Ok, raise your hand if you can tell me the most-watched annual sporting event in the world? Anyone?
It’s the Super Bowl, of course! But why do 80 to 90 million people from the United States tune into this annual sporting extravaganza?
Thats right, to see the new TV commercials!
“So what has any of this got to do with music!?“, I hear you cry. Well, it is highly likely that we all have a track or two in our collections that have at some point been used in a TV commercial. Before the 1980s, the music found in television commercials was usually a jingle or a piece of incidental music. In 1971, a jingle titled “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was written for a Coca-Cola advertisement and was later re-recorded as a pop single by The New Seekers and The Hillside Singers. Dropping all references to Coca-Cola, the new version was given the title “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing“, and it became a hit record in the US and the UK.
With the recent shift in direction taken by music channels like MTV and VH1, who preferred to jump on the reality TV show bandwagon as opposed to providing a platform to showcase new music, the once-forbidden topic of a band or artist “selling out” and licensing one of their tracks to be used in a TV commercial are long gone. In fact, it’s probably the best source of income and promotion that a band could wish for these days. I hope this insight to a few of my favourite tracks used in TV commercials will help prevent you from scrambling across the living room and hurdling over the cat in an attempt to open Shazam on your mobile phone and get as close as you can to the TV to find out where that 30 seconds of music originates.
Jamie Lidell started out as one half of the techno-funk duo Super Collider before embarking on a solo career where he expresses his surprisingly rich and powerful voice over a blend of soul music with electronica, producing music which has been described as Motown meets the future. “A Little Bit More” from the album Multiply was used in a series of TV commercials for Target.
Jake Bugg is an English singer-songwriter whose self titled debut album mixes Dylan-styled retro folk with contemporary rock riffs. Bugg’s track “Lightning Bolt” is currently being used to advertise Gatorade sports drinks across the US during the NBA championship games, and is likely to be viewed by an audience in the region of tens of millions across the US. It is understood that marketing executives chose Bugg’s track from thousands of “unknown” songs.
The Heavy are a UK Band from Bath, England, who play a mix of heavy-guitar, soul and rock backed with Kelvin Swaby’s vocals that have a certain Curtis Mayfield feel about them. Their song “How You Like Me Now?” features a sample from “Let a Woman Be a Woman” by Dyke & the Blazers and was featured in the Kia Sorento TV ad campaign where Muno (a character from the popular children’s TV show Yo Gabba Gabba) and a bunch of unruly, hard playing soft toys take a Kia Sorento out for a spin resulting in an almost Hangover-style night on the town in Vegas. The ad was introduced during Super Bowl XLVI, and when the band was invited to play the song on The Late Show with David Letterman back in January 2010, it was the first time that Letterman had ever asked a musical artist to perform an encore on his show. The band returned again to the show two years later to perform “What Makes A Good Man?”, and they were encouraged to play their second encore.
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” by Australian rock band Jet was one of many tracks used for Apple’s infamous iPod dancing-silhouette commercials, resulting in the band selling 3.5 million copies of their album Get Born, which is an incredible achievement for a band that was relatively unknown before the track appeared in the ad, proving why so many music publishers and labels are thrashing it out trying to get a slice of the revenue and attention that music in advertising delivers.
French house musician Mr. Oizo introduced the world to “Flat Beat” with a little help from his head banging puppet buddy Flat Eric, whose appearance in a commercial for Levi’s Sta Prest brand led to the track maintaining the #1 position in the UK for three weeks in April 1999. The track is featured as a bonus track on his debut album Analog Worms Attack. The music video also features Flat Eric, as a high-flying record company executive calling industry taste makers and blasting the track down the phone while head banging away to the music in the most amusing fashion. “Flat Beat” is considered to be one of the earliest instances of Electro house music.