Look What They've Done to My Song Meaning in Advertising

February 13, 2023

Look what they've done to my song meaning

The use of popular music in advertising stirs powerful feelings among artists and advertisers. Occasionally, they benefit greatly, but at other times, both parties have a battle to win.

One of the more memorable examples was a 2001 Wrangler commercial that used Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" in its advertising. The commercial was a powerful anti-Vietnam war statement, but Fogerty felt the song had been trivialized in the ad.

Another example was a Nike commercial that used the Beatles' "I Want to Buy You a New Drug." That was a classic case of using a song that an artist doesn't own, but which has acquired a secondary meaning which is associated with the product.

The Beatles sued Nike for using the song, but they were eventually settled out of court. The lawsuit also set a precedent that the original songwriter doesn't have to be paid when their song is used in a commercial.

Despite the many legal and ethical problems, it's difficult to deny that music is an important part of advertising. The use of popular songs in advertisements stirs powerful feelings among music writers, artists and the buying public. But licensing pop music in commercials is a delicate and expensive proposition, because artists don't own the rights to their songs. It's a battle of wills between the songwriter and the advertiser, and it often results in a schism between their goals.


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