The allure of a great cover song is undeniable. Can you imagine a world in which Aretha Franklin didn’t cover Otis Redding’s “Respect”? Where Whitney passed on Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You”? How about Lori Lieberman’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” first released in 1971, more famously recorded by Roberta Flack in 1973, and given yet another life when The Fugees covered it in 1996?
Sometimes a song’s cover version becomes the definitive version, but in almost all cases, audiences are receptive to a new spin on a classic track. Pairing a scene or advertisement with a recognizable song hooks us; a fresh take on the song reels us in.
Consider some of the re-imagined covers employed by marketers over the years to capture the attention of their target audience. A few years back, Chipotle used a more homespun version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” recorded by Willie Nelson, to lend their farm-to-table messaging more heart. Last year, a trailer for Fox’s “Logan” found its perfect soundtrack in Johnny Cash’s stark, haunting cover of the Nine Inch Nails track “Hurt”. Here at Greenlight, we’ve recently helped agencies reach their target audience with a couple of standout covers:
We brought MMM Healthcare’s campaign to life by clearing Prince Royce’s version of “Stand By Me,” which is appearing in both Spanish- and English-language spots across South Florida. Lyrically, “Stand By Me” strengthened the ad’s message, and use of a Latin arrangement by a major Latino artist broadened its appeal.
We cleared Jasmine Thompson’s cool, intimate version of “Ain’t Nobody” (originally made famous by Rufus & Chaka Kahn) for a new Gap Body campaign designed to remind us that nobody should love you better than you.
From the perspective of the campaign director or music supervisor, a contemporary take on a classic song is appealing not only because it can bring time-tested lyrics to a new audience (see also Lo Fang’s “You’re The One That I Want” for Chanel No. 5), but because it may also afford more budgetary freedom. Given that indie artists routinely cover hit songs as a means of gaining exposure, a creative licensing agent will trade on the value of the added exposure an ad, TV or film placement grants the cover, often clearing it for lesser licensing fees than the original might require.
A savvy rights agency like Greenlight will help identify the cover that is right for your creative messaging, or even deliver a performer and production team to craft a new cover that you introduce to the world for the first time.
In case you’re craving a cover songs playlist by now, we’ve got you, well, covered. Dream up your next captivating scene or ad spot while enjoying Greenlight’s favorite selection of cover tunes on Spotify.
Jake Terrell is a Sr. Manager, Rights and Clearances at Greenlight