Relatively speaking, K’naan’s 2009 song, “Wavin’ Flag” was fairly successful. The track spent 17 weeks on Billboard magazine’s Canadian Hot 100 chart, and peaked at the number 11 spot. But the song wound up gaining a second life a year after its release, when Coca-Cola used it as the official anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The November issue of Fast Company, breaks down how K’naan parlayed his relative hit into an international smash with 20 different versions for sale on iTunes.
“Coke paid A&M/Octone and K’naan a $150,000 sponsorship fee, along with a fee of between $7,500 and $25,000 for each performance,” writes Rick Tetzeli. “To reduce Coca-Cola’s costs, K’naan agreed to trim the size of his band. Coke got 50% of the royalties on the Celebration Mix. To boost the song’s international appeal, K’naan customized 18 Celebration Mixes for specific countries, with local musicians singing up to half the lyrics in their language.”
Troubadour, the K’naan album that spawned “Wavin’ Flag” has sold 59,000 units in the US and Canada combined. Yet the amount of money from all 20 versions of the paid, digital version of the song should more than make up for that. Sales of Coke also rose 5 percent in the second quarter of 2010, a gain CEO Muhtar Kent attributed directly to the campaign. K’naan views the fact that his song was transformed into what is essentially a global commercial as a positive.
“It might sound arrogant or stupid,” K'naan added, “but I feel so outrageously authentic at what I do that the question of selling out or not selling out doesn't even enter my head. I think people who worry about this must already be worried about their true credibility. I'm just interested in, ‘How do we get my message out?’”