Editor’s Note: With the release of the new Steve Jobs biopic, we thought we would revisit one of our favorite lists, the 10 Best Apple Commercial Songs.
Without any text, logo, or even a direct picture of the actual product in question, almost anyone in the world would be able to tell you what product the above advertisement is for. At the very least, they could tell you which company is behind it. This is a direct result of the genius of Apple marketing. Whether it is a silhouette of someone dancing in front of a bright background, a simple product/hand shot in front of a white background, or a “geek” talking to a “hipster” side-by-side in front of a white background, most every one of Apple’s major marketing campaigns is simple, clean, instantly recognizable, and often imitated/parodied. One thing that is also synonymous with these marketing campaigns is the use of pop music. Apple’s use of pop music in each of its ads is almost poetic. Many artist could even credit Apple for helping launch their careers. Now before the momentous release of the Steve Jobs biopic Jobs led by none other the great Ashton Kutcher (what?), we went ahead and listed our favorite songs used/use of songs in Apple commercials. As a qualifying factor of this list we decided we must first: love the song. Second: the use of song. And third: the song in consideration must be a popular song. No originals allowed! Which is unfortunate for songs/ads like this one that have a cripplingly brilliant effect to them …
Once fat and healthy, the internet in the 21st century has thrown the music industry for a loop time and time again, putting musicians and the industry that produces them in a serious identity crisis as to where the money comes from. With the invention of the iPod and eventually the iPhone, downloadable music in MP3 format became the new form, and CDs went the way of the cassette tape. Vinyl strangely came back into vogue as a counter-cultural music fan move to the digital revolution. Throughout the whole age of digital music, file sharing through Napster, then Limewire, then BitTorrent and any number of other file sharing programs made music easily accessible for free. Finally, streaming came about from outlets like Rdio, Pandora, and Spotify to make music as easily accessible, though it does require some data usage, paying the artists at least something for the music, a fraction of a penny for each listen.
Apple’s entrance into the streaming service world, Apple Music, marks the beginning of the end for downloadable music. Apple, who owns the world’s largest music download store in iTunes, has stopped caring about iTunes and instead has thrown all their eggs in the Apple Music basket. The day Apple Music launched, it became extremely difficult to even find iTunes, or a price on an individual album. Instead, everything became focused on getting you to try the streaming service.
With the ability to listen offline, Apple Music completely blurs the lines between your purchased downloads and music you find in streaming. When you are under “My Music” on your iPhone or iPad, all your selected music, whether downloaded or just streamed, looks the same. Thus, Apple is playing a role in changing people’s understanding of your music. It’s no longer what you own, but it’s what you listen to. All music is available to snatch up and be listened to in the instance of a quick search.
With Beats 1 Radio, Apple also offers an alternate to Satellite (Sirus XM) and Terrestrial (AM/FM) Radio, for people that prefer someone else to curate their listening for them. Already, Beats 1 is off to a great start, with mixtapes/radio hours from tons of influential artists, including Dr. Dre, Elton John, and St. Vincent. Apple is making sure there is a curated option for every music fan under the sun.
Some bugs remain, that will keep Apple Music from becoming a complete no-brainer. For example, there is no easy way, beyond a syncing workaround, to get your music that’s not on Apple Music (say a local artist or an album that hasn’t released is not yet on iTunes) on your device. You can essentially turn Apple Music off, get it added, and then turn it back on, but this is a time-consuming affair. There are plenty of other little kinks Apple still has to work out, but I’m guessing a few software updates later, Apple music will be pretty much all you want it to be.
My prediction is by the end of 2016, streaming and vinyl will be the two largest sources of revenuefor consuming music. Yes, those are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, but vinyl still scratches the itch of audiophiles who love the tangible aspect of a record and listening intentionally an album at a time. Streaming speaks to our sense of wanting everything now, on-the-go, and for the lowest price possible, only $9.99 a month. It will be interesting how artists survive this new form, but it could be more exposure for artists, and getting some money (if just pennies) from people who may have been downloaded their records illegally through file-sharing before, is a small step up. The music industry continues to be in the wilderness.
The last month has brought two high-profile surprise albums in U2’s Songs of Innocence and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. As we all know, there can only be one surprise album champion, so I thought I would go through five rounds of criteria (announcement, distribution, price, reach, and ultimately, the music) to decide who won the September Surprise Shakedown. Two men enter the ring, only one can leave.
Round #1: Announcement
U2: The Irish lads of U2 have long aimed to be the biggest band in the world (and at times have been), so unsurprisingly they used the most anticipated media event of the fall in Apple’s Summit introducing the iPhone 6 and iWatch, to announce their album. They even came out onstage, performed a couple of the new songs, and had an awkward exchange with Apple CEO Tim Cook. During the presentation, they revealed the album would instantly be in your iTunes upon the announcement, even if it didn’t set up that nicely. It was a big announcement, but a bit botched.
