Bright Eyes sells Zillow (and why it doesn’t matter); Corporate Cup post script (in the column); Swans (in Lincoln), Built to Spill tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:42 pm September 20, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

I was up late last night watching Iron Maiden: Flight 666 on Palladia. The 2009 documentary follows the band on its Somewhere Back in Time Tour — 50,000 miles by way of Ed Force One — a retrofitted Boeing 757 flown by the band’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson. Talk about your Spinal Tap lifestyle. Man, they love their Maiden in South America.

Anyway, during a commercial break on comes a familiar song — Bright Eyes “First Day of My Life” — selling, the online real estate website. Very tastefully done. You can view the commercial above, or on  YouTube here.

As far as I know (other than movie trailers) this was the first time a Bright Eyes recording was used in a TV commercial. In the old days upon seeing an ad like this indie music fans would jump on top of their milk-crate book cases, rip off their flannel shirts and self-righteously pound their chests screaming “SELL OUT!” at their TV screens.

But today, with the music industry drying up like last summer’s drought-baked crops, selling the rights to one of your songs for a TV commercial not only is grudgingly accepted, it’s recognized as just another necessity if you want to feed yourself by making music. In fact, having your music used in a commercial can even be something to be proud of as long as it’s not selling mundane products like baby-back ribs or maxi pads.

I don’t know anything about Zillow, but the company must be reputable or Oberst (probably) wouldn’t let one of his songs be used to sell it. Conversely, Zillow’s ad agency must be hyper-aware of Conor’s past highly vocal political stands and is leveraging that rep not only to attract a late-20s/early 30s demographic who grew up with his music but who also know that Oberst wouldn’t sell a company that screws people. If Conor says Zillow is OK, it must be OK, right?

Needless to say, Conor wasn’t thinking of Zillow when he wrote one of my favorite songs off I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, a song that according to Wikipedia also has been used in in the 2007 film Elvis and Anabelle and was featured in an episode of NBC’s Chuck. Should artists only be concerned solely about the original intent of their art and wash their hands with how it’s used beyond that original intent? I don’t think that they can be so cavalier. But in an era when most listeners are stealing music online or listening to it on sub-penny-per-play streaming services like Spotify, artists have little choice but to turn their heads when it comes to how their music is used in “secondary markets.” They gave birth to the child; they can’t be responsible for what it does after it leaves the nest…

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In this week’s column, an account of the Corporate Cup from the back of the pack. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader, or you can read it online right here.

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Fantastic show tonight… in Lincoln. Swans is playing at the Bourbon Theater. One of the most important post New Wave noise bands ever will be performing songs from their latest album, The Seer. Expect ear-bleeding volumes. This should be a fantastic show, too bad it’s in Lincoln and I have to work tomorrow morning. Opening is Xiu Xiu and Vverevvolf Grehv (Dapose from The Faint). $25, 9 p.m.

For those of us stuck here in Omaha, Built to Spill returns to The Slowdown. Doug Martsch and Co. should be named honorary Omahans considering the number of times they’ve played here in the last few years. Opening is Helvetia and Sister Crayon. $20, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile over at The Barley Street Tavern the Electroliners headline a show with Fizzle Like a Flood and Jessica Errett. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Last but not least, old school punk maniacs The Vibrators are playing at The Hideout, 320 So. 72nd St., with local old-school punkers Cordial Spew, SVS, The Shidiots and Barley and Hops (ex shaken babies). $8, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


  • I heard this the other day going into the shower.. I just caught it by chance walking past my room mate who was watching tv. I never watch tv so this was the first time I’d heard it. I was honestly let down. Considering the theme in most of his albums to see it side by side with yuppies in suburbia was pretty disappointing. His music is already widely popular and I’ve all but grown out of it by now, so it’s nothing like that. Just seemed wrong given the product. I mean online banking..

    Comment by whatevs — March 15, 2013 @ 4:23 am

  • Once upon a time he did say that he would sell himself to buy a fucking house.

    Comment by Chadwick — April 6, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

  • In the 80’s there was alternative. It was an alternative to the “selling you something” first attitude. Then in the 90s it became ” alternative means to sell you something” so what are indie artists who eschew major labels but in the end become the very thing theyare “iindependent” of? Bah.o/’ let the products sell themselves. Fuck advertising commercialism the psychological methods of selling should be destroyed o/’ – minutemen (the beer is paraphrasing a bit 😉 )

    Comment by tom.etc — May 3, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

  • I’m not such a music snob as to say that once Bright Eyes became “Mainstream” I lost interest in their music, HOWEVER, when I turned on the idiot box (something I rarely do), I was filled with more anger than usual as I watched the Zillow commercial.

    I mean another corporation that’s advocating bank lending/balloon payments, high interest rates, doesn’t care if you fall into foreclosure because you’ve landed on hard times, is out to make the highest profit possible, and promotes urban sprawl at the expense of wildlife, sacred land(s), and (I’m sure) gentrification— Capitalism at its best!

    I know musicians have to make money. I come from a family of struggling musicians, so I get it, but I hardly believe that at this point in his career Oberst is what one might define as a struggling musician. Last time I checked he’s still selling albums and playing to sold out shows…

    Well you won’t find me at his next show. I don’t need help from a corporate sponsor taking my ticket who wants to show to my seat and also to my next 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom home in the suburbs. Good thing too. They’d only be wasting their time… My credit’s FUCKED ASSHOLES!!!

    Comment by Zion Creagh — June 28, 2013 @ 8:23 am

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