The Pixies Have Licensed Their Greatest Song To Apple - Here's Why That Shouldn't Make You Mad



REUTERS/Hugo Correia

Apple has a new ad campaign that features one of the greatest songs of the indie rock era.


If you think that's tragic, you haven't been paying attention.

In its new iPhone commercial, Apple shows different amateur musicians using the device to play different parts of the Pixies' "Gigantic." At least one music site has already complained the band is now in "full cash-in mode."

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We asked Richard Jones, the band's manager, how the campaign came together.

Apple approached the band and the rights holder, label Beggar's Banquet, a month or two ago, he said. The band always maintains a right of refusal, and has turned down past requests to us their songs in settings they found inappropriate.


But Pixies songs now feature in "loads" of different settings, he explained. The band was always more popular in the UK, and Jones pointed out that many examples of this likely wouldn't have made their way to America. In a 2000 campaign, for instance, Smirnoff's UK division used "Tame," another Pixies classic.

Plus, Apple is now a critical part of the music industry.

"It seems quite appropriate," he said.

As straightforward music sales have declined in recent years, "syncing" - the industry term for deploying a song for commercial purposes - has come to comprise an ever-increasing share of music industry revenue - 2% in 2014, or $322 million, according to Billboard. though growth in syncs themselves declined slightly from last year. As an example, the private equity firm that now owns all publishing rights to "From Me To You" by the Beatles received $250,000 from a phone company to have an obscure Canadian band cover the track for a recent campaign, according to The Deal. The songwriter usually gets 50% of the fee.

Jones declined to reveal how much the Pixies received for "Gigantic." But he said the band's attitude about syncing has not shifted, despite the practice's apparent increased importance in helping artists make a living. Many know the Pixies not from their brief but celebrated late-'80s heyday but from the iconic use of "Where Is My Mind" in the movie "Fight Club," which came out at the music industry's peak.


At the same time, he said, it would be self-defeating to not allow access to a song that has been around for decades and has already reached the point of near ubiquity. The band recorded "Gigantic" in 1987.

"There's an understanding that with older catalogue - some of the songs are approaching 30 years old - it's out there to say the least, in a million different formats," he said. "It's all over the place, it's accessible to anyone who wants it for free. We're realistic about it. If somebody wants to use it, and the band finds it commercially appealing, and it doesn't offend morals or politics, then we make the decision."

The Pixies do happen to have a new album out. But it's telling that Apple not only used an old song, but one that features a former member of the band on lead vocals - Kim Deal, who also played bass, and who left in the middle of the new album's recording.

Here's the whole Apple clip: