I just read an article called “Ex-Door Lighting Their Ire” by Geoff Boucher where he describes how drummer John Densmore, won’t allow Doors music to be sold to advertisers. The article was originally in the Los Angeles Times on October 5, 2005; I read it in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006 (Da Capo Best Music Writing). The other two surviving members of the band, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger, are quite upset with him and wish he would sell out. After all, everyone else is doing it.
The arguments for licensing are “…people don’t frown on this anymore,” and it’s “not selling out; if it’s done right, it’s giving it new life.” What they mean by that last statement is that the only way for dinosaur bands to build a new audience is to have the song played for 15 to 30 seconds to shill high-dollar merchandise. That’s wrong. How many people ask, “Who was that in that commercial? I’ve got to run out and buy that.” If they like that style of music, they can hear it on classic rock stations. I’m betting there is at least one of those just about anywhere in the US that has radio stations. And it’s not like they don’t play The Doors.
According to Boucher, Cadillac approached the Doors before they got Led Zeppelin’s song “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” They offered 15 million dollars. Tempting offer. However, as Densmore says, “… On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.”
Licensing a song for a movie is less intrusive. The Doors’ song “The End” was used to great effect in Apocalypse Now. Most people won’t hear the same song 20 times during a movie like they will during a televised football game. And several times a week if they watch that much TV. But few of us will watch any movie more than a couple times in our lifetime.
Selling your song to advertisers isn’t too bad for some groups. The Soup Dragons “Don’t be afraid of your freedom” for Visa is an example. They aren’t played on the radio all the time, and I bet many people have never even heard of them. But I can’t listen to Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” anymore. Do radio stations still play that song? I’ve only heard it once on the radio since Chevrolet trucks started using it. Is Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” going to be ruined the same way? Probably. Especially if it is used for many years. That’s too bad, cause a lot of us really love that song. I would especially hate to lose some Doors songs. I’m sure that advertisers swoon because whenever I hear “Like a Rock,” I think of Chevrolet pickups. But the down side is, I never hear that song. No one plays it. If it came on, I’d change the station.
So, as a fan, I would like to say to Mr. Densmore, “HOLD OUT! Don’t sell your songs, please.” I’ll end with the best quote of the article, “…hey, you have to respect that. How many of your principles would you reconsider when people start talking millions of dollars?” “None,” should be the correct answer.
The Doors, Advertising