Songs for sale

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting article that shows the move in the music industry towards the belief that selling out is OK. The article starts off with the changes of Paul McCartney, who went from suing Michael Jackson for licensing "Revolution" to Nike in 1985 to this year appearing in a national TV ad for Fidelity Investments with one of his songs as a music track as well as a song in a Lexus ad (who also happens to be sponsoring his current tour.)

To make a bigger buck for their newest album, A Bigger Bang, the Stones have been written into the story line of the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, and their song Streets of Love will be played during the show at dramatic, tear-jerking moments throughout November. The Stones reportedly were paid handsomely for the exposure, but critics see it as being beneath a band of the Stones' stature.

These one-time bad boys of rock also appear this month in magazines hawking Mercedes minivans.


One example of going too far might be the 2004 bid by Preparation H to use Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire to sell the hemorrhoid cream. Cash's daughter, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, refused to allow it, telling Advertising Age magazine the idea was "moronic."

Some rockers rebelled against advertising in the '60s because advertising was seen as "square." The Stones raged in Satisfaction about the man who says "how white my shirts can be." The Who mocked this whole business by titling an album The Who Sell Out, with a cover showing Pete Townshend using a giant deodorant and Roger Daltry sitting in a tub of Heinz baked beans.

Yet no less a rock deity than Dylan has sold his 1960s protest anthem The Times They Are A-Changin' to Kaiser Permanente. Now, the song once associated with the civil rights movement and images of voter-registration drives is played with clips of a paunchy, middle-aged man choosing an apple instead of a sweet roll to lose weight. Dylan himself appears in a Victoria's Secret ad, leering at a scantily clad model while he croaks Love Sick.

Led Zeppelin has sold its rebelliously rocking Rock 'n' Roll to Cadillac, putting this heavyweight group on the same footing now as Kansas, which sold Dust in the Wind to Subaru.

The '70s punk movement is not immune, either. The Clash raised eyebrows when it sold London Calling to Jaguar, and the Ramones licensed Blitzkrieg Bop to Bud Light and Diet Pepsi.

"I'd say the Clash selling songs was the tipping point," says Grene of Foote, Cone & Belding. "Advertising has become a lot cooler and has no stigma now. It used to be full of jingles like 'Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.' Now, you've got creative (types) in advertising that are pushing vigorously to create as artistic a product as they can. It's all about branding for the companies."

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