ADVERTISING TIES EMBRACED BY MUSIC HOUSES, ARTISTS: ONCE CONSIDERED ULTIMATE SELLOUT, PUBLISHERS NOW SEEK OUT AD DEALS

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Republica's single "Ready to Go" on RCA Records quickly climbed into the Top 40 in 1996, then almost as quickly died. But the British pop band was given new life when its song was featured in a Mitsubishi spot last year. Album sales took off, reaching nearly half a million.

Hot Italian opera/pop star Andrea Bocelli's new CD, "Romanza," is now available in stores, and it bears the message that he's featured in a Bellagio Resort TV spot.

Commercials, once considered the ultimate musical sellout, have become the latest way to promote albums. To reach a broader audience, record companies and their publishers are aggressively courting ad deals-with musicians' blessings.

"With radio so fragmented, it's becoming harder to break new artists," said Art Ford, VP of the film and TV division of BMG Songs, a unit of BMG Entertainment. "All of a sudden, there's a new attitude towards advertising."

Popular songs have been used in commercials for decades. Carly Simon's "Anticipation" will forever be associated with Heinz ketchup. With changes in the entertainment industry, however, the ties have been strengthened.

With the consolidation of the record industry putting a greater-than-ever emphasis on profits, record executives are looking for moneymaking alternatives to pitch new acts. Commercials have become a major promotional vehicle, along with TV shows aimed at teens, such as "Melrose Place" and "Dawson's Creek."

'A GREAT BUSINESS'

"It's turned into a great business for us," said Mr. Ford, whose company provides ad agencies and TV and film executives with a toll-free number enabling them to access BMG's song database.

Of course, another fundamental benefit is the hefty fee, called a synchronization license, paid to use a song or original recording in a commercial. The fees can run from a minimum of $100,000 into the multimillions, depending on the perceived value of the song or the artist singing it. If the contract is worldwide, the money keeps piling up.

But there are plenty of other benefits. Classic songs can become hits all over again. When Steve Miller's "The Joker" was used in a Levi's ad in Europe, the 26-year-old song popped back onto the charts in several countries.

And for new or lesser-known artists, having a song in a hip commercial can mean the difference between a million-selling record or the cutout bins.

It's a far cry from the days when the Beatles filed suit to stop Nike from using "Revolution" in advertising. Or 10 years ago, when Neil Young berated his peers for selling out with his sarcastic "This Note's for You," in which he crooned, "Ain't singing for Miller. Don't sing for Bud."

NO LONGER A STIGMA

Allan Tepper, VP of Warner/

Chappell Music, the music publishing unit of Time Warner, said that when he joined the company in 1991, "there was a stigma attached to commercials. Now new signings ask me to work their stuff into commercials."

Many executives say the turning point came when Microsoft Corp. paid the Rolling Stones an estimated $20 million to use the group's anthem "Start Me Up" in the campaign to launch Windows 95. It was the first time a Rolling Stones song had been licensed for commercial use.

"In the '60s, it was not cool for a rebel band to sell out to advertisers," said Michael Brettler, VP of Shapiro Bernstein Music Publishers. "Now that rock bands are in the mainstream, they're less resistant to having ad dollars thrown at them."

While there are still some notable holdouts-Bruce Springsteen has never licensed his songs for ads-everyone from Bob Seeger to David Bowie is going commercial.

"Originally, getting Stephen Stills to agree to license 'For What It's Worth' was not an easy thing," Mr. Tepper said.

The classic song from the '60s rocker was featured in commercials for Miller Brewing Co.'s Miller Genuine Draft beer and for Master Lock Co.

"It was a hard sell. But now he asks about [other opportunities]," Mr. Tepper said.

Although TV shows don't generate as much cash, they do provide invaluable publicity. Last year, after Edwin McCain was featured in an episode of "Dawson's Creek" on the WB network, his single "I'll Be" took off.

"Sales increased by 60% after the show, and they never went back," said Jason Flom, president of Mr. McCain's label, Lava, an Atlantic Records subsidiary.

As long ago as the 1950s, Ricky Nelson sang his way up the charts on his family's TV show, "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet." But these days, even promos for TV shows use popular songs.

BMG is in the midst of negotiating with NBC to provide music for the fall previews of the network's new shows.

Though the fees are less lucrative than those for commercials, promos that run for 10 weeks offer a lot of exposure for a new artist.

"We're even trying to get [the network] to show a picture of the CD," Mr. Ford said.

ATLANTIC LINKS

To make sure its artists get noticed, Atlantic has inked a deal with modeling agency Wilhelmina to get pop acts like Brandy and Sugar Ray into commercials and on the covers of magazines.

While the upside seems endless, there is some lingering concern about overexposing a song, which makes it unappealing for other artists to cover, or endorsing the wrong product.

When Shapiro Bernstein's Mr. Brettler was approached to license Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" for a hemorrhoid commercial, the publisher refused.

"There was something undignified about it," Mr. Brettler said. "It's hard to pass on the money, but we're not licensing it for that at any price."

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