5 Dollars

My life as an at-home momma of 3 amazing kids...it's kind of like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

John Densmore says "NO" to commercialization

Could you resist an offer of $15 million because taking the cash would go against what you believed in? Ex-Doors drummer John Densmore has done just that.

Cadillac offered the surviving members of the Doors a whopping $15 million in cold, hard cash last year to lease the song "Break On Through (to the Other Side)" as part of an advertising campaign for luxury SUVs. Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger would have taken the money but Densmore vetoed the deal.

His reason?

"People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music," Densmore said. "I've had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn't commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That's not for rent."

Many other bands, including the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, have leased out their music to advertising campaigns for cars, mortgage companies, computers, restaurants, clothing stores...you name it and they've helped sell it. http://adtunes.com/ But Densmore continues to hold out.

"Everyone wanted him to do it," said John Branca, an attorney who worked on the Cadillac proposal. "I told him that, really, people don't frown on this anymore. It's considered a branding exercise for the music. He told me he just couldn't sell a song to a company that was polluting the world."

"I shook my head," Branca said, "but, hey, you have to respect that. How many of your principles would you reconsider when people start talking millions of dollars?"

It would certainly be a difficult choice for me. Can you imagine wrestling with the decision to hold true to what you believe in versus being handed that much cash?

Densmore hasn't always said, "no thank you" to the easy advertising money though. Back in 1969, an advertising firm came to the Doors with an offer: $50,000 for the lease of their biggest hit, "Light My Fire," to be part of a commercial for the Buick Opel. At the time, Densmore, Krieger and Manzarek agreed to the deal. Jim Morrison was in Europe when the rest of the band voted. He was furious when he returned and got the news. Morrison promised to smash a Buick with a sledgehammer at every concert if the deal closed. That was the end of that.

In November 1970 the band put it into writing that any licensing agreement would require a unanimous vote. They previously had a unique agreement that all members shared equally in the music publishing rights. These agreements, made over 30 years ago, have allowed Densmore's lone voice to protect the Doors music from commercialization.

He has only agreed once, allowing "Riders on the Storm" to be used for a tire ad back in the 1970's. After all was said and done, Densmore said it made him sick and he "heard Jim's ghost" in his ear. He donated the money from that deal to charity and has never again consented to using the Doors music for a sales pitch.

I respect his decision. (Along with other musicians who are saying no to advertising dollars such as Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Neil Young, Carlos Santana and Tom Waits.) It has to be difficult to say no to such easy money. If he were alive today, I think Morrison would be siding with Densmore.

So...could you do it? Could you be the lone hold out?


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