5 May 2008 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Music, Technology, TV commericals

iPod commercials and the 30-30 rule

Some people think 2:42 is the perfect length for a song. On further consideration, I’m thinking 30 seconds.


Gradually, maybe over ten years, TV commercials have emerged as the best way to debut new music. Not radio (Over!), not MTV, not AOL, not MySpace. It’s great if you can get your song into an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s even better if you can get your song into something like a car commercial. Years ago, music fans would turn against bands that they thought were corporate sell-outs. Now I think audiences are so wise to the entertainment marketing machine that nobody is shocked to learn that some musicians are in it for the money.

For a few impossibly lucky bands, success comes in the form of an Apple commercial (like the two videos above). It’s a safe bet that Apple doesn’t have to pay these bands a dime to license their music. The labels probably lobby Apple pretty hard to get songs into these ads.

Apple advertising songs are their own genre. The tunes are happy, upbeat. They are from bands that sound familiar but that you’ve never heard of. They have a uniform volume level, so they sound good through a set of uninsulated iPod headphones in a train or on a treadmill. And most of all, they sound absolutely tight the first time you hear them in a 30 second commercial (which, coincidentally, is the length of a song preview on iTunes). But these songs aren’t destined to become classics or outshine the product they are advertising. The novelty wears out and they get tiresome just in time to make room for the next song — and the next Apple product.

Let’s coin a 30-30 rule for iPod commercial songs: They sound great in 30 second clips, and they wear out after 30 plays.

Today, I can’t get enough Yael Naïm’s “New Soul” and The Ting Ting’s “Shut Up and Let Me Go.” Ask me in six months if I can even remember the names of these artists.