Tom Waits is suing a European division of General Motors, claiming they used an imitation of his voice in one of their car commercials. Waits was approached on a number of occasions by an advertising firm who wished to use one of his songs. Each time he refused, so the advertising firm took it upon themselves to find someone who sounded like Waits and aired the commercial in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland earlier this year.
Waits has remarked, “apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad – ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor.” He is suing for damages on the grounds that the company violated his “personality rights.”
Other recent car advertising music, that I am aware of, has featured:
Grandaddy’s Nature Song
Aqueduct's Hardcore Days Softcore Nights
Donovan’s Catch the Wind
CIV's Can't Wait One Minute More
Buzzcocks’ Why Can't I Touch It
For the smaller bands, the money probably helps to keep them afloat and further away from having to obtain restrictive big-label contracts. Nonetheless, it is still shocking to hear these sound bites.
On a related note, you can see the trippy M&Ms commercial which features Iron & Wine’s cover of The Postal Service song Such Great Heights here:
Also, check out this 2001 New York Times article about "bands selling out":