Musicians chart with TV ad airplay

You've probably seen this commercial: One hapless Kia driver after the next pulls up to a gas pump, only to discover the gas cap is on the other side. The implication is you'll fill up these fuel-efficient cars so infrequently, you'll have trouble remembering which side is correct.

You might have a harder time getting the fun television spot's music off your mind. Over the jingle-jangle strumming of a guitar, a guy sings:

I just can't seem to get it right today
Just can't seem to get it right today
Just can't seem to get it right today
I guess I'm gonna give up
Oooh, I guess I'm gonna give up. ...

The engaging ditty is "Can't Get It Right Today" by Joe Purdy, a folksy troubadour from Arkansas.

"I don't get a chance to be funny very often with my music, because it tends to be on the serious side, so I grabbed the opportunity," Purdy says. "I thought it was a hilarious commercial."

He isn't the only up-and-comer whose career has gotten a boost from licensing music to a commercial.

"Love Song" by pop chanteuse Sara Bareilles became a Top 5 smash after it was featured in a Rhapsody spot. Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am" graced an Old Navy commercial; now Michaelson, who's playing Atlanta's Variety Playhouse Tuesday, is gearing up for a summer tour with the Dave Matthews Band. And the indie-rock stylings of Peter, Bjorn and John have reached a wider audience via ads for Levis and Pontiac.

No wonder Purdy says TV is "the new radio."

If he's right, then Apple must be the new Alan Freed. When it comes to marketing campaigns with hip music, the high-tech company has led the way via its eye-popping, ear-opening iPod commercials, which depict silhouettes rocking and rolling to choice tracks by CSS, the Fratellis, Steriogram and others.

Canadian songbird Feist saw weekly sales of her latest album, "The Reminder," triple after the video for her singsong ballad "1234" found its way into an iPod commercial. The song became a Top 10 hit, and Feist went on to earn four Grammy nominations.

"There was no harm done there," Feist says with a laugh, referring to her iPod tie-in.

She approved the iPod commercial because she's a bit of a tech geek, plus she likes Apple's design sensibility.

A new iPod commercial features "Shut Up and Let Me Go," a booty-shaking number by the Ting Tings. The spot premiered in April. Now the members of the British electro-pop duo are far too in demand to answer a few questions for this story, or so their publicist says.

Executives at Apple and at TBWA/Chiat/Day, the ad agency responsible for the iPod commercials, also declined interview requests.

The music in those iPod spots almost has become a genre unto itself. Call it "iPop." You know the type (of song): breezy lyrics and bohemian accompaniment delivered by some artist you can't quite place.

Then again, the phenomenon isn't limited to iPod commercials — or to unsung heroes. Madonna's single "4 Minutes" recently made its premiere in a Sunsilk shampoo spot. And John Mellencamp's "Our Country" is Chevrolet's de facto theme song.

When the Beatles' "Revolution" was licensed for a Nike commercial in 1987, there was a spirited debate about "selling out." Such high-minded talk is rarer these days, although Wilco took flak last year from some fans when the alt-rock group licensed its music for a series of Volkswagen commercials.

"With the commercial radio airplay route getting more difficult for many bands (including Wilco), we see this as another way to get the music out there," the band explained in a statement on its Web site.

For a struggling musician, landing the right song in the right commercial can be like winning the lottery, says Jon Allen, co-owner of, a blog whose message boards are filled with posts about music in TV ads and other media, from movie soundtracks to video games.

"People don't get their music the way they did 10 or 20 years ago," Allen says. "Do you tune into FM radio or watch MTV for music videos on a regular basis? Where are these [artists] supposed to get their music heard?"

Purdy has put out nine self-released albums. "Can't Get It Right Today" originally appeared two years ago on "You Can Tell Georgia."

Like many commercials, the Kia ad doesn't identify the song title or the artist. Tracking down those details online is fairly easy, however.

If you Google the phrase "can't get it right today," the song pops up on numerous Web sites, Purdy notes.

"That's the beauty of the new world of television for artists like myself," he says.


The commercial: An electro-exotic fanfare and vocals with attitude herald the arrival of Bud Light Lime.
So what is that cool tune? "Creator" by Santogold, an edgy popster from Philadelphia. See the commercial

The commercial: People around the world pass the Heineken Premium Light while a super freak crows: "It's love! It's love! It's love! It's la-la-la-love!"
So what is that cool tune? "It's Love" by New Zealand punk veteran Chris Knox. See the commercial

The commercial: While a funky hip-hop groove sets the mood, hands flip through stacks of LPs in a spot for Zune.
So what is that cool tune? "Spaz" by N.E.R.D., the funky hip-hop pride of Virginia Beach, Va. See the commercial

The commercial: A Beatlesque anthem provides the perfect soundtrack for hipsters who unload a water slide from their Dodge Journey and convert a street into a splish-splash playground.
So what is that cool tune? "Sun Is Out" by the Apples in Stereo, an indie-rock band from Denver. See the commercial

The commercial: A guy juggles a soccer ball amid images that morph into a BlackBerry, to the accompaniment of a chugging guitar riff.
So what is that cool tune? "Live the Proof" by Philadelphia retro-rocker Jim Boggia. See the commercial

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.