Rock Artists Embrace TV Commercial Sales It's no longer uncool for rock artists to sell songs for use in TV ads. Rocker Randy Bachman says he can make more in one year from a commercial than he did in the entire decade of the '70s.
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Rock Artists Embrace TV Commercial Sales

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Rock Artists Embrace TV Commercial Sales

Rock Artists Embrace TV Commercial Sales

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It used to be uncool for rock bands to license their songs to TV commercials. That attitude has been fading for a long time. In the first of two reports, Joel Rose of member station WHYY in Philadelphia examines why classic rock artists are cashing in like never before.

(Soundbite of song, "American Woman")

JOEL ROSE: Randy Bachman's had six top ten hits with his first band, the Guess Who. But for all its success, Bachman says the Guess Who never got paid very much.

Mr. RANDY BACHMAN (Musician): That's the old story, all we want is a record on radio. We don't care on which we get paid, just get the record on there. And after a while you start to care because, guess what, the bills start coming in.

ROSE: When Bachman put together his next band, the next turned into Bachman-Turner Overdrive, he kept control of the band's master recordings and the publishing rights for his songs, so later on when advertising firms knocked on its door, Bachman was ready to cash in.

(Soundbite of Home Depot ad)

(Soundbite of song, "Takin' Care Of Business")

Unidentified Woman: You think plan, we think paper. You think location, we think laptops. You think how to build your business, we think how to supply it. We're Office Depot. And if you're thinking about getting you're...

Mr. BACHMAN: That is the perfect marriage of "Takin' Care of Business" with Office Depot. It's not prostituting the product, it's the perfect marriage of what my song means and what their product is, you know, what their store is all about.

ROSE: Bachman won't say exactly how much he's made from that deal, but he does say classic rock artists can do very well.

Mr. BACHMAN: You make more in one year with that commercial than you do in your entire lifetime of your band in the 70s with that song.

(Soundbite of song "Takin' Care of Business")

Mr. BACHMAN: (Singing) And I'll be taking care of business everyday, taking care of business every way, I've been taking care of business...

Mr. BRIAN GARRITY (Writer, "Billboard" Magazine): You're talking about bands in the later stages of their career, sometimes they're completely disbanded.

ROSE: Brian Garrity writes about music for "Billboard" magazine.

Mr. GARRITY: This is a whole new way, and lucrative way, that bands are making money off their catalogs. And this is, you know, it comes at a time when the entire music industry is in decline on, you know, in terms of physical good sales.

ROSE: Lately advertisers are using classic rock songs like never before. That's made for some pretty strange bedfellows, such as Led Zeppelin in an ad for Cadillac, and Iggy Pop, the godfather of punk, in a commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines.

(Soundbite of song "Lust for Life")

Mr. IGGY POP (Singer, Godfather of Punk): (Singing) Here comes Johnny Yen again with liquor and drugs...

ROSE: Industry observer Garren Leinheart(ph) estimates advertisers spend more than half a billion dollars on music licensing in the U.S. alone.

Mr. GARREN LEINHEART (Industry Observer): They want a particular song, they're willing to spent $200,000. And that happens quite a bit.

ROSE: Randy Bachman says he gets dozens of calls every week to license "Takin' Care of Business."

Mr. BACHMAN: I did turn down a very lucrative offer for "Takin' Care of Business" for a bathroom tissue. And I didn't want the phrase taking care of business applied to going to the bathroom. You know, so I passed on that and rightly so.

(Soundbite of song, "Love Sick")

Mr. BOB DYLAN (Musician): (Singing) I'm sick of love...

ROSE: With Bob Dylan appearing onscreen in a commercial for Victoria's Secret and the Beatles song "Hello Goodbye" in a new ad for Target, the major remaining holdouts are Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. But that stance is getting harder and harder to find, says Billboard's Brian Garrity.

Mr. GARRITY: Even though you have some bands that are still kind of clinging to this notion of being in commercials is some type of sellout, the industry by and large has moved passed that stigma.

ROSE: That's even true for underground bands on independent labels, but that is a story for another day.

For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BACHMAN: (Singing) It's all right, taking care of business, and working overtime...

MONTAGNE: On Thursday you can hear the second part of Joel's report. Find out how indie bands started peddling big name brands.

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