5 Expensive Music Licensing Deals


Expensive Music Licensing Deals

Creative directors use music in films, television, commercials or any other form of multimedia for a wide array of reasons. From a purely artistic perspective, he or she may simply be looking for the most effective means of conveying a thought, emotion or idea. From a marketing perspective, using a well-known or even a famous song can instantly bring cache or awareness to a product or service. Firms that control the rights to famous songs know this and are therefore able to charge a pretty penny for licensing songs, or song clips, for commercial use. Below are some of the most expensive song licensing deals in history.

Happy Birthday To You

The popular birthday jingle is said to bring in as much as $2 million annually for marketers and other entities looking to benefit from its popularity. It doesn't qualify as a single licensing deal, but demonstrates that the industry can use volume to garner significant profits.

The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

In what is likely to remain one of the more bizarre licensing arrangements in history, in early 2010 comedian Conan O'Brien sought to stick it to his former employer NBC before the network replaced him on "The Tonight Show" with talk-show host rival Jay Leno. The move turned into a debacle for NBC and O'Brien seized the opportunity to use it to comic effect. In one of his final shows, he stated that using a Bugatti sports car and the Rolling Stones song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" on his show would cost NBC around $1.5 million. Original estimates of the song cost were around $500,000, which would make the licensing deal one of the highest on record. Conflicting media reports put the estimated cost closer to $50,000.

The Beatles' "Lovely Rita"

On O'Brien's last NBC show, the song "Lovely Rita" by The Beatles was used to introduce Tom Hanks as the final guest. Media reported the song cost $500,000 to use. As with the Rolling Stones song, the actual amount is in dispute and could be closer to $10,000. NBC reportedly had a blanket agreement with Apple Corp., which represents the interests of the original Beatles and their heirs.

The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows"

Earlier this year, an airing of the popular AMC Television show "Mad Men" featured The Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows." The song reportedly cost $250,000 to use. The song stemmed from its 1966 album "Revolver" and qualifies as a licensing deal for purely artistic purposes. "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner apparently felt he had no other option and detailed that the song properly caught the mood of the time and meaning of the show, which had an especially psychedelic quality to it.

The Beatles' "Revolution"

Back in 1987, Nike got into a dispute with the owner of the licensing rights to The Beatles song "Revolution." Nike reportedly paid $250,000 for the rights to use the song in one of its commercials, but was sued by Apple Corp. over the way the song was used. The lawsuit ran into the millions and Nike rejected the lawsuit as groundless.


The industry does a good job of keeping other song licensing deals under wraps. Not many other specific deals on record have exceeded the six-figure amount. Other deals include other multimedia, such as concert footage or rights to total music catalogs. One such deal included the footage to one of Michael Jackson's final concerts and was said to be in the $20 million range. The average commercial music licensing deal is estimated to range between $75,000 and $200,000.
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