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Indie acts take big risks with licensed songs

Ah, to be Yael Naim. When Apple picked her song “New Soul” to launch their new Macbook Air, she didn’t even have an album available in the United States. One omnipresent commercial later, she has the number nine single on the Billboard Hot 100 and Atlantic Records has pushed up the release of her debut CD by two months. While this seems to be great for the Israeli songstress, selling out in the beginning of her career could portend ill for her career. 

 

Apple, because of its enormous marketing clout,  bought the global rights to the song for the low, low price of eighty thousand dollars. This is less than half of what is usually paid for song rights, but according to Jon Cohen, president of the lifestyle branding agency Cornerstone, the computer company made the artist an offer she couldn’t refuse, but possibly should have:

"Apple says to Feist, Daft Punk -- people who want to be associated with a hip, cool brand like Apple, 'We're gonna throw you this bone. It's not much of a negotiation. 'This is our deal.' Less-established acts make a big mistake if they rely on brands to drive their careers. They need to make sure the focus is on their career more than a song in a commercial. That's a fix for quick success but not longevity."

In addition to the threat of over-exposure, other bands have felt the sting when their fans do not agree with their branding decisions. Indie group Band of Horses caused such an uproar among fans when they licensed music for use in Wal-Mart ads that they were eventually forced to reverse their decision.

Yet the fees for a licensed song can put close to two hundred thousand dollars in a band’s pocket. Peter Bauer of The Walkmen, whose song “We’ve Been Had” was featured in a commercial for the Saturn Ion, offers a simple opinion on the matter:  "We needed to take the money. If you don't need the money, why do it?" [Ad Age]

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