Going for a song: brands make pop lyrics the new sales weapon

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The Independent Culture

The great Rock 'n' Roll Supermarket is a phenomenon that may have been beyond even the broad imagination of Malcolm McLaren, Svengali of the Sex Pistols.

Yet music has emerged as the medium of choice for the marketing and advertising industries, which are using the pop charts to sell everything from jeans and trainers to mobile telephones. Even the supermarkets are part of the act, with the Asda jingle reaching the top five, after it was mixed into the Louise single "Don't Give Up", which raises money for the charity Breast Cancer Care.

The Mercury prizewinner Dizzee Rascal has been endorsed by the sportswear giant Nike after mentioning the company's Air Force One trainers in his single "Fix Up, Look Sharp".

And while Madonna may not have benefited commercially from asserting in her latest single that "I drive a Mini Cooper/And I'm feeling super-duper", she does from her relationship with Gap, which offers customers CDs of her musical advert for the American clothing company, made with the rapper Missy Elliott.

Whereas once music artists ran a mile from any association with the unseemly world of business, exploiting all available commercial vehicles is no longer seen as selling out.

John Harlow, a partner in the advertising agency Naked, believes the relationship between the music industry and branding companies has been transformed.

"The commercial brand world used to be quite a dirty word," he said. "Artists in the old days would say, 'I don't want to be involved with that'. But the dynamics have changed. Record sales are right down. There is a new era of collaboration."

With the logos of companies and brands such as Virgin, Tennants, Carling and Budweiser now omnipresent at British music festivals, the public has become less resistant to branding, even when it directly associates an artist with a product.

Mr Harlow said: "People in the music industry are now more interested in a bands and brands tie-up, which they never used to be."

Business is also taking advantage of the urban dance scene, having realised that music provides an opportunity to connect with a teenage market that is notoriously difficult to reach through more traditional advertising channels.

Dizzee Rascal is linked to Nike; So Solid Crew have an arrangement with Adidas; Puma supports Wayne Wonder and Black Eyed Peas; and Virgin Mobile has struck up an association with the British act Pay As You Go Crew.

Matt Mason, editor of RWD urban music magazine, said: "It's very competitive out there. All these different companies are on to these artists really early now. They go after them and get them in their latest clothes. Younger audiences are getting harder and harder to communicate with and brands are realising this is a way to do that."

Some of the more entrepreneurial American rappers have recognised the potential commercial impact of identifying a brand in their lyrics and have made product ranges to promote through their music. The hip-hop mogul Damon Dash struck a deal with the Scottish distiller William Grant and Sons to buy the Armadale vodka brand, named after a small town in West Lothian. Dash's partner, the rapper Jay-Z, has since promoted Armadale in his lyrics, with its clothing range Roc-A-Fella, which is modelled by Victoria Beckham.

Arnon Woolfson, the producer of the Louise single, set up his company, the Music and Media Partnership, after he realised that branding opportunities were being missed. He said music carried a feelgood factor that other potential advertising channels lacked.

"The music industry spends millions upon millions every year trying to reach exactly the same target groups as many of the brands," he said. "We have put together partnerships that benefit both the brands and the music industry."

Mr Woolfson has produced compilation albums that include branding on the cover for such names as Haagen-Dazs, Evian and Sunkist.

Lyrical Sales: The Product Placements

Louise and Asda

'Don't give up'

Wherever you go, whatever you do

I'll be by your side, so don't give up

No matter how high, the mountain you climb

You're strong deep inside, so don't give up

Madonna and Missy Elliott and Gap

'Into The Hollywood Groove'

You gonna love us in our new Gap jeans

We walk by people ask where you get them jeans

On fire call the emergency

G, A capital P, you know how we

Let me go and do my thing

I bring it hard on the track if you know what I mean

Hollywood and New York, Madonna is the queen

Misdemeanor say Gap

is the best

Dizzee Rascal and Nike

'Fix Up Look Sharp'

Flushin' MCs down the loo, if you don't believe me bring your posse, bring your crew, feel free to hate coz I ain't tryin' to be your mate, be serious you wouldn't last an hour in my shoe, it's an Air Force 1, trainers by the truck load

Pay As U Go Crew and Virgin Mobile

'Star Signs'

As I got to my yard my tool got hard,

We entered the bedroom, no holds barred,

I felt big, I felt large, I felt like a mobile, fully charged,

And then I realised there was summink wrong,

I went all the way with nothing on, I wanted to stop, I had to go on,

The feeling inside was way too strong

How ya mean

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