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All You Need Is Integrity

By ; January 14, 2010 at 12:01 AM 

My friend recently tweeted: “I wish the Beatles would sell out already, because I’m sick of hearing horrible cover versions of their music on TV.” Usually I would take the position that their actual songs should never be used, because it breaks the sacred rules of artistic integrity. But because the Beatles’ music rights are so complicated at this point, and after years of hearing god awful covers (most recently, “All You Need Is Love” – Blackberry) – I too wish they would just use the originals from now on. While the commercials may be annoying, or the idea of hearing a Beatles tune tied to a cellphone ad may turn your stomach sick – the songs themselves are being butchered.

We’ve all heard this complaint before: “I used to like the song, but it got overplayed.” Usually this is associated with saturated radio play of singles. But we are now seeing this more and more with TV commercials as well. Remember that lovely indie artist named Leslie Feist? “1,2,3,4” was a cute song, really catchy. But boy did Apple do a one-over on that one with those iPod commercials. I myself do not watch much TV, nor do I listen to the radio. I have been spared hearing that song be beaten into my brain daily. But I’ve also had people tell me they can’t stand that song anymore because of it. I’ve seen the commercial on occasion, and while I don’t think it’s awful, I can see why people would be annoyed by the chorus, especially given a commercial’s format. But hey, it really put Feist in the limelight, and according to the Grammys she was a “Best New Artist” in 2008 – even though she had been around for at least 10 years, if not more (depending on how you look at it). But this brings me to my next point. We as music listeners tend to view the music as being a singular entity. Whereas an artist may also view what they do as a job, their living. If an up and coming artist can take off in popularity because a major company wants to use their songs in a TV commercial, is that really so bad? From a selfish listener point of view, it might be. But when you consider the artist has to make a living too, and they are trying to make it in an industry that is cut throat, maybe there is no question of integrity. But I also think its the artists responsibility to make sure the music they are giving out to these commercials are used tastefully.

One example that comes to mind is VW’s car commercial in 1999 that used Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.” While some may scoff at the idea of a dead musician having their music sold for car commercials, the commercial itself is done rather well – and more importantly, it works well with the song. Really, that is all we can ask for, because songs being used in other media is inevitable. If you were as annoyed as I was at all those Wilco car commercials a couple years ago, you will agree – more commercials like VW’s would be a welcome change. And really that is what is really important – that they keep the artist’s integrity in mind when selecting a song to advertise their latest products and artist keep this in mind as well when signing these deals. At the end of the day, music is a business. But it’s also art, and it should not be compromised for the sake of the former.

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