The Doors and advertising

John Densmore, drummer for The Doors, wrote an interesting article in a recent edition of The Nation, in which he discusses the continued refusal of The Doors to allow their music to be used in commercials and other publicity and advertising campaigns. Interestingly, back when Jim Morrison was alive, the band had a clause written into their royalty agreement that said that every member of the group had veto power when it came to making such decisions, so any commercial use of The Doors’ music had to be unanimous. Nowadays, according to Densmore, keyboardist Ray Manzarek is constantly pushing the other two (Densmore and Robby Krieger) to accept the corporate cash, but they are holding out because they believe that it would cheapen the music, and because they don’t need the money.

I must say that, given all the good songs that have been partially ruined for me by their constant play in certain commercials, i have quite a bit of respect for Densmore and Krieger’s position (Densmore also seems to take a rather anti-corporate, anti-capitalist position, which i find quite heartening, but maybe that’s a topic for another thread). I was just wondering what other Dopers think when their favourite recording artist’s songs end up on a commercial for a computer or an SUV or some hair product. Does it give you the shits, or do you just think, “Hey, take the money and run”?

In some (or perhaps too many) cases, the publishing rights are owned by a third-party, such as the recording company or the highest bidder. Michael Jackson owns Northern Songs (the early Beatles).

There’s lots of money in jingles. Using popular music is much cheaper than employing slave labor in the Brill building, where folks like Neil Diamond and Carole King wrote original jingles.

Wouldn’t we all be using Hunts Catsup were it not for Carly Simon’s ‘Anticipation’ in the Heinz commercial?

The Rolling Stones (including Sir Mick) were approached by Bill (the) Gates who wanted to buy “Start Me Up” to promote some software Microsquish put out in 1995. Accounts vary, but word is it went like this: (BtG): How much? (TRS): "<ungodly figure in the multimillions> (BtG) ::writes check::

I’m disenchanted with how Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend have sold the rights to their songs. He says something like 'they’re our songs… "

But…but… this is art. The Who are fortunate to receive accolades for their songs and performances while they’re alive. And it’s good that we heard them. Yet, maybe the body of their work is ‘ours’ (their fans) too. They’ve cheapened it. No doubt.

There was one commercial, for VW bugs a couple years ago that did a swell job with what I believe was a Nico song.

Ray Manzarek is an artist. I hope there’s some way for him to protect his/Robbies/Jim’s songs for at least 100 years (right?).

Nothing can compare to having The Dead Kennedy’s song ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ playing in a GAP commercial. I think it was for Gap, anyway, or some similar company. Jello Biafra must be spinning in his grave. And yes, he is dead.

Just thought of a good slogan that could have been used if the Doors did sell out:

Kingston® Charcoal. Come on baby, light my fire.


Let me see if I’ve got this straight.
The songs of The Whowere art, until they sold the rights off for commercials, at which point the songs lost all artistic value.

Get outta here.

There’s a REALLY simple solution to this: when the commercial using The Who’s music comes on, change the station.

And Pete Townshend is correct. They are “his songs.” In no way, shape or form are they yours or anybody else’s unless you care to pony up $50 -100 million to buy The Who’s song catalog. then you can do whatever the fuck you want with them.

Pete Townshend never wrote any songs with you in mind.

As far as the Doors music being used in commercials, it’s funny because they DID sell the rights to several songs including Light My Fire, although in that case, the Doors were forced by Morrison to renege on the deal.

According to the book: When The Music’s Over, Kreiger, Manzarek & Densmore went back to LA after their 1968 world tour, while Jim snuck off to London without telling the other 3. Back in LA the other 3 got a sizebale offer from Buick to use Light My Fire in a commercial. Morrison couldn’t be reached, but Kreiger, with the support of the others, decided to sell the rights to the song.

It’s not called the music business because acts and the record companies want to lose money.

I used to feel bad about it, especially with songs like “Revolution,” but I’ve mellowed on the subject since. After all, it’s only a song.

While his stance may be admirable, I wonder if he would do it if he didn’t have a nice cushion of royalties to sit on.

(Of course, I was far more positive in another thread about the same stance by the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, but that’s different . . . that’s comics, not pop music.:stuck_out_tongue: )

The songs are valuable, and there’s no reason that the person who created that value can’t cash in. “Starving artist” sounds romantic, but when you’re starving, you can’t create more art. To be “artistic” is merely narcissism when you can’t pay the bills.

