Friday, August 05, 2005

A Very Thoughtful Analysis of Allowing Songs to be Used in Commercials

I still can't get over Led Zeppelin giving one of their songs to Cadillac. Rolling Stones, don't mind so much for some reason.
It's tricky, as a music fan, to decide where you stand when it comes to the TV commercialization of your favorite tunes. It's nice that Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Tom Waits side with Crowe in not letting their music be used in ads. But they're not exactly hurting for cash.

And there have been plenty of times when I've been thrilled to hear some obscure artist gaining 30 seconds' worth of exposure by virtue of a TV ad, like alt-country weirdo Richard Buckner with a VW Touareg spot, or the Friggs, the defunct South Jersey girl rockers whose "Bad Word for a Good Thing" is also in a Chevy Trailblazer ad (featuring the animated PowerPuff Girls).

So what makes Earle different? Partly it's because he's in the habit of calling himself a "borderline Marxist" who has said he makes "an embarrassing amount of money." (That's why there are Internet discussion threads out there on this subject labeled "Noted leftist singer-songwriter sells out to corporate behemoth.")

But mainly, it's the song that Earle chose to sell. It wasn't "Someday," it was the title cut to his 2004 Grammy-winning album, which also appeared on Michael Moore's Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11. And never mind partisan politics; What makes "The Revolution Starts Now" so powerful as music is not that it's a Democratic or Republican anthem. It's that its driving beat brings home lyrics about self-discovery and empowerment: "The revolution starts now, when you rise above your fear / And tear the walls around you down / The revolution starts here."

I read that article. I "discussed" this topic a few weeks ago on the XPN message board. My thing was that for low to mid popularity musicians it's acceptable because they could really use the money, esp. if they don't have health insurance from their label. One of my favorites, Ryan Adams, did a Gap ad and got grief for it. However, he said he did it to pay for his mother's medical expenses. I liked the commercial anyway, it was with him and Willie Nelson. I think the quality of the commercial matters too. The Counting Crows Coke commercial was really dumb. The mega musicians though really have no excuse. I guess I can't fault someone who accepts millions of dollars, but if you already have that, you do lose credibility as an artist. I think it also matters on the song and the prodcut too. Giving your song to a beer is a bad move, esp. if you're in rehab (paging Mr. Clapton). It was a good article though. Chris
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