The perils of licensing your song for use in an advertising campaign

26 Nov

This afternoon I was at a coffee shop in Berkeley. This was the kind of establishment that is almost a self-parody of every stereotype there is about Berkeley and places like it. They have several specialty varieties of fair-trade coffee that they brew by the cup. They have organic raw sugar next to the half-and-half. Their menu prominently features the word “housemade”. The clientele was similarly spot-on. Skinny jeans, Toms, ear gauges, tattoos, Macs.

In my estimation there are two main types of hipster music. The “oh, you probably haven’t heard of it” type (TV on the Radio, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc.), and the ironic oldies type. This coffee shop was playing the second variety. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stealers Wheel, that kind of thing. At one point the song “The Wanderer” came on. This is the kind of song that is easily recognizable even if you don’t know the title and artist. I know I didn’t until I looked it up later. It’s also the kind of song you almost unconsciously sing along to in your head. Have a listen:

 

So I was unconsciously singing along. Except I wasn’t singing the song’s actual lyrics. Anyone who watched as much TV as I did in the mid-90s knows where I’m going with this. “I’m the snake light, from Black & Decker, I get around around around.”

 

Poor Dion. In addition to “The Wanderer”, he recorded “Runaround Sue”. That’s a pretty good claim to fame. And yet for anyone under the age of, say, 40, when his signature hit comes on they think of an advertisement for a hardware product. I’m sure Dion made some money from the commercial. Maybe it extended his career or some such thing. Who knows. I still feel bad for him. Not just for him. It makes me feel bad for myself and for all of America. The whole thing is shitty and makes me hate our society.

The influence of advertising on American life is insidious and noxious. It seems bizarre to me that marketing is such a popular career field. I understand that there’s a lot of money to be made in it. Is that the only appeal? Do marketing majors really feel good about what they’re doing in college? Do they really like coming up with new ways to expose people to ads they don’t want to see? It totally baffles me. I’m going to stop here before this post turns into a poorly-informed and incoherent rant that offends all of my loyal readers on Madison Avenue.

I’m just glad I didn’t hear “That’s Amore” this afternoon. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s logistics.” Fuck me.

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