Commercial music uses a format that enables to identify, isolate, and promote a new, evolving creative idea in a highly structured, predetermined way. Essentially betting on the possible success or failure of a new release could very well feel like trying one’s luck new casino sites, such is the nature of the contemporary commercial music business.
You might have seen this kind of musical branding before: the X.org logos (Windows), MadMen’s commercials (another TV program), Nike’s “Sweat It Out” campaign (just about every kind of brand now). These are good examples of how branding, music programming, and advertising may be merged more successfully, maybe forever, so the question arises: how does the commercial music industry do it?
For commercial music, advertising is a very effective way to get people to listen to a new music idea. So, we got a lot of commercials with us, but it also meant that for many new music artists, commercial music was a slow and challenging step down the creative path. We used to call it commercial rot, but now we have many more options. The new electronic music, which actually has very rich sound ideas and different musical aspects, is getting a lot of play. Some new musicians like Joel Madden, Jack Osbourne, and Holly Bartlett, get a lot of airplay in commercials because they are catchy. Even pop artists like Kelly Clarkson, Carly Rae Jepsen, Avril Lavigne and the other chartbusters have several popular music videos on YouTube. Yet some of these are still a little bit uncomfortable for a young artist.
Advertising is highly structured. Ads have specific tracks. These tracks are either instrumental or in the form of samples, probably going back to the time when an artist who did not have an actual recording studio had to record a song first and use the last bit of the master tape to write a script or title. These songs are full of cliches, such as the song title from the beginning of a commercial, “Back Home” from the “Mad Men” commercial, even though this may never be the final title. In any case, advertising has its own language, a language that is quite different from an actual album’s language. When we had vinyl, we did the same thing. There were no real albums, even though we all had collections that had mostly one song per artist. And this is still so in the age of downloadable music. In the old days, commercial music had its own sound, and it developed as new music entered the marketplace. Commercial music is quite different from the sound of a new song. And because the commercial industry is now so global, the language of commercial music has also developed as many cultures interact with the sounds, hopefully developing a new language that we can continue to explore.
You can actually tell that advertising used to be better for artists by looking at two old songs from American popular music. Remember The Beatles? The Beatles had two hit records in 1960. The first one, “Please Please Me” was number one on the charts in the UK for two weeks and number four on the US charts. It sold more than 1 million copies worldwide. It did so well that they went on to make the most popular album of their time, which was “Let It Be” with “All You Need Is Love” at the end. “Love Me Do” was number one for three weeks on the UK charts, and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was number one on the US charts for nine weeks.