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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 take...la 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?

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