Would this be a hit in an Amazon.com commercial? More importantly, would John Mellencamp have sold a SHITLOAD more records if his song had been featured in an APPLE ad instead of one for Chevy?
Once again, we don’t have a piracy problem in the music business, we’ve got an EXPOSURE problem. Leslie Feist’s album was released on May 1st. It was a must buy amongst hipsters. But those not in the know had NO CLUE! All it needed was a bit of exposure.
Back in the day, as the kids are so fond of saying, radio would have given this record a chance. Maybe featured it on a "Smash it or trash it?" segment. That was back when radio was run by innovators, when the program directors were music fans as opposed to wannabe general managers worried about ad sales. Or when we were all addicted to FM stations that were the heartbeat of society as opposed to calcified museums of what was played THIRTY YEARS AGO!
You wonder why we can’t sell music? BECAUSE THERE’S NOWHERE TO HEAR IT!
Oh, believe me, if they had the VMAs NEXT WEEK they’d feature Feist. But a month ago, if her label had called up Christine Norman she would have LAUGHED! Our RESEARCH tells us our audience is not interested. She’s too OLD!
But then Apple makes the record a hit, and EVERYBODY WANTS HER!
I started getting e-mail about this track as soon as the ad hit TV. Mostly from outsiders, not part of the industry INFRASTRUCTURE! My buddy who hasn’t bought a CD in this CENTURY told me he was hooked, and so was his thirteen year old niece. It was a silent revolution. Til now. FIVE MONTHS after the release of the record, the mainstream media has finally taken notice:
Isn’t it funny that "1234" sounds NOTHING LIKE what’s on the radio. But APPLE chooses it for its ads. Aren’t major corporations supposed to play it safe? Go with brand names? FAMILIARITY? But that wouldn’t fit with Apple’s image, as a cutting edge corporation. They need the new and different.
Meanwhile, although sales are good, I’m sure P2P downloads trump legitimate track sales. This is an evanescent act, right? But maybe, if you STEAL the music you’ll find out THE REST OF HER OEUVRE IS GOOD! You might become a fan! People who buy singles aren’t fans, and this business needs FANS! It was BUILT ON FANS!
Oh, don’t tell me about placement in TV shows. You become identified with the content, the show. And you get two plays a year if you’re lucky. Whereas this Apple ad is UBIQUITOUS! And somehow, Leslie Feist looks completely cool doing it. Her fans haven’t abandoned her, they feel she’s HIT THE JACKPOT, WON THE LOTTERY! Hell, getting in bed with Apple isn’t selling out, it’s jumping on the rocket. Apple is COOLER THAN MOST MUSIC!
But most companies are not. Microsoft is not. Amazon is not. (Yeah, do an ad for a company that sells everything from books to toasters.) There are very few cool companies.
ANY exposure is not good exposure. Better to lay off than associate with a lame company.
I don’t want to get into a deep analysis of commercial tie-ins. Unlike the labels and agencies who tell you you should just make the deal, it’s VERY COMPLICATED! Depending mostly on whether it’s about breaking through or going on a victory lap. What’s more interesting is how the pillars of the business have lost their way, are in decay. The majors won’t sign and promote a Feist. Radio won’t play it. And brick and mortar retail won’t stock it. In other words, you can’t hear it and you can’t buy it. Great formula for success.
Let’s not revel in the success of "1234", let it be evidence how fucked up things are. It’s not about radio and TV now embracing the track and the act, but figuring out how we can make it easier for the public to hear new and different music and ACQUIRE IT!