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Apple ads boost artists’ profile, sales

Commercials often result in overnight stardom

No one knows exactly when Apple commercials morphed into musical tastemakers, but being featured in an Apple ad doesn’t just turn musicians into household names — it often translates to a substantial increase in sales.

After Canadian pop chanteuse Feist’s song “1234” was used to peddle the iPod Nano in September, it skyrocketed from 2,000 downloads per week to as high as 73,000. Propelled by the iPod commercial, her album “The Reminder” became 2007’s biggest selling album on iTunes.

While Apple has balanced well-knowns (such as U2 and Mary J. Blige) with unknowns, a company spokesperson asserts there is no set formula for picking artists used in campaigns.

British pop duo the Ting Tings sealed the deal with Apple at a showcase at the South by Southwest festival in March; its single “Shut Up and Let Me Go” was then featured in an iPod commercial in April.

Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim was plucked out of obscurity when her lilting pop song “New Soul” accompanied the Macbook Air ads in January. Naim has said that how Apple found her song was a mystery.

But without radio airplay or a major label push, the song debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, there have been more than a million paid downloads of “New Soul”; in contrast, Naim’s album has sold 100,522 copies.

Brazilian dance act CSS released its album “Cansei de Ser Sexy” on Sub Pop records in 2006 to critical fanfare but lackluster sales.

A year later, a British teenager made a video using CSS’ “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” to highlight the powers of his iPod Touch, then posted it on YouTube. Apple marketers saw the video, thought using the song was a good idea, and aired an official iPod commercial in October 2007.

Tony Kiewel, head of A&R at Sub Pop, credits the ad for the dramatic increase in singles downloads and iTunes album sales for CSS. “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” is the label’s third best-selling single, and has been downloaded 240,000 times since its release. “It definitely raised CSS’ profile,” he says.

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