My Brand-Sponsored Playlist

Last night, while chopping veggies with the TV buzzing in the background, I suddenly felt the hypnotic pull of that song with the drunken-piano-indie-chick-voice oozing, "Hoping I could learn bit bout how to give and la la la." It's a hip, lovely, and surprising tune that's sound instantly grips a 30-year-old Brooklynite like myself. And of course, is the backdrop for Apple's new MacBook Air commercial.

While the ad has only been running for a few weeks, the song has already nested into my consciousness. And in my post-20-something plight to continue discovering new artists, I ran to my computer, Googled the song ("New Soul" by Israeli-French singer Yael Naim), and bought the enture album on iTunes.

It occured to me this wasn't my first Jobsian moment in the past few months. After hearing Canadian songstress Feist (I'm obsessed with this video) in a Nano commerial and Ingrid Michaelson in an Old Navy spot, I downloaded their albums to my playlist.

I'm sure I'm not alone, which confirms a hunch I had a couple years ago: brands are the new record labels. In our July/August 2007 issue we profiled five players in this space—Starbucks, Electronic Arts, Scion, Hallmark, and Grey Advertising—who are breaking emerging musicians and bands: as new revenue streams, to hippify their products, or to carve out unique brand identities. It's a win-win for both sides: starving artists don't have to sell out to the record labels, while getting instanteous distribution to the masses; brands striving for cultural relevance can curate cool on the cheap.

Of course the cross-breed of music and advertising is by no means a new practice, but many companies these days are less interested in coopting a Britney Spears song than discovering the next Britney Spears (well maybe the next Cat Power). What brands have you noticed are acting as the new A&R guys for musical talent—and what great music have you discovered through an ad?

Add New Comment


  • Mike Hassan

    i recently read an article (I think in Rolling Stone) about the growing trend of television shows/ads incorporating the music of artists on the brink of breaking through. Great mention to Grey's Anatomy, two bands that come to mind are The Frey and Snow Patrol who have seen great success in response to their songs being seamlessly integrated during episodes.

    The creator of Grey's, Shonda Rhimes is a big music buff, all the episodes are named after famous Pop Songs.

    Another show that was great at promoting new music was The O.C.

    The tactic of featuring great music (that isnt widely known) is obviously beneficial to both the brand and the band and is clearly deliberate.

    The iPod touch commerical featured CSS a Brazilian band.

    I would love the job of finding the right music to draw that emotional appeal of the consumer.

    I have downloaded albums as a result of hearing a song featured in a commercial, but I also find myself listening to albums in my "indie" collection and drawing connections with brands.

    music is a wonderful thing.

  • Loretta Martin

    Wonderful post! It sounds EXACTLY like something I would have written. I, too, am 30 and have a hard time finding good new music. I've lost track of how many albums I've purchased, or new bands I've learned about, in the past few years after hearing a cool song on a commercial (or TV show - Grey's Anatomy is loaded with hip new artists). I've often wondered if anyone else did the same things as I or if I was just way too obsessed with music. It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there who gets her new music wherever she can.