24 February 2010

Songs ruined by commercials

I really hate it when ad agencies try to use popular music to hawk their wares, and I really really hate it when artists sell-out to them and allow them to use their songs.

It's not a new practice, and from the ad agency's point of view, I suppose it beats keeping a jingle-writer on the payroll. But it ruins the song for me, because then whenever I hear that song, I inevitably think about the commercial, which is the whole point of using the song in the ad to begin with.

But all it does is make me angry at the artist and the ad company they sold out to.

I love Ray LaMontagne, but I lost a lot of respect for him when he let his song "Trouble" be used to sell insurance for Traveler's. And I won't be using Traveler's anytime soon, if I can help it.

There's also "She Sells Sanctuary" by The Cult, one of the few rock bands of the 1980s that actually rocked, but unfortunately sold their best known single to Nissan to sell Altimas in the early 2000s. I've always been a Ford man, anyway.

My wife and I both love Death Cab For Cutie, but it took me a long time to get into Ben Gibbard's other band, The Postal Service, because the two singles I was most familiar with when it came out in 2003 were also used in commercials. "We Will Become Silhouettes" was used by Honda to sell Civics, and "Such Great Heights" is featured in those UPS "whiteboard" commercials. So it was almost six years before I really listened to the album, "Give Up," and it's gorgeous. Too bad two of the best songs were wasted as ambient filler for commercials.

I also a huge fan of Wilco, but I was so bummed when I heard "You Are My Face" in a Volkswagen commercial, which apparently was only one track of many that they sold from their magnificent 2007 album "Sky Blue Sky." I wanted to kick Jeff Tweedy in the nuts.

Thankfully, sometimes an ad agency has trouble getting the rights to a song, and so instead they'll hire a cover act to do the song. So it's easier to ignore the Blackberry commercial which uses the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" to sell phones.

But the worst is when I hear a song for the first time in a commercial, and then hear it on the radio, which makes me want to turn the station. Such is the case with the new commercial for the Cadillac SRX, which uses a song I first thought sounded like Ben Gibbard and Death Cab For Cutie, but is actually a new band called Phoenix, the song being "1901." Too bad for them than I've been completely turned off by the song, because I originally thought it was catchy, but now every time I hear that riff and the chorus, all I can think about is that smug voice talking about a luxury car that's guaranteed to "reignite the soul."

Too bad it sucked the soul out of a decent sounding band and ruined them for me, and probably others, as I can't imagine I'm the only person who gets annoyed when good music is used to hawk cheap, useless crap.

Of course, it's kind of hard to blame the artists when the business model for making money off music so disfavors the artist. Selling CDs is a joke, for the most part, because who buys em? And digital downloads, even if paid for, don't bring the bacon, and even then the distributor probably keeps the lion's share of the proceeds. Live shows bring in money, but you have to already have made it somewhat big if you think you support yourself by touring. So I understand why artists would sell their songs to be used in commercials: it brings in money and it puts the music out there where it can be noticed. The only problem is that when I notice, it doesn't make me want to listen to more, it makes me change the channel. 

No comments: