Take a second to think about the last song that you heard on an advertisement. More than likely it was a non-descript, faintly rhythmic accompaniment to an out-of-work celebrity swishing her hair around for L’Oreal’s latest campaign.
Adverts are a drag, a chance for a quick loo break in the middle of a sitcom or time to make a cheeky cuppa before you commit to another half hour of Come Dine With Me. Nothing but a churned up feeling of disappointment can explain what happens when you catch yourself dancing around your living room to your favourite song, when it suddenly dawns on you that your song is on an advert, background noise to a commercial about something you are never going to buy. It’s no longer playing exclusively in your bedroom or on the radio once in a blue moon but it’s gone viral and hit the TV screens of the nation.
Granted being good enough to even be considered to accompany that out-of-work pop star on the latest shampoo advert is surely a step in the right direction. The sheer volume of people who will end up involuntarily listening to advertisement music will boost a bands listener rating and of course will shake up the cash when the inevitable downloading rush begins.
Crunching some numbers will put this all into perspective; take Feist. In 2007, Leslie Feist released her mesmerising album The Reminder which included the single ‘1,2,3,4‘. The single was selling at about 2,000 downloads a week until Apple featured it in their latest iPod nano advertisement. After that the total downloads soared to 73,000; nowhere near its predicted download rate. It goes without saying that had Apple not featured the single on an advertisement that was watched worldwide, those extra 71,000 people would be unlikely to have heard ‘1,2,3,4’, let alone download it. An extra 71,000 people buying a single also happens to generate a fair lot of money, which begs the question – is it all just for quick cash?
Feist went on to do bits and bobs after her break through with ‘1,2,3,4‘. In 2008, she told the Canadian Press that she wanted to take a break from music to consider her next move which seems to be far from what one would expect following the mass exposure of your song on a worldwide advert. She featured in a Vanity Fair article about folk music and its place in the contemporary music scene, photographed by Annie Leibovitz no less. Feist also played on various TV shows including Saturday Night Live. Finally, 2011 saw the release of a new album, which is a cracker.
On the other hand, L.A based band Foster the People found overnight fame after Nylon Magazine used ‘Pumped Up Kids‘ in an online ad campaign. As well as this, several bloggers ensured the band went viral in a matter of days. For them, this was the breakthrough in their previously unrecognised musical career. Within a week the band had some of the best known recording labels on the phone brokering a deal. Now that record is played in every indie club night across the country.
Developing a big fan base is a tough feat for any new band, but there will always be those die-hard fans who have heard every single note that the guitarist has ever played. Following the exposure of the latest newcomers to the music scene on an E4 advert, every 14-20-something year old with a malleable mind will declare their undying love for said band. Until the next new track on the next week’s advertisement tickles their fancy and suddenly their undying love is not so everlasting.
This temporary fan base that’s developed may benefit the band in terms of listener numbers and exposure but what does it really do for their long term reputation? With a click of the finger they will forever be dubbed as ‘that band, you know, the one from that Skins advert’, losing the faith of the dedicated fans that are willing to do much more than illegally download an odd single here and there.