A while back, maybe a few months ago, I posted a music video from Feist’s song “1234”. Now this song has become virtually inescapable thanks to the Apple ad for the new iPod Nano. When I first saw this ad, I was really excited for her. Her most recent album is fantastic and now getting the attention it truly deserved.
What’s incredibly interesting, at least for me anyway, is how it took a tv commercial to make this song the hit it deserves to be. A blog that I’ve recently discovered and has quickly become a daily read is by a music industry analyst (maybe ranter is a better word) named Bob Lefsetz. He made some brilliant observations regarding this commercial and how it is an example the lack of exposure of great music by conventional music outlets. Here are some tasty bits (pardon the french):
Once again, we don’t have a piracy problem in the music business, we’ve got an EXPOSURE problem. Leslie Feist’s album was released on May 1st. It was a must buy amongst hipsters. But those not in the know had NO CLUE! All it needed was a bit of exposure.
Back in the day, as the kids are so fond of saying, radio would have given this record a chance. Maybe featured it on a “Smash it or trash it?” segment. That was back when radio was run by innovators, when the program directors were music fans as opposed to wannabe general managers worried about ad sales. Or when we were all addicted to FM stations that were the heartbeat of society as opposed to calcified museums of what was played THIRTY YEARS AGO!
You wonder why we can’t sell music? BECAUSE THERE’S NOWHERE TO HEAR IT!
Oh, believe me, if they had the VMAs NEXT WEEK they’d feature Feist. But a month ago, if her label had called up Christine Norman she would have LAUGHED! Our RESEARCH tells us our audience is not interested. She’s too OLD!
But then Apple makes the record a hit, and EVERYBODY WANTS HER!
Isn’t it funny that “1234” sounds NOTHING LIKE what’s on the radio. But APPLE chooses it for its ads. Aren’t major corporations supposed to play it safe? Go with brand names? FAMILIARITY? But that wouldn’t fit with Apple’s image, as a cutting edge corporation. They need the new and different.
I don’t want to get into a deep analysis of commercial tie-ins. Unlike the labels and agencies who tell you you should just make the deal, it’s VERY COMPLICATED! Depending mostly on whether it’s about breaking through or going on a victory lap. What’s more interesting is how the pillars of the business have lost their way, are in decay. The majors won’t sign and promote a Feist. Radio won’t play it. And brick and mortar retail won’t stock it. In other words, you can’t hear it and you can’t buy it. Great formula for success.
Let’s not revel in the success of “1234”, let it be evidence how fucked up things are. It’s not about radio and TV now embracing the track and the act, but figuring out how we can make it easier for the public to hear new and different music and ACQUIRE IT!
As someone who seeing things from a band’s perspective, I certainly don’t fault Feist for licensing her music to Apple for the ad. As Lefsetz points out, most of the conventional outlets for getting music out there are totally broken, or severely neutered at best. Bob is also right, no radio stations touched that song before it was on the Apple ad. MTV or VH1 wouldn’t have even pondered giving the song a chance (even though the video is pure genius). Simply put, these kinds of opportunities are becoming the only ones left for artist these days to get their music heard. Even the critically acclaimed band Wilco licensed a song to Volkswagon for a commercial.
It’s fascinating (and scary) what’s happening in the music world. At least we’ll have Bob Lefsetz to entertain as we collectively nose dive towards our doom. 🙂