, easy to use, and cool – and the music. This is obviously not a coincidence since Apple took the additional step of further integrating the song beyond the point of background music. In the commercial, through the iPod Touch’s camera, the actors are seen singing along to the song and at one point tweeting “ohhhh yeah” in tandem with song’s lyrics.
Perhaps the most surprising and successful example of a new song being paired with a product is Alex Clare’s new song, Too Close. Clare’s newest song gained national attention last week when Microsoft launched its, A More Beautiful Web campaign coinciding with the launch of its new Internet Explorer 9. This is maybe the most interesting of the three examples. Microsoft, in the midst of dramatically re-branding all of their products, selected a very fast, upbeat, energetic, and loud song – all qualities they likely hope will become associated with the IE9 comeback. It’s pretty clear Microsoft’s message is, “this song rocks, and so does our browser.” The visual images and testimonials don’t hurt either, and coincide with the beat of the song.
All three of these artists have benefited from licensing their songs for these new commercials. Ironically, it may not necessarily be the licensing fees that generate the most profit for these artists, but rather profits generated from long-term fan exposure as a result of their original appearance in the ad. Each one of these artists would likely agree that the initial awareness stemming from these commercials for their music is priceless, and probably more valuable than the monetary profit of a licensing agreement.
What is particularly interesting about commercials featuring smaller, less well-known groups is the legal licensing negotiation component of the advertisement. When ads feature songs from larger, better known groups it’s safe to assume that the advertisers are paying more through a licensing agreement for the rights to use the song in a particular ad. When a smaller group negotiates a licensing agreement for a commercial, they automatically get the added benefit of having their music exposed to hundreds, if not millions, of potential consumers or followers every time the commercial runs. As such, the benefit of exposure replaces some of the monetary rewards that larger, more established artists or groups could potentially yield in a licensing agreement.
Profit aside, the concept of pairing a product with a song by an artist or group with relatively little exposure is itself very interesting. Particularly interesting is the fact that the three companies mentioned above have licensed these songs not merely as background music, but as a method of communicating what their product “feels” like to their consumers.
Synchronization licenses (sync licenses) are typically agreements between the advertiser and the publisher of the music who in turn represents the composer or songwriter. In situations where a new artist licenses their music for television or web commercials, lawyers must generally consider the term of the license, the media the license applies to, and the territory included in the license for running the commercial. For smaller artists, negotiating these terms while simultaneously protecting their copyright interests and promoting their music can be challenging.
Pairing new music with products isn’t exactly a novel idea, but it is uniquely interesting, both from a legal and business perspective, to consider the immediate and lasting benefits for the musician. Advertisers are constantly promoting new products or rebranding old products. When ads are tied with fresh new music that captures a specific feeling for the product through the music, it’s often the product that is remembered long after the ad’s run. While the benefits for the advertiser are usually obvious, it’s often easy to forget how advantageous it is for a growing artist to license their music for a new product commercial. Consequently, commercials for products are not only important for the product they’re directly marketing, but also for the band they’re indirectly featuring.