Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Truth Behind The Stones And The Windows 95 Ads

Microsoft certainly scored a coup when they got the Rolling Stones to agree to let them use their hit "Start me Up" for the huge ad campaign for Windows 95 15 years ago. Until then, the Stones (and most acts of that generation) had refused to license their music to commercials for reasons of artistic purity (when there was such a thing), so it was indeed a milestone when the song appeared across televisions worldwide.

Now an interesting post on tells the story about how Mick Jagger and Keith Richards tried to switch versions of the song in order to eliminate paying former bass player Bill Wyman. It turns out that Mick didn't want to do the deal, but Keith was running short on cash (you never think of them in that situation), so a deal was struck. The Stones were also at a lull in their career and thought that the huge campaign that MS had designed would help reignite their career, which it did. Since Jagger is the CEO of the corporation and Richards is the COO, they make all the decisions without the others in the band voting.

When Microsoft received the final track they were horrified to find that it was a recent live version of the song instead of the original studio version. This was apparently done because the four Stones would make more money, since Wyman had already left the band and wouldn't be paid for a recording that he didn't appear on. MS pushed back and eventually got the original studio version and the rest is history.

Today artists don't think twice about licensing their songs to commercials. They can't afford to since it's one of the only remaining sources of income in these days of Music 3.0. In fact, artists are willing to do almost anything to get their music on television these days, and as a result, the advances are far, far less than what the Stones got back then (although a huge hit song would still fetch a pretty penny).

The story also goes to show that when it comes to money, never trust your friends or bandmates. Things can get pretty cut-throat out there.
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