Steven Van Zandt on Music and Ads

CANNES, FRANCE Steven Van Zandt, the Sopranos star, E Street Band member, DJ and owner of Wicked Cool Records, discussed music in advertising at the third Grey music seminar at Cannes on Wednesday.

He told the audience at the packed Debussy Theatre at the Palais that “there is better music on TV commercials than on radio these days.” In a discussion with Grey vice chairman and worldwide chief creative officer Tim Mellors, Van Zandt talked about the evolution of the relationship between advertising and music, recalling the days when a commercial endorsement would end a musician’s career, not create it, the way it does today. “There are no negatives anymore,” he said. “There was no marriage between advertising and rock ‘n’ roll. If you had a song in commercials, your career would be over.

Now, things have reversed. If you don’t have a song in commercials, you’re in trouble these days.” Van Zandt said he’s spent the last few years talking to agencies “to convince them to not always go with the big stars.” He added that brands can get a “different bang for your buck” if they help break an artist. While he’s seen progress, Van Zandt admitted that a 360-degree relationship between artists and brands, where a brand adopts a band, uses them in commercials and sponsors their tour and Web site, “hasn’t quite happened yet.”

The session ended with a well-received performance by the Cocktail Slippers (see the video below), an all-female Norwegian band signed to Van Zandt’s label. They sound a lot like the Go-Go’s with a garage-band edge. Expect them in an ad shortly.