The best advertisers are not simply salespeople. In order to be successful, they must become storytellers. Advertisers don’t merely list the qualities of a commodity; they use commodities to tell us stories about ourselves. They attempt to distill our world into a thirty-second increment, or an image, or a smell, or a sound. If we do buy the commodity mentioned in an advertisement, it is rarely because we require it to achieve some mundane, material purpose; it is because that commodity has somehow become a transformative figure in our own stories, forging a connection that feels simultaneously intimate and universal.
In Jazz Sells: Music, Marketing, and Meaning, Mark Laver explores how advertisers have used jazz to make these stories that much more impactful, and to transform commodities from the merely utilitarian into the seemingly transcendent. Combining advertising and music history with current ethnographic research, Laver surveys the last century of jazz-based advertising, marketing, and branding in North America and Europe. He unravels the complicated web of cultural meanings and values that attend to jazz in the 21st century, examines the role the advertising industry has played in helping to construct and affirm jazz’s position in popular culture, and describes how jazz has been implicated in the international proliferation of the ideology of consumer capitalism.