June 23, 2007 / 12:39 AM / 12 years ago

TV commercials can help promote developing bands

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Somewhere in the earliest part of the 21st century, it became obvious that a profound paradigm shift had taken place in the relationship of rock’n’roll and music licensing. With the end of the rock era (1965-1994), the rules began changing just as fast as the technology.

During the height of the rock era, if one of your songs was used in a TV commercial, your career was on the way out. And after the late ‘60s, hit singles weren’t even cool again until the ‘80s.

But now the opposite is almost true. If you don’t have a song in a TV commercial your career is over. I’m exaggerating slightly but you get the point.

And a hit single that actually sounds like rock’n’roll? We should all live long enough to see that again.

So in 2002, while I was meeting with various sponsors for my “Underground Garage” radio show, I’d take the extra time with the ad agencies to try and convince them to use more up-and-coming bands in their TV spots.

My three simple reasons did convince a few. One, a big star is going to overwhelm your brand. I remember Beyonce doing a commercial, but who cares what the product was? Two, it’s cheaper. For the tens of millions spent on Beyonce, you get 30-60 new bands. Band, master, song, all in. And third, it’s a hip thing to do, and it’s a good thing to do. The fans of the band will appreciate it and never forget it. It might help break a new artist and you get the credit, and much more brand recognition for all the right reasons. “Did you see that cool new band in the Coke commercial?” stuff.

Also helping the indie world these days, and always has, is movies. “Spider-Man” just became super-important, using up-and-comers and indie tracks for its soundtrack, a refreshing and unusual move for a major flick.

I don’t know who started it — Allen Moyle’s “Pump Up the Volume” with Christian Slater comes to mind — but it’s good for the movies and good for the music world, which, now more than ever, must rely on the synergy of strangers.

(Actor and guitarist “Little” Steven Van Zandt is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and host of the syndicated radio show “Underground Garage”)

Reuters/Billboard

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