The Rolling Stone Blog

How Apple Commercials Have Changed Musicians’ Careers

The Rolling Stone Blog

With the iPod and the iTunes store - both of which allowed users to
discover and consume music like never before - Steve Jobs and his
company gave musicians a simple and direct route to listeners' ears. But
Apple's commercials for these new products also encouraged a similar
sense of musical excavation. While tracks by stadium-fillers like U2,
Coldplay and Paul McCartney were featured, ads featuring catchy songs by
lesser-known artists became the brand's calling card - and audiences
responded.

"It's the kind of exposure you literally couldn't pay for in this day
and age," says the Submarines' singer Blake Hazard. In 2008, Hazard and
her bandmate John Dragonetti's jittery tune "You Me and the
Bourgeoisie" was featured in an iPhone ad. Afterwards, "doors started to
open," Hazard says. "It started to feel like we were a part of popular
culture. It was incredibly surreal." British singer Jof Owen, whose
indie-pop duo Boy Least Likely To's woozy ditty "Stringing Up Conkers"
soundtracked an iPhone 3GS ad earlier this year, shares a similar
sentiment. "I never thought it would be one of the songs that ended up
changing my life," Owen says. "I have Apple to thank for that."

For
musicians, the impact of being featured in one of Apple's ads revealed
itself in different ways. Singer-songwriter Matt Costa, whose ballad
"Mr. Pitiful" was used in a 2009 iPhone commercial, and whose album art
for 2005's Songs We Sing was featured on both billboards and on the sides of urban buildings, had
an unusual, rather repetitive reveal. "I'd be buying alcohol or using a
credit card, and someone would say 'Oh, Matt Costa. Doesn't he make
music or something?'" Costa says, adding, "When your name's on a big
Apple ad, people start to recognize you a little more."

Renowned DJ, Cut Chemist, known for both his solo work and as a
former member of both rap-troupe Jurassic 5 and Latin-fusion collective
Ozomatli, was on a global tour when his track "The Audience is Listening
Theme Song" began going into heavy rotation in an iPod Nano commercial.
Chemist, born Lucas MacFadden, saw the results immediately. "As I was
going to different places, I would see it - in England and then Japan,"
he says. "I still see the effect of that ad to this day."

Apple has also changed the way musicians - especially those with a
more do-it-yourself mentality - feel about aligning their work with one
of the world's largest corporations (or as they might put it, "selling
out.") Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale believes this is because
Apple has made life far simpler for those in his line of work: he says
he can't even count the number of demos he's done on his iPhone using
the voice memo feature. The shaggy-maned Australian guitarist had
originally planned to leave the rollicking track "Love Train" off his
power rock crew's self-titled debut - that is, until Apple execs heard
it and used it in a 2006 iPod commercial. Needless to say, Wolfmother
ended up including the song on their album.

Looking back, Stockdale feels no remorse for lending his band's tune
to an Apple ad. "I don't think anyone can take an ethical or moral
higher stance and say that being involved in an Apple ad is too
commercial," he says, quite emphatically. "Everyone is using (Apple's
products)."

Boy Least Likely To's Owen even goes as far to say that Apple
products have become "natural extensions" of his life. "There is so much
humanity in [their] products," he says. "Steve Jobs changed the way we
make and listen to music forever. He made it exciting again."

Related

 

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

View Comments