I Want My Commercial Free Music

January 21, 2004


There is nothing worse than turning on the television and hearing one of your favorite songs being used to sell a car, a shoe, or an Internet company. It is a popular trend in advertising today, but hardcore music fans like myself would rather not accompany a cherished song with an ad campaign. It’s a slap in the face. I was first outraged when I heard The Beatles’ “Revolution” being played during a Nike shoe commercial. The song discusses serious political issues but hey, isn’t that a nice pair of shoes? Within a minute’s time, the integrity of the song is lost, and as the commercial is played over and over again, the song itself no longer stands alone, and when heard on the radio or CD, it will always conjure up images of athletes and their shoes. The advertisement wins.

In addition to the Beatle’s “Revolution”, a number of my favorite music artists are joining the trend and selling their songs to advertisers. Seventies punk icon, Iggy Pop, sold his song “Lust for Life” to an Internet company, and The Cure, who were goth before goth existed, sold their song “Pictures of You” to be used to sell digital cameras. These are musicians who ignited new fashion trends, challenged the music industry’s standards, and introduced new genres of music to the masses. These are musicians who opened up doors for up and coming generations and influenced and inspired popular musicians crowding the airwaves today. These are musicians who must be in need of money. (Whether it’s due to low sales because of piracy on the Internet, or just the want for more money, hearing a favorite song echoing in the background of an overly-exposed and mind numbing commercial is just a slap in the face.) The introduction of the Internet to mainstream society forever changed the music industry. Songs can be downloaded off the Internet for free, and while it is an illegal activity, piracy has yet to become a thing of the past. Musicians are having an extremely difficult time making money in the industry today. As if it wasn’t hard enough before, the Internet exposed a new challenge. It seems, as far as the music goes, that everyone has access to everything these days and the need to visit a record store either online or in person is becoming less prevalent. So maybe this is the reason why so many artists are joining forces with advertising companies. It is their music and they have the right to do what they like with it, but for fans who find inspiration in the lyrics, for fans who are emotionally stimulated by the tone and rhythm of a song, for those fans whose lives can be summed up by a custom-made soundtrack, hearing…

Paul McCartney himself was outraged when he found out about “Revolution”. Due to bad business handlings, The Beatles lost the right to many of their songs, so they are not to blame for the “shoe incident”, but what about all the others? What’s their excuse? Smaller, lesser-known bands are also joining the trend. Bands like Ween and the Flaming Lips have both sold their songs to be played during commercials selling cars. Bands that receive no radio play or exposure from MTV are also…

Most of their songs are not even recognizable to the general public, but my ears were in paralyzing pain when I heard “Ocean Man” and “Do You Realize” being used to sell a car. What’s next? Am I going to wake up tomorrow, click on the TV, and hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” being used to sell deodorant?

As a college student, I understand the need for money, as a human being I understand the need for money, but what is happening to the integrity and rebellious nature of rock music?

Author: Lindsay Niemann

Writer | Graphic Artist