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Advertising and the Global Music Explosion, Part 2

This issue of Advertising and Society Review is intended as a companion to Volume 11 Issue 2. With this second installment, we are producing a “double issue” on music and advertising. Here we continue to explore the major shifts in the relationship between the music industry and the advertising profession, as well as those key moments when industrial and technological changes affected the form and production of advertisements.

Though observers today tend to focus on recent events, such as the advent of iTunes and YouTube, several key innovations from the 1980s seem to have set changes in motion that created an environment that made possible the commercial synergies we observe today. Some of these were technological—the invention of the synthesizer, for instance. Some were related to programming content in media—it would be hard to underestimate the influence of MTV and the rise of the music video on cable television. Some were related to commercial contracts—the “180 degree” deal Michael Jackson signed with Pepsi in the mid-1980s led the way for the huge celebrity musician deals of today, and the 1987 licensing of the Beatles’ “Revolution” for the introduction of Nike’s Air Jordans changed the relationship between music and advertising overnight.

One of the main effects of these innovations was the demise of the traditional commercial jingle and the decline in employment opportunities for the people who wrote, produced, sang, and played instruments for those jingles. Ira Antelis, interviewed in this issue, is one of the few jingle writers who has survived this change—he still works very closely with Leo Burnett in Chicago and is responsible for the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign for McDonald’s that plays all over the world. In this interview, Ira traces the origins of today’s musical environment from the invention of the synthesizer and the impact it had on musicians who composed jingles. Of course, staying engaged with industry has meant that Ira remained current in the musical styles and practices of our times, so he also is responsible for innovations, such as the “Artist in Residence” program at Burnett.

The use of “Revolution” by Nike caused an enormous controversy about whether music should be used for commercial purposes, particularly when the artists or their songs were committed to apparently non-commercial ends. For many years, the test of a true musician was whether they would hold out or sell out when it came to licensing their music for advertising. At the same time, however, the Nike commercial broke through a taboo and clearly led to the increased use of licensed popular music in advertising. The controversy over whether Nike had been given sufficient permission to use “Revolution” further led to the development of rights standards that did not previously exist: as Josh Rabinowitz remarks in Volume 11 Issue 2, Nike did get permission for using “Revolution,” but as it turned out, the question of who had the right to give permission at all was one that had not been addressed.

Developing standards and systems for the use of popular music for commercial purposes was, therefore, a key requirement underpinning the huge industry in which Keith D’Arcy,
interviewed in this issue, is a key player in today. Keith, the chief music strategist for licensing at EMI in New York, tells about the elaborate machinery that now exists to sell popular songs for licensing in films, television, and advertising. He, too, traces the development of this industry and gives startling evidence of how important selling these rights has now become to the music industry. D’Arcy further describes the way the songs and musicians themselves are now marketed through a combination of platforms, and, indeed, the commercials that use music figure prominently.

Once readers have grasped these major infrastructural changes in the relationship between music, advertising, technology, the law, and other media platforms, it becomes easier to grasp the new position that musicians occupy in adverting and their very different situation relative to marketing. One key example mentioned by all the interviewees for this double issue was the release of Play by Moby in 1999, an album that did not perform well at first, but that was built into a blockbuster, apparently by the licensing of every single song.

Today, musicians manage their art in a very different way. Here Alan Bradshaw from Royal Holloway, University of London, interviews Adam Dorn, a.k.a. Mocean Worker, a musician who has worked in nearly every sphere of music from being a solo musician and band-leader, a side-man, a session musician, a producer, a record label owner, and a publisher. Dorn has been extremely successful in getting his music out there via licenses for advertising campaigns. In one major coup, an ad for Lincoln featured a voice-activated MP3 player, which was demonstrated in the commercial by having the driver say, “Play artist Mocean Worker" and then Dorn’s song came on. He now releases his own music, sells it primarily via iTunes, and promotes it through advertising licenses. By doing this, he earns far more than musicians have traditionally made through royalties.

Thus, we come full circle from the studio musicians thrown out of work by the advent of the synthesizer to the entrepreneurial musician of the 21st century. In the process, the situation of the music industry has been turned upside down, and the relationship between advertisers, agencies, and popular culture has clearly been changed forever.

Linda M. Scott
Editor

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