Indie Music on Television Shows and Commercials

I have only recently started watching TV again, and I’ve noticed more and more that advertisers are using Indie, Trip Hop and other non-mainstream music to sell their products.

It’s no surprise that music is a major component in the television experience. Since the days of the WB and Dawson’s creek, producers have been using popular music and visual media to fuel the experience as a whole. This was also an excellent form of encouraging music sales in the wake of Napstergate in 2000.

The part that is surprising to me is that what I’m seeing and hearing now is usually an Indie or Trip Hop track that hasn’t been heard in a while. This is my list of several instances that I’ve seen over the last month or so. I feel that some of this trend has to do with the “coolness” associated with the iPod advertising. I could be completely wrong, but it seems that after they started using Indie music to send the message of “young”, “hip”, “cool” and “non-mainstream-ness”, other advertisers began using this tactic as well.

Another reason why there’s a sudden influx of “cool” music being used to accompany other media could be that the kids who listened to it, and still do, are all grown up now and getting jobs. A lot of the people behind the scenes of these agencies are probably in board meetings pulling their music suggestions right out of their iPods or CDs they listened to in High School.

In another area not directly related to advertising, the 2004 independent film Garden State and it’s soundtrack made excellent use of Indie music as a major component. Nearly every person I know has that soundtrack in rotation… even 3 years after the fact (Guilty)!

I know there are tons of examples of this phenomenon. But here are a few instances that I’ve noticed over the last month or so.

Johnny Walker Black commercial featuring Supreme Beings of Leisure’s Never the Same (Released Feb. 2000).

Microsoft Zune television ad featuring The Shins’ Sleeping Lessons (Released Jan. 2007).

Here also is the one that everyone is talking about: Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed video game commercial featuring Massive Attack’s Teardrop (Released Apr. 1998).

Others examples include:

  • Sears Back To School 2007 – Junior Senior, “Hip Hop A Lula”
  • Samantha Who Pilot Commercial – Bittersweet, “Dirty Laundry”
  • Victoria’s Secret Commercial Fall 2007 – Bittersweet, “Dirty Laundry”
  • Victoria’s Secret Commercial Fall 2007 – Dinah Washington, Verve Remixed Vol. 1, “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”
  • Apple iPhone Commerical – Orba Squara, “Perfect Timing”
  • Apple iPod Touch Commercial – Cansei de ser Sexy (CSS), “Music is My Hot Hot Sex”
  • XM Radio Commercial – DJ Mehdi feat. Chromeo, “I Am Somebody”
  • Apple, Welcome to Macintosh Theme Song (2006/7) – Sofa Surfers, “Sofa Rockers”
  • AT&T, ‘More Bars’ Commercial – Amos Lee, “Sweet Pea”
  • Rush Hour 3 DVD Commercial – Junior Senior, “Hip Hop A Lula”
  • Gerber Baby Commercial – Devotchka, “How It Ends”

I could go on, but you get the point. It’s a pretty cool tactic, though. It’s funny how now, tons of forums and Yahoo Answers pages start with the question: “What was that song playing on the _________ commercial?”



  1. Mayhem writes:

    Lets not forget Apple kinda setting the trend once again with 1,2,3,4 – Feist. At least that’s when I started picking up on it

  2. fred writes:

    I can’t agree more. I have this website where people look for and post songs they heard in the tv shows and it’s amazing the number of new indie artists that get featured in tv shows.

    It’s funny because when the artist is mainstream, his/her song gets added very quickly to the site but when the artist is indie, people wonders, then some figures it out and everyone gets happy.