>Autechre in the ads
I have just heard an Autechre track used in a mobile phone advert. Autechre, the ultimate underground electronica outfit. Mobile phones, the ultimate tinny frog-puke enducing cancer machines. Who, how, why and whatfor?
Electronica works for ads. Rick Lyon of Lyon Music makes music for adverts. He says "more than 80% of music made for commercials has no vocals...
"Everything else about commercials, from the way they're cut, to the way they're shot, to the way they're written and directed, looks to the future. But the music is way behind."
So the genre's futuristic sound works, and I would certainly prefer to hear Squarepusher in commercials than have the Crazy Frog waving his little green annoyance in my face.
Back to the music I just heard. Autechre, Manchester's finest electronic genius since Alan Turing, have a track called Reniform Puls licensed to sell LG U3880 mobile phones (listen to Reniform Puls here [link now broken]).
This is nothing new. In recent years, we have celebrated 30 years of the VW Golf with LFO and the Aphex Twin's Simon From Sydney. Boards Of Canada were used to sell BMWs, which I can understand since I once recommended the band for background music to a Songs Of Praise producer. BoC really can be that mainstream. I'm not too sure about using Orbital to sell Muller Rice, but it really did happen when The Saint was licensed for this purpose a few years ago. Or how about two more Aphex Twin tracks? The fantastic Windowlicker was used to shift Mercs in 2003, while Compaq used Aphex's Donkey Rhubarb.
Music has sold product on the airwaves since the swingin' 20s, only then it was wireless and orchestras instead of telly and techno. For this, we have to be thankful to the brim of our boots. Imagine a Minority Report world where adverts hard-sell us the latest teeth-rotting, purse-burning logo fodder. At least music mellows the message and reminds Mr Wile E Advertiser that us Roadrunners need feel-good advertising that isn't going to rub us up the wrong way. More car adverts and less Cillit Bang, please!
The downside is that with the decline of the record industry, musicians know they can make a lot more manna strutting their stuff squashed between Fred Elliot, I say, Fred Elliot and Bette's hotpot, than on a dusty CD rack stuck between Madness and Madonna in Music Zone.
>The case of Moby
I remember the original release of Moby's Go which boasted an anti-car logo on its cover. Well, it wasn't so much a logo as a car crossed by a 'no smoking' red slash. When his Play came out many moons later, Moby's music probably sold a billion cars. Play shot the bedroom producer to fame and fast jets; it was the first time an album had every single one of its tracks used in either a feature film, television programme or an advert. The ads even had Tiger Woods playing golf to Find My Baby. Big names, big commercials, big cheques for Richard 'Moby' Hall.
Does this make me feel uncomfortable? I'm not sure, but Moby seems happy with it. He explains: "My feeling when I license music is that if I make a record and I'm proud of it, I want people to hear it - so I have to avail myself to sort of untraditional means to get people to hear my music."
>Ring Of Fire
Strangely enough, the advertising industry supports his assertion. Says Rick Lyons: "People want to hear good music and people are receptive to good music when it's in [an advertising] spot." It did cheer me today when I heard The Fall being featured in a commercial. The track is Touch Sensitive and it's the Vauxhall Corsa ad that goes "hey hey hey hey". Yeah, that one.
But advertising isn't, as Moby calls it, "untraditional means". It is as old as the hills, like prostitution, smoking and haemorroids.That reminds me of the best music/ad story ever. There was a plan afoot to use Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire to sell haemorrhoid ointment. The ad muppets thought the words "it burns burns burns, that ring of fire, that ring of fire" would work just fine. The Cash family kaiboshed the idea: in the words of Johnny's daughter Rosanne, "we would never allow the song to be demeaned like that."
>The future is harsh
Music and advertising could still be a good thing. By having Autechre used as background slush, electronica could be reduced to muzak, forcing producers to explore more underground, more harsh forms of electronic music. Which puts the future of electronic music out of the hands of Moby and into the hands of Venetian Snares and Shitmat. This can only be a good thing... it just worries me that, like ringtones, the art is being cheapened in the meantime.
Have fun matching adverts to music... click here for Commercial Breaks & Beats [link now broken] .