Thom Yorke: On a slow-news Friday, Thom Yorke announced in letter co-authored with long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich that he was experimenting with a new form that would bypass the normal gates of distribution and was experimenting with a way that put the power in the creators’ hands. This was much more low-key, but much more intimate towards fans.
Winner: Thom Yorke
Round #2: Distribution
U2: Using the biggest online music store to distribute a free album certainly sounds like a good idea on the surface, but Apple and U2 couldn’t have botched it worse. U2 would have been looked upon honorably if Apple would have just left Songs of Innocence in the iTunes store to be searched for and downloaded. Instead, Apple persisted the music onto every iTunes library and cloud connected Apple device, causing the album to feel more spam than a nice gift on the house.
Thom Yorke: Quite opposite of iTunes, Yorke used BitTorrent, a program notorious for illegally shared and pirated music, for his form of distribution. This definitely has to help his indie cred with such a subversive approach.
Winner: Thom Yorke
Round #3: Price
U2: It’s hard to argue with free, but it does seem to take away from the charitable aspect of it when you realize Apple reportedly paid U2 $100 million for the rights to distribute it for free. Regardless of what the band was paid though, free is a clear advantage to the listener.
Thom Yorke: Yorke sold Tomororow’s Modern Boxes for a very reasonable $6, on again a download software notorious for free and illegal music. This is an interesting and no doubt surprising approach.
Round #4: Reach
U2: Through its spammy approach, U2 did reach over half a billion iTunes customers, which is truly mind-blowing. And even though all we are hearing about is the kids who are trying to do whatever they can to remove the stale-old Dad rock from their iPhones, there were clearly tons of people for whom Songs of Innocence was their first experience with U2, they loved it, and wanted more. In fact, 26 of U2 albums (including various greatest hits collections) made the iTunes top #100, which is unprecedented that they owned more than a quarter of the top 100.
Thom Yorke: The biggest downfall of Yorke’s approach is how BitTorrent isn’t owned by half a billion people like iTunes, although there is still close to 150 million users. The average layperson probably doesn’t know what BitTorrent is, but that’s not really who Yorke is targeting his music towards. I would guess that the majority of Yorke’s fans know and use BitTorrent often, so I think he is reaching exactly who he wants to.
The Main Event: The Music
U2: When it comes down to it, you have to believe Apple didn’t listen to Songs of Innocence before offering U2 $100 million because it’s about as mediocre as U2 has been in quite some time. It’s the sound of U2 recycled through modern rock music and then mimicked by U2. Basically U2 replicating U2 Wannabes. On my favorite podcast of the moment, the hilarious U Talkin’ U2 to Me, Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott actually gushed over the new album for two hours, which shocked me since it was the first truly positive thing I have heard about the album. Regardless of what Scott and Scott think though, beyond Lykke Li’s guest spot on “Troubles”, this is an instantly forgettable album.
Thom Yorke: This is the most definitive winner, as Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is miles better than Songs of Innocence. It’s tender, dense, and mesmerizing from start to finish. While it falls slightly short of The Eraser (which I love), it instantly deserves to be in end of year consideration.
Who watches commercials anymore? I certainly don’t. Unless it is a live sporting event, there is just no reason to subject yourself to them. Luckily though, when we are a captive audience, there is once in awhile a commercial worth watching. For the list this week, we decided to celebrate the return of Mad Men with a top ten list of pop songs used in commercials. So, let’s celebrate Harry Crane’s commercial magic and delve right in. As always, let us know what we missed. Enjoy!
Our Bonnaroo coverage continues, and Todd and I are still feeling the Bonnaroo hangover so to speak – longing to be dehydrated, sun-poisoned, and soaking in hours upon hours of excellent music. Since we can’t seem to get our minds off of Roo, without further ado, here are our ten favorite acts from Bonnaroo 2012. Continue reading “Top Ten Thursday: Bonnaroo’s Best Acts”
I admittedly didn’t give Chairlift much of a fair shake upon their initial breakthrough from what’s becoming a more and more ordinary form of breaking out, being featured on a commercial. Not just any ordinary commercial, but the Colorado electro-pop duo’s “Bruises” was featured on the much envied Apple commercial, which has helped break open such bands as Feist, Jet, Grouplove, CSS, and more. I had heard Chairlift’s debut album, Does You Inspire You, once upon its release and admittedly brushed it off as standard cutesy girl-pop in the realm of Ingrid Michaelson and Regina Spektor. Continue reading “Chairlift Review: Something”
As up-to-date as I stay on music, I’m not always an early adopter when it comes to the latest music technologies. When everything went digital, I had a hard time giving away the tangible feel of CDs, which now I would never waste time buying, but at the time seemed like a huge thing to sacrifice. Now that everything is going to the cloud, I am again having a hard time of giving away the possession of an MP3 file. Continue reading “iTunes Match: A Cancer to my Music Library”