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Shilling for Supper

As the influence of major labels erodes, licensers are seizing their chance to be talent scouts. They can be good at it, song by song, turning up little gems like Chairlift’s “Bruises,” heard in an iPod ad. For a band, getting such a break, and being played repeatedly for television viewers, is a windfall, and perhaps an alternate route to radio play or the beginning of a new audience. But how soon will it be before musicians, perhaps unconsciously, start conceiving songs as potential television spots, or energy jolts during video games, or ringtones? Which came first, Madonna’s “Hung Up” or the cellphone ad?

And as music becomes a means to an end – pushing a separate product, whether it’s a concert ticket or a clothing line, a movie scene or a Web ad – a tectonic shift is under way. Record sales channeled the taste of the broad, volatile public into a performer’s paycheck. As music sales dwindle, licensers become a far more influential target audience. Unlike nonprofessional music fans who might immerse themselves in a song or album they love, music licensers want a track that’s attractive but not too distracting – just a tease, not a revelation.

Good summary of this trend by the NYTimes Herald Tribune.

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7 replies
  1. Jacquie Gouveia says:

    But how soon will it be before musicians, perhaps unconsciously, start conceiving songs as potential television spots, or energy jolts during video games, or ringtones?

    Shouldn’t musicians be consciously doing this already? Perhaps devote the creation of 2-3 songs (or whatever makes sense) per year specifically to this media. It seems like it will be the evolution of the music jingle. – Needs it’s own industry term – if it doesn’t already have one.

  2. Milton says:

    Hi Dave and first; Thanks for following me on Twitter! Nice to know you.

    Second: Gads! Your post here describes my bread and butter niche! I am quite fine with it, seeing as I chose it to be this way.

    I have faith in great music and it’s ability to be enjoyed. Have no fear, we will all still get to enjoy a lifetime of amazing music (musicians as well as nature have a way of adapting and thriving).

    As for us underscore / soundtrack composers: Yea Us! (And of course I would love to write that amazing opus of an album that millions of people listen to and changes the world…but I am married and have two kids now and just being able to earn any money from my creations is sweet.)

    Nice posts here, I will be visiting often.
    Milton

  3. Matt Kern says:

    “But how soon will it be before musicians, perhaps unconsciously, start conceiving songs as potential television spots, or energy jolts during video games, or ringtones?”

    It is already there. In fact, I think the license opportunities you mention are already saturated. I get a lot of CDs every week from bands looking to get their music into video games.

    I think there are immediate opportunities now for music getting placed in podacasts, indie films, etc.. not as sexy as video games but there is much less of a dip to get thru.

    Video game music placement is the new “Top 40” and difficult to get into.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] David Kusek asks: How soon will it be before musicians, perhaps unconsciously, start conceiving songs as potential television spots, or energy jolts during video games, or ringtones? Which came first, Madonna’s “Hung Up” or the cellphone ad? […]

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