By Adam Ellsworth.
Thanks to a pretty exciting start to the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, I found myself watching more television than usual during the month of March. Sports are of course best enjoyed live, which means no DVR, and, therefore, no skipping the commercials.
It was while watching these commercials that I couldn’t skip that I stumbled upon an interesting trend: non-American rock music being used in American advertising campaigns.
Now, I’m not talking about the music of Adele, or Mumford & Sons, or Coldplay, or any other artists who are not from this country but who have no trouble selling us concert tickets and filling up our iTunes libraries.
No, I’m talking about the music of Jake Bugg, The Vaccines, and Tame Impala, all of whom are big across the ocean—Jake Bugg and The Vaccines are from the U.K., Tame Impala are from Australia—but not as big here in the States.
Jake Bugg’s song “Lightning Bolt” is, appropriately enough, being used to sell Gatorade, while Tame Impala’s “Elephant” is being used in commercials for the new BlackBerry Z10. The Vaccines, with some help from Kate Moss, are selling Rimmel.
The Vaccines actually appear in the Rimmel commercial, but the song they’re playing (“If You Wanna”) is barely audible, and the footage of them is so fleeting that it’s easy to miss them altogether. Of course, when you share a screen with Kate Moss, no one is looking at you anyway, so there’s probably no sense in them complaining (a longer version of the commercial where The Vaccines are more visible can be found on YouTube, but I haven’t actually seen this version on TV).
What I find most fascinating about this trend though is not that it’s happening, but that I’m actually happy about it. Ten years ago, I would have labeled all of these artists sell outs. Today, I’m just excited that their music, all of which I like, is getting heard in this country.
It’s not as if there are many radio stations that are going to play these bands, after all. Right here in Boston, we’ve lost WBCN and WFNX within the past few years. Even wfnx.com, the online version of WFNX that was supposed to carry on the station’s terrestrial legacy, recently folded after just a few months. As far as alternative rock radio heavyweights go, this pretty much leaves Boston.com’s RadioBDC, but I’m still not sold on internet radio, and besides, who knows what will happen once the Boston Globe is officially sold.
I’d much rather these songs stand on their own, but if that’s no longer possible, then I accept the licensing of them for commercials as a necessary evil. Even if just one person hears this music for the first time and seeks it out, then I say it will have been worth it.