Sunday’s Super Bowl featured more current hits in commercials than have been seen in recent memory – if ever – which is already reaping sales and awareness benefits for new tracks from U2, Passenger, Zedd, Skylar Grey and others. So how did the top three publishers net out? With record totals all around – 14 for Sony/ATV (celebrating its second Super Bowl post-EMI merger), 10 for Warner/Chappell and 9 for Universal Music Publishing (tying its 2013 record).
Advertising chiefs at the top publishers credit their label partners’ role in bringing more master recordings to the marketplace this year. Interscope alone had five acts with current hits featured (U2, Aloe Blacc, Skylar Grey, One Republic and Zedd), and leveraged its Twitter audience of 517,000-plus followers to get the word out in real time. And Sony’s Columbia and Legacy groups were both instrumental in helping Bob Dylan score a pair of licenses (including an on-camera endorsement for Chrysler). “When we partner with them, as far as pitching or helping to make the deal, their presence and discussion helps bring the results to fruition,” says Ron Broitman, Warner/Chappell’s EVP-head of synchronization.
Case in point: Atlantic, whose artist Bruno Mars not only headlined the Halftime Show but was also featured via synchs in spots for Pepsi and Hyundai.
“We started the conversation with Pepsi at the very beginning of his album cycle in that they were some of the first people to hear Bruno’s latest music,” says Camille Hackney, Atlantic’s EVP-brand partnerships and commercial licensing. “Three months before the album came out [in 2012] we brought them in for a private session, and ever since then we’ve been trying to find a great way to work with them. They were fully supportive of him as the Halftime performer and we all realized that this was the best way to work together. And that his song ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ was featured in their TV commercial called “The First Halftime” that ran for several weeks leading up to the Superbowl made it all come full circle.”
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The focus on current vs. catalog extended to some of the night’s most-watched spots, particularly Passenger’s “Let Her Go” from Budweiser’s latest Clydesdales commercial. Several more recognizable songs from the past were in the running, including Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and a planned re-recording of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” — before the current Hot 100 Top 10 was selected. Brand-new tracks from Zedd and Afrojack were also featured in spots by Anheuser-Busch, the night’s most active advertiser.
“We’ve had some synchs on it before, but now we’re starting to see it move and people talk about it,” says Brian Monaco, exec VP of Sony/ATV’s commercial music group, says of the Passenger synch. “Anheuser-Busch really took a lot of chances this year.”
The focus on newer music also meant higher synch revenue for artists, many of whom signed one-year broadcast-plus-online deals and commanded as much as low-six figures apiece for both publishing and master fees. U2, however, kept their compensation from (RED)’s 60-second spot pro bono, in keeping with the free iTunes downloads of new single “Invisible” the band was promoting in partnership with Bank Of America.
Could the hit-based trend continue next year? As long as advertisers continue to see positive results from helping break new music, say publishers. “Online viewing has really given these spots a decent shelf-life — it’s become a critical component ,” says Brian Lambert, Universal’s exec VP-head of film and television music. “Spots that used to be talked about for maybe a week are now being seen for a month or 13 weeks or even a year, so you want a song that’s going to give it some legs.”