Let's face it, with fewer and fewer people actually buying music these days, it's hard for independent musicians to climb out of the overcrowded scene and make some money at their craft. One of the surefire ways to pad your wallet is to license your music to advertisements. If done with taste (Volkswagen's Nick Drake commercials, for example) you can see a peak in sales as well, but if done poorly (like Of Montreal's terrible Outback Steakhouse jingle) you might get hit with that mighty "sell-out" tag. In a surprisingly open and straightforward manner, Portland's well-known ad agency Wieden+Kennedy has started Lunchbox, a series of daytime concerts in their building that aim to bridge the gap between performing artists and those who license their music. It's an interesting twist on the usually unspoken world of music licensing, and W+K's Briana Bononcini is here to tell us why she gets to spend her lunches with Cut Chemist, while I sit alone at my desk with a half-eaten Hot Pocket.
Can you give a brief overview of the Lunchbox series?
BRIANA BONONCINI: The concept of Lunchbox is to bring emerging national acts to Wieden+Kennedy to play a four to six song set followed by a short Q&A. This gives bands an opportunity to showcase their songs for a crowd that not only is very receptive to new music, but also opens the opportunity that their songs could potentially be used in an advertising campaign. Bands such as Art Brut, the Cold War Kids, Ladytron, the Rapture, and Cut Chemist have all played at W+K as part of this series.
How does someone not associated with W+K become one of the "few invited members of the public" who attend these concerts?
For those who don't work here, I will send out emails to people interested in coming a day or two before one of our shows and bring them in. Other W+K employees are allowed to bring friends with them for the show also.
Do you think that being open and honest with the intention of Lunchbox (placing indie music in commercial advertisements) helps get rid of the negative "sell-out" stigma of music licensing?
I think there are always going to be people on both sides of the "sell-out" issue. People don't buy CDs like they used to and commercials can be a great way of getting your music exposed to a wide audience. We saw that happen with Jet and other bands that had their songs put in ads and the singles took off. Commercials can be an amazing art form when they are well done and thoughtful, and the right music used absolutely adds to a piece as a whole.
Do you think there is a fine line between tasteful and tacky when it comes to bands licensing their material for commercials?
Yes, but that is for the band to decide what that is and what their limit is. W+K is a great place for bands to showcase their material because you don't see things that aren't thoughtful or lacking in quality get by here.