Jello is dead? I googled and couldn’t find anything.

WSLer wrote:

Yes, and if you’d read the article i linked to in the OP you’d know that Densmore refers to this incident and (he says) is glad that Morrison forced the rest of them to back down. In fact, according to Densmore, Morrison told the car company that if they used the song he would smash one of their cars with a sledghammer on television.

And, by the way WSLer, is such aggression really necessary on what had been, up until your post, simply a forum for people to present their points of view on this issue? Your point of view on the issue is no doubt shared by many people, but you don’t make yourself seem like much of a rational debater by using such childish hostility. But if that’s the way you like to do it, go ahead - it’s a free country.

pesch wrote:

and RealityChuck wrote:

These comments are certainly valid, and in fact, as i pointed out in the OP, Densmore says that one of the reasons that he constantly says no to using Doors songs in commercials is because he doesn’t need the money. Let’s face it, just about anyone who receives a big offer to use their music for advertising purposes has probably already achieved financial success. After all, large corporations (except for the music business) and the advertising industry are not in the business of discovering and promoting unknown artists. How many unknown garage bands, or “starving artists,” get offered multimillions for their songs?

I think it was Bill Hicks who had a rant about this in his act. He said, basically, you are welcome to sell your material to advertisers to use to hawk their products, just so long as you also simultaneously cease to call yourself an artist.

'Course you might not agree with Bill Hicks, but i think he has a point.

The only exception to this rule that I can think of is chumbawamba, who licensed “Tubthumping” to ( I think) Nike for £70,000, then promptly donated the cash to a group of activists who protest about use of sweatshop labour.


I can handle a song being in one commercial, but the way way Chevrolet has beaten Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” into the ground over the last (seems like) 10 years is just wrong.

I heard an interview with Barry Manilow on NPR, and he told how he used to supplement his income from being Bette Midler’s musical director by writing commercial jingles.

There are two that reached an unholy level of fame: the State Farm tune, and the “I’m stuck on Band-aid” jingle.

I still want to know if Jello Biafra is dead…

He’s not. I saw him at a Green Party rally in April. I think what the poster was making a reference to was a Jello spoken word album where he mentioned hearing rumors of his death on the Internet.

BTW, it was Levi’s that tried to get Holiday in Cambodia as advertising. All the other members wanted to sell out, but Jello wanted to keep it out, so they sued him. A sad state of affairs indeed.

Check out briefs about the legal battle at

Hell NO! Huntz SUCKS!!!

No, Jello Biafra is not dead.

Like a previous poster said, it was a reference to a joke he made about hearing rumours of his death on the internet.

How many people would never hear the songs if not for the commercials? It may cheapen the song for you, but it introduces it to others, and how can you say there’s anything wrong with that?

I think I can say there’s something wrong with that.

Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” has been mentioned a few times. The first time I heard it was the commercial. I didn’t know it was anything other than a commercial. I was surprised to find out later it had been a song.

Maybe it’s a good song. Quite possibly Ms Simon was thinking about something- love? sex? life?- other than ketchup when she wrote it. Maybe when she wrote it, it meant something to her.

But when I hear it I think “ketchup”. Sometimes I think “catsup”. But that’s about it.

I don’t think there’s any question she had a right to sell it. Seems like a lot of work to go through for me to think “ketchup” though.

The Who sell out; W’re only in it for the money, etc.
I remember way back in '68 or '69 when B.B. King–B.B. King!–sang in a Coke or Pepsi radio commercial–pissed me off! But what the hell, why shouldn’t money be a reward for producing a product people will buy? Why is a commercial for Pepsi different from a commercial for yourself? When I was a kid, I wanted to play rock and roll so as to get groovin and get laid. I wouldn’t have said no to cash! The peace love and woodstock thing was just a cover for the narcissism that was at the root of all that stuff. If a little creativity and "art"accompanied it, well, all the better. But it all took place within, and was made possible by, a bigger social and economic system we call capitalism. Can’t get away from it. We instinctively say “right on” to Densmore and Kreiger for “holding out,” but it isn’t really costing them anything; they’re just keeping the old fantasy alive for nostalgia’s sake.