Musicians from Moby to the estate of Nick Drake understand that one of the most effective ways to get your music in front of a large audience these days is via TV commercials. Especially ones that have "hey, you gotta see this!" YouTube appeal.
Even fake bands do well. Case in point: You've seen the FreeCreditReport.com band, right? The pirate hats? The Renaissance fair? Funny stuff, but that was a band manufactured (and lip-syncing) for the ad campaign. The next one will be real.
And maybe from Illinois. Rockford rock band The Poets Dance is one of four finalists vying for your vote this summer to be the next band hawking credit services.
To help launch a new Web site, FreeCreditScore.com, the Experian company -- which provides personal credit information for free once consumers have signed up for their paid credit-monitoring service -- conducted a nationwide talent search.
"The original band campaign started with a jingle I wrote three years ago in my basement," says Dave Muhlenfeld of the Martin Agency, which has produced the ads for Experian. "FreeCreditScore.com is a slightly different product, so we thought we'd bring in a new band, a band of actual musicians instead of people lip-syncing to session recordings. ... We had such success with the music in the campaign that it opened [Experian's] eyes and our eyes to the effectiveness of using pop music in ads in a way that hadn't been done yet. Instead of finding a band out there and getting them to sing your Pepsi song for $2 million, you can actually write music that can hold its own on radio and bring a higher level of writing to commercial music. It's not bringing back jingles, necessarily, but it works for both sides. Each recording [in this new campaign] keeps the sonic characteristics and personality of the bands."
That's what attracted members of The Poets Dance to the project. The agency contacted the young band and asked them to audition at the House of Blues.
"Our manager asked us almost joking: 'So you guys wanna try to be the new Free Credit Score band?'" says the band's Jarrett Kimberly. "Once we were satisfied that it was something that wasn't asking us to be something that wasn't us, we were like, 'Yeah, sure, why not?'"
This summer, the band found themselves in Los Angeles in the same studio where "We Are the World" was recorded in 1985. They laid down their 30-second tune for the ad, then they bumped into Eddie Van Halen in the hall.
"They have a really cool sound," Muhlenfeld says of The Poets Dance, which features two synthesizer players. "It's like Boys Like Girls or the Killers. With the two synthesizers, you'd think they program a lot of it with computers and ProTools, but they play all that stuff live."
The band, survived an initial online voting to be one of four finalists, with New York's I Love Monsters, L.A.'s Evolove and Detroit's The Victorious Secrets. (Three Chicago bands were semifinalists, Helicopters, BC and The Personnel.) Voting on the four videos began this week on FreeCreditScore.com and continues through Aug. 9. The finalists' commercials also began airing this week during baseball's All-Star Game.