Sunday, January 14, 2007

To Sell But Not Sell Out

Given my sensibilities, commercials have always been a good source for introductions to new bands. I think Volkswagen started the trend of featuring stylish, obscure music in its commercials back in 1997 or so. What was that tag line? "On the road of life, there are passengers, and there are drivers. Drivers wanted." If I remember correctly, there was one commercial each for the Golf, Jetta, Passat and Cabrio. One of the commercials featured "Sweetness and Light" by Lush. Another (I'm pretty sure it was the Cabrio) featured a catchy tune sung by a woman with a breathy voice. (Yeah. That was the "ethereal female vocals" era of my musical enlightenment.) The song was so catchy that I just had to know who sang it. One day, I decided to call 1-800-DRIVE-VW to try to find out. I didn't really expect to get anywhere. But, lo and behold, VW anticipated getting calls from wackos like me! Their operator was fully prepared to give the name of the artist and title for each track featured in their commercials. Of course, she also wanted my address so that she could send me a VW brochure. But that wasn't a big deal. I was so tickled by that point that she could've sold me a Passat over the phone. Anyhow ... that was how I discovered Ivy.

On occasion nowadays, I actually find myself a bit ahead of the curve, no doubt due to my recent re-immersion in music. When I saw the Honda Civic "Freedom" commercial, I was very excited to hear
The Go! Team's "Huddle Formation" in the background. I wasn't surprised to hear their music used in that context, given the peppiness of their songs. But the commercial itself isn't what prompted me to write this entry.
(That's Kevin Spacey doing the voiceover, by the way. More useless information for ya.)

I'd seen the Cadillac "Roll" commercial a few times, and each time I'd found the song in the background to be rather intriguing. Until a couple of days ago, I hadn't been intrigued enough to look up what it was. But I finally headed over to Adtunes to take a look. (Great site for figuring out the name of any song used in a commercial, TV show or movie.) Turns out the song is "Punkrocker" by Teddybears (featuring Iggy Pop). (So much for being ahead of the curve, huh?)

But let's get back to The Go! Team. Adtunes has a retrospective on its homepage called "Top Ad Music of 2006," and No. 4 on the list is an entry called "It Didn't Stop The Go! Team."

The Go! Team band founder Ian Parton claims he doesn't like licensing music for ads. "I think music should be kept special, and I don't think selling it for a commercial is a good way to do that." So why is The Go! Team song "Huddle Formation" in a Honda Civic "Freedom" commercial as part of the Honda "Reverse your thinking" campaign? The band offers an explanation in their official forum.

Here's the explanation.

This is a fair comment and I knew people would be disappointed (including me)

certainly no change of heart - I hate bands who do adverts. I've turned down lots in the past - forgoing potentially lots of money. It got to the point where the people who publish go team songs were getting so fucked off that being dropped was looking very likely - they weren't making any money. theres a limit to how many times people will take a No.

I'm not worried about fucking people off but the trouble is that for the second album we need a publishing company to clear the samples (which is what a publishing company does) before it gets released to avoid the mistake of the first album. It would be a serious handicap to have an album full of uncleared samples.

basically this ad was a concession so that there would be someone to clear the samples. Hypocritical i know but its a tricky thing to navigate through when you make sample based music. it's a minefield.

Quite refreshing to see a band respond to the concerns of its fans. I feel for bands like The Go! Team. Their fans (myself included) often subscribe to an overly romanticized indie ethos that entails an irrational scorn for commercial success. Why should The Go! Team have to justify their licensing of "Huddle Formation" to Honda?

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