How Does Your Favourite Song End Up in a Commercial?

You’re watching TV and a commercial break comes on. The song in the background of the first ad is immediately familiar. It’s one of your all-time favourites. How did it end up in an ad? This is selling out! Or is it? NPR takes a look at the situation.

Over the past few years, pop songs have come to play so consistently in advertising that there are smartphone apps designed to listen and help you name that tune, and the word “sellout” has lost a lot of its bite.

Think back to 2007, when Apple essentially launched Canadian indie star Feist into the pop stratosphere. Or even to last year, when it was hard to know whether online TV service Hulu or the singer BØRNS got a bigger lift from the single “Electric Love.”

So it was no surprise that a panel at this year’s SXSW Music Conference called “How Did This Song Get In That Commercial?” was pretty well attended.

John Hansa, creative director at the advertising agency Leo Burnett, spoke on that panel. He says that cultural shift in the music industry is no small thing.

“It was the perception of jingles,” he says.

Hansa sat down with NPR’s Audie Cornish in Austin, Texas, along with fellow panelists Michael Paoletta and Bonny Dolan of the commercial music agency Comma Music.

Paoletta says the stigma around licensing music to advertisements still exists — but it’s changing.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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