Do Commercials Hurt the Artistic Quality of a Song?

Or, Do They Introduce a New Generation to Great Music?

If you’ve watched TV at all in the last few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly viewed the AT&T commercial “Rethink Possible” that shows landmarks around the country being draped in orange cloth. The song playing through the 30 second spot is a beautiful old song entitled “From the Morning” by the somewhat obscure British musician Nick Drake who took his own life back in the early 1970s. Nick unfortunately never found fortune or tremendous success in life, but his music has been used in commercials and in movie soundtracks many times. I personally think his music is truly amazing, and this is why I’m somewhat uncomfortable about it being played in the background of an AT&T commercial.

On the one hand, as a music lover, I appreciate that someone as talented as Nick Drake is now being heard by millions of people who are discovering his music for the first time. However, does listening to a clip of the song being played over and over every time the TV is turned on diminish the specialness of it?

Through the years, there have been many of these songs that have been snatched up by advertisers to promote various consumer products. When I was a kid, I certainly remember Harry Nilsson’s song “Me and my Arrow” being sung to push a not-so-sexy Plymouth Arrow and Paul Anka’s heart-wrenching ballad  “Times of Your Life” for Kodak. When I hear these songs now, I’m taken right back to 1975.

But, what about the songs used today? Will hearing Nick Drake remind kids of the cell phone coverage that AT&T provides? Will the commercial prompt them to find out more about this musician? Or, will they tire of the song first because of the far too frequent airing of the commercial?  

Well, from my perspective, I’m glad that there is a new found level of appreciation for Nick Drake. But, I think I want to hear his songs in their entirety and not connected with a telecommunication provider. His music is simple and pretty and not reflective at all of what AT&T stands for, and I would like to keep it that way.

Now, here’s my favorite of Nick Drake’s songs. It’s Northern Sky from 1970. To me, his music is timeless and doesn’t sound like 1970 at all. If you like it, there’s plenty more to hear on YouTube and iTunes. Enjoy!

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