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Journal of the
Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association
Volume 14, Number 1 (2014)

Songs As Branding Platforms? A Historical Analysis of People, Places, and Products in Pop Music Lyrics

Storm Gloor
University of Colorado Denver


    Artists have become decidedly more accustomed to partnering with product marketers. Typically, though, the relationships have involved tour sponsorships, endorsements, or the use of the artist’s music in commercials. There are plenty of examples of using popular music in advertising. However, how often has there been advertising in popular music? Artists are in a sense “brands.” Many of them appear to promote or acquaint audiences with their lifestyles through the music they create. Popular songs can serve not only as a mechanism for the subtle marketing of commercial consumer products, but also as a platform for marketing artists. Three types of branding devices are typically employed by songwriters: the mention of specific product brands, geographical places including cities and states, and well-known people (e.g., celebrities, cultural icons, and politicians). The aim of this study is to identify just how often these three types of lyrical references have occurred in popular songs through the years. How frequently have popular songs employed lyrics that may be serving the purpose of branding or advertising consumer products or the artists themselves, and are there observable trends regarding the practice over time?