MAD MEN’s $250,000 Beatles Sample

So this just ties into the post I did yesterday about Girl Talk’s 100%-sample-album FEED THE ANIMALS: The New York Times is reporting that the cable channel AMC paid $250,000 to air a portion of “Tomorrow Never Knows” on last Sunday’s episode of MAD MEN. It was a great moment, one that perfectly encapsulates how the times are changing and how those times are passing a certain character (no spoilers).  Though $250,000 sounds like a lot of money to most people (myself included) I actually think that it’s a pretty good deal for AMC considering The Beatles are one of the most protective bands when it comes to their catalogue.  You see, the show didn’t just air the song performed by another singer/band–the MAD MEN episode played the ACTUAL song performed by the actual BEATLES.  This is a pretty rare event, as noted by the Times article which states the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” has never been performed on television.

With all those royalties, The Beatles have it made in the shade…

It also turns out that this marks the first instance where The Beatles have allowed one of their songs to be featured on a television series (with the only exception being the ABC animated Beatles cartoon show that ran in the 1960’s, of course).  When I saw the episode on Sunday I was pretty excited that the song was used, being the huge Beatlemaniac that I am, but I didn’t stop and consider just how pricey such a cameo by the band might be.  I feel sorta bad for MAD MEN’s creator/writer Matthew Weiner, after all when doing a show set in the 1960’s it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the Fab Four.  It was only a matter of time before AMC had to pony up the big dough to feature the band.

I wonder how pissed Keith Richards/Mick Jagger are right now?

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7 thoughts on “MAD MEN’s $250,000 Beatles Sample

  1. Andy says:

    Wow, I can’t believe their recordings have never been used on TV before. Do you think the price tag/exclusivity is something that the surviving Beatles have any control over? Like, is Paul a fan of the show and happy to have his music on there? Or is it totally a manager’s decision?

  2. The Beatles started their own label in the late 1960s (as a tax shelter) called Apple Records. As far as I know, Apple Records (i.e. the surviving Beatles and Yoko Ono) are the ones who control everything associated with The Beatles. I remember reading about how Yoko had to approve everything associated with John when Harmonix was making Beatles ROCK BAND.

    I think overall Mad Men got the song because: 1. They had the money to pay and 2. It is a class show and the use was class/did not do anything to trample on The Beatles.

    There have been a few commercials to use Beatles songs, but if you listen you’ll notice that it’s not actually their version. Good times.

    P.S. I really want to talk with you about Girl Talk and all the illegal shit he’s getting away with as far as copyrights go…

    • Andy says:

      Interesting, I had no idea they were that protective. Mad Men is classy as hell. Didn’t Michael Jackson buy a whole bunch of Beatles songs at one point? How does that figure into it?

      Girl Talk is pretty much wantonly violating every copyright law there is. No one wants to be the first to sue him, cause the court battle would be a nightmare. Basically he would argue fair use, but there’s never been a situation quite like this before so every boneheaded argument the lawyers can think of would get raised — whether it’s parody (a critical commentary on another’s work), whether there’s artistic value, whether it’s purely commercial, the amount of each work he’s copying, the public performances he’s making of all these works. Short answer: what he’s doing is clearly illegal, but nobody wants to mess with him because it’s awesome and probably fair use.

      • Yeah, McCartney did sell some of his rights to MJ. I know that several years later he regretted it and wanted the rights back. I have no idea what happened with that. But I do know The Beatles are uber protective of their songs.

        I kinda figured that about Girl Talk. I’m still really conflicted on how I feel about the whole situation. I read a really thought-provoking book called FREE CULTURE by Lawrence Lessig that touched on sampling, fair-use, and copyrights, have you ever heard of this book or author?

      • Andy says:

        Looks like replies only go four deep, you may want to fix that!

        I’ve never read the Lessig book, but I took a seminar last fall on copyrights, music, and new media with a guy who does copyright and trademark stuff for musicians at Husch Blackwell. I’m have pretty liberal beliefs about copyrights, meaning I believe in robust fair use and huge reductions in length of copyright (right now it’s the creator’s life plus 70 years, thanks to Disney’s lobbying to have Mickey Mouse’s copyright extended). But I’m also not one of those anarchist “copyleft” guys who want to get rid of them altogether.

        Girl’s Talk’s biggest problem is that he can’t really claim parody. In the copyright context, a parody must make critical commentary of the underlying work. Some of his songs might do that, but others are just fun sounds strung together in an interesting way. It’s artistic, certainly, but he’s also making craploads of money on it and performing it in public without a license, which weighs against him. As the law stands he could easily get crushed in court, but who knows, a liberal judge might just reverse precedent for him. Tough to say. These are interesting times for copyright.

        • I think Girl Talk is cool but I don’t think he should be selling it. It’s not parody it is (a newer type of) art. What I don’t get is: I can’t post a video on Youtube with my own content and music from Led Zeppelin (and make NO money) but Girl Talk can sample the shit out of EVERYONE and laugh all the way to the bank.

          Interesting times indeed.

          • Andy says:

            How do you feel about him performing it publicly? Cause arguably that’s the bigger infringement. Creating the actual pieces of music required very little law-violating; it’s the printing of thousands of copies and hundreds of performances that really damn him.

            Youtube has to have extremely stringent standards to fall within the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (ie, no responsibility for user generated content). They’re actually still mired in continuing litigation over that issue. So they often err on the side of caution and remove videos that their screening protocols indicate are likely to be infringing. Many times they’ll actually get informed by the rights holder of the infringement; Zep’s lawyers probably have people on the lookout 24/7.

            It’s not fair that Girl Talk can get away with it cause he’s famous, but it’s not his fault, it’s the fault of the archaic corporate-driven copyright regime we have in place.

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