Why 'Mad Men' Paid $250,000 To Use One Beatles Song
AMC/Mad Men via Netflix
Which is why, when creator Matthew Weiner wanted to use a Beatles song in season 5's "Lady Lazarus" episode, he refused to settle for anything but the real deal.Instead of using a cover of the band's "Tomorrow Never Knows," Weiner insisted they use a master recording that cost the production upward of $250,000.
"The Band of the 20th Century"
From the real-life ad campaigns to the fashions, most everything on "Mad Men" is authentically 1960s. But for Weiner, there was always one glaring inauthenticity on the show."It was always my feeling that the show lacked a certain authenticity because we never could have an actual master recording of the Beatles performing," Weiner told The New York Times. "It always felt to me like a flaw. Because they are the band, probably, of the 20th century."
That isn't to say that the series has never sampled from the band's catalogue. In season 4 episode "Hands and Knees," Beatles song "Do You Want to Know a Secret" played over the credits. However, it was an instrumental cover which only requires the more affordable publishing rights.The difference between publishing rights and master rights is that while the publishing rights are controlled by the publisher working for the songwriter or composer, master recordings are owned by record labels. Labels get to set the price for how the song is being used and how popular they think it is. Acquiring the rights to any music can be costly enough, but gaining the rights to a Beatles recording is extremely expensive and difficult - a fact that Weiner and "Mad Men" would soon come to realize.
Don Draper's $250,000 Beatles Record
For television, the Beatles had always been the "holy grail" when it came to licensing.
"In the case of the Beatles, they're not known for opening up their song catalogue to everyone," show writer Andre Jacquemetton told the Canadian Press. "It just turns out actually that they're huge fans of the show.
According to The Wall Street Journal, it's common to hear Beatles covers, but not the actual Beatles songs. When it does happen, it typically "involves fees of over $1 million." Such was the case with 2010's "Dinner For Schmucks," which used "Fool on the Hill" for a reported $1.5 million.In contrast, most other popular songs that are licensed for TV shows can be purchased for under $100,000.
Watch the $250,000 scene below:
The Beatles and "The End" of "Mad Men"
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
As we head into the series' final season, the music of Paul, John, George, and Ringo may play into Weiner's end-game for the entire series, as he told Grantland:
"I want to leave the show in a place where you have an idea of what it meant and how it's related to you. It's a very tall order, but I always talk about 'Abbey Road. What's the song at the end of 'Abbey Road'? It's called 'The End.' There is a culmination of an experience of people working at their highest level."
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