The Rise of Indie Bands in Advertising‏

From Billboard Magazine

This is going to be big,” Todd Porter recalls thinking last September, when the music supervisor at Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco first heard “We Are Young” by indie pop outfit Fun. “It just had the quality of something that will cut through and grab people’s attention.”

Fast forward six months, and the track is the band’s first breakout hit. In mid February it landed at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it leapt from No. 63 after it was featured during the Super Bowl as the soundtrack for Chevy Sonic’s “Stunt Anthem” ad spot that’s almost as much a music video as it is a car commercial. As of last week, it spent its second week at No. 1, the first rock band in more than a decade with a Hot 100 debut to top the chart.

While musicians and brands have long had a symbiotic relationship, the use of indie groups in advertising seems to be fast on the rise. Call it a marriage of convenience. Marketers in search of millennial currency, their growing need for digital content and a music industry still in chaos have helped create a scenario in which two once polar opposites are now happily attracted. And it’s not just for flashier categories like auto and fashion. Indie artists (read: obscure bands connected or not to major labels) are now peddling life’s less-sexy products, like hardware, detergent and health insurance.

Mega corporations using under-the-radar acts in TV spots is not a new phenomenon. During the 2000s, Apple, for one, cultivated a countercultural image when it became practically synonymous with breaking new artists, such as Feist with her “1234.” But that was the exception, not the rule.

“It used to be pretty rare to hear an indie band on an ad,” says Gabe McDonough, vice president, music director at Leo Burnett in Chicago. “It’s not that rare anymore. Somebody’s got to pay the bills.…In 2012, brands are one of the few entities in human culture that are willing to pony up.”

“Artists now have a mentality where they want to put their music in front of the broadest, biggest audience possible,” adds Jon Cohen, co-CEO of music marketing house Cornerstone, whose clients include Converse and Mountain Dew. “Advertising [is now] about how to ingrain your brand into the culture of your target consumer.”

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