When I think about the incorporation of music into advertisements and the sharp increase of this practice that has occurred in the past few years, I automatically am reminded of the Old Navy ad a few years back that featured Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am.” It was the first time, to my recollection, that I found a song that I enjoyed through a means of which I despise: TV commercials. Since then, musicians have continued to license their music for use in various advertisements and the question still remains: why do it?
Keeping the industrialization of culture approach in mind, it is easy to develop a greater understanding of why this practice has been so prominent in the past few years. Commercial mandates and distribution-exhibition practices are two of the elements of this model that seem particularly involved in the example of music incorporation into advertisements. The ultimate goal of advertisements is clear to everybody: to sell products. So why incorporate a cover of a song by Ingrid Michaelson into an advertisement to sell Old Navy sweaters? Firstly, it makes watching commercials more bearable. If people are clearly interested in the song that is playing during this commercial, the image associated with that song will resonate and the commercial will ultimately be a hit. The more air time it receives, the more people will see the commercial, and the more sweaters will sell. Strategically, incorporating music into advertisements is a smart move for companies. It helps to fulfill the commercial mandates set forth by corporations.
On the other hand, distribution-exhibition practices are executed on behalf of the musician: without having to do much work, Ingrid Michaelson’s voice and beat was sold to the majority of the United States. Her song instantly was recognizable once it hit radio stations and that was due in part to the part that Old Navy had played in distributing her music. This model is one that is effective for both the musicians and the advertisers: musicians essentially gain free marketing whereas advertisers are able to capture the audience’s attention through the use of work that is not theirs, but rather something that has been borrowed from somebody else.