There was a time when music for commercials came as a commercial property --securing rights and use from the original artists. Those artists who fought for artistic integrity and the avoidance of crass commercialism made sure that their music, lyrics and renditions were not available at any price.
So advertisers went a couple of different ways to add song to their messages.
One way was negotiation with the artist and organizations like ASCAP who could determine if rights to the composition would be available. I remember vividly studying advertising with a good friend in college who worked part time for ASCAP and when we created a Nabisco snacks campaign for a National student advertising competition sponsored by the American Advertising Federation, she was our conduit to insure the judges that the song we selected was up for grabs.
A classic ad example was for Nike who used the original recording of the Beatles’ “Revolution” in their ad for running shoes as negotiated with Capital-E.M.I. Records and S.B.K. (who represented Michael Jackson’s ownership of the publishing rights at the time). According to the reports, since “recordings carry two copyrights, for publishing (the words and music of a song) and for performance, as embodied in the recording” Apple Corps Ltd and Apple Records sued Nike since the Beatles received no payments at the time.
Part of the tangle of lawsuits had to do with the Beatles and their record companies too, but Nike was reported to stop airing ads with the song approximately within a year of the original airing.
Companies can, of course, purchase stock music and own the rights/use of this sound in their commercials. But in what appears to be the more of the trend is when ad agencies commission new musicians to create new songs for products.
This is clearly a win-win: brand identity and branded entertainment for the advertiser and quicker (if not instant) notoriety for the artist. Companies like Kraft, Chrysler, Pepsi-Cola, and Wm.Wrigley Jr. have taken this musical ride over the last few years with varied results.
Closer to home, from a consumer perspective, there’s a note by my computer that reads “song from Weber Grill commercial” on the list of songs my teenager wants to buy from iTunes.
She’s not a consumer for barbecue grills right now – but she’s likely to mention the name when we go to buy our next one for the household. That's exactly what the advertiser hopes.