PRODUCTION & POST-PRODUCTION: Out of Bounds

Which artists will never sanction the use of their music on an ad? Jim Davies finds out.

"The best things in life are free/But you can give them to the birds and bees/Money that's what I want." Money, The Beatles.

Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, famously likened his recording company to one of the car factories that dominated life in his native Detroit. Only the Motown production line churned out hit after shiny hit, rather than shiny new automobiles. The analogy may lack glamour, but it shows that Gordy recognised that the music business is first and foremost just that - a business.

It's not a conviction that everyone involved shares so heartily, however.

The music industry came of age during the counter-cultural, politically charged 60s, and ever since they first got together, art and commerce have had a relationship based on edginess and mistrust. Can wanting to change the world live with commercial success? How do you hit the jackpot without selling out? Which explains why some of today's artists are ambivalent, and others openly hostile to the idea of their music being used as the soundtrack to a television commercial or radio jingle.

Admittedly, it's usually the people who can afford to be picky who dig their heels in. REM, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Coldplay are among a handful of principled practitioners who have shunned the advertising dollar. But most are more than happy. "They're biting our arms off these days," the Publicis chairman, Gerry Moira, confirms.

Creative directors canvassed for this article reported a dozen or more tapes or CDs from licensing companies and artists' management landing on their desks each day. "I honestly don't think there's anyone who categorically wouldn't do a commercial," BMG's UK media and marketing manager, Dave Bartram, says. "It's just a question of right time, right price, right product. Every job is different and needs to be considered on its own merits."

Of course, appropriateness is an issue. Back in 1987, after the furore over the Beatles' song Revolution appearing in a $7 million Nike campaign, George Harrison complained: "Unless we do something about it, every Beatles song is going to end up advertising bras and pork pies." Paul McCartney felt the practice "cheapened" their music, and but for Nike, and a mid-80s Ford commercial which featured an original recording of Help, all Beatles songs used in commercials have been covers.

The Beatles' main sparring partners, The Rolling Stones, have never had such qualms. Mick Jagger in particular has always had a reputation as an astute, hard-nosed business operator, and back in the 80s, it was the Stones who pioneered the idea of heavily sponsored world tours and fully exploiting the potential of merchandising rights. This year's record-breaking 'Licks' tour features no fewer than 50 licensed Rolling Stones products, including a range of Agent Provocateur lingerie. Over the years, original Stones tunes have been used in spots for Microsoft (Start Me Up), the launch of the Apple iMac (She's a Rainbow), Motorola (You Can't Always Get What You Want), Ford (Start Me Up - again) and T-Mobile in a recent ad which highlights the network's tour sponsorship. The only reason Stones songs in ads seem so few and far between is that the rights are so prohibitively expensive.

Moira found this out first hand when he wanted to use Gimme Shelter for an RAC commercial, finally plumping for a soundalike version which meant having to pay only the publishing rights rather than the double whammy of publishing and performance rights. Today's digital recording technology means that quite accurate cover versions can be achieved, particularly if vocals aren't required. It's also a rather tenuous moral get-out clause for the artists who can still claim they didn't actually play on a commercial soundtrack, but this is right up there with Bill Clinton's "eating ain't cheating" argument.

Moira also has the distinction of being one of the few creatives to use a Doors track - a cover version of Riders on the Storm for a Pirelli commercial some years ago. Bizarrely, members of the band asked for some free tyres on top of their fee. But it's perhaps even more surprising that they gave the go ahead at all. In 1967, Jim Morrison threatened to smash a Buick on television if the company aired a commercial featuring Light My Fire (the other members of the band had agreed a deal while he was out of town).

Despite the perennial lucrative offers, they have remained (more or less) true to the late Morrison's wishes.

"It's hilarious when bands go on about selling out," Tiger Savage, the head of art at M&C Saatchi, says. "What did they get into the business for in the first place but to make money and be adored by all?" She still rankles at the frustration of having been refused permission to use a German version of David Bowie's Heroes for a Hugo Boss ad when she was an art director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

But Bowie, in the meantime, appears to have softened his stance towards advertising, his music having featured in spots for Dole, Renault Scenic, Microsoft and CGNU within the past five years. "You find people change," Dan Dumbar of SoundLounge, the music agency, says. "They become more flexible down the line."

And of course, artists are perfectly entitled to change their minds.

Dave Waters, the creative director of DFGW recalls wanting to use Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life in an ad for Punch magazine.

They'd won the business on the strength of a presentation featuring clips of unfortunate mishaps set to strains of the song. But the Pythons said no: the song was an established funeral favourite and they were unwilling to demean it by letting appear in an ad. Then someone had the initiative to send them a copy of the script; they liked it and relented.

Taking control of where your songs end up is one thing, but it's some of the lame excuses and double standards offered that are baffling. Like Moby,for example, who is so eco-conscious that he won't travel by car, but seems happy enough for his tracks to be used in commercials for the likes of the Renault Kangoo, Nissan Almera and the VW Polo.

Or Supergrass, who have sold the rights to their Britpop anthem Alright to an American credit card company, but claim that they don't like the song any more.

Supergrass's Drummer Danny Goffey says that the band don't want to be seen as purveyors of "advert music ... It is a bit sad to make loads of money and just have your music plastered around products that have nothing to do with your life." Come on lads, you can't have your penny and your bun.

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