Tom Waits Waxes Musicians Selling Music for Commercials


This is the car; Clone Defects provide the music for the ad

 I wrote in September about bands selling their music for commercials and it felt good. I said that I was amazed at the eager embrace by musicians at the use of their songs on commercials while writing Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Five Decades of Rock ‘n Roll in America’s Loudest City.
Today I see this note by Tom Waits in response to an article written by Doors drummer John Densmore in 2002.
Waits eloquently speaks of the practice, which he abhors:
   “Songs carry emotional information and some transport us back to a poignant time, place or event in our lives. It’s no wonder a corporation would want to hitch a ride on the spell these songs cast and encourage you to buy soft drinks, underwear or automobiles while you’re in the trance. Artists who take money for ads poison and pervert their songs. It reduces them to the level of a jingle, a word that describes the sound of change in your pocket, which is what your songs become. Remember, when you sell your songs for commercials, you are selling your audience as well.”
Well put. Then there is the case of Timmy Vulgar, the Detroit musician who told me about the time Mitsubishi wanted to use a Clone Defectssong for a commercial. The car company called Larry Hardy, who runs In the Red Records, and asked about using a song. Vulgar tells the story better than I could:
“Larry called me and said, ‘Yeah, Mitsubishi wants to use one of your songs in a car commercial.’ I said ‘I don’t know if I want to do that corporate crap, you know? I don’t wanna deal with that shit.’ And I really didn’t want to do it at first, and then I asked Larry, ‘Man, I really need money and I’m really broke.’ So Larry says, ‘They’re gonna pay us $50,000, and we split it down the middle.’ He gets $25,000 and we get $25,000 to split four ways.  I think it was that much.  I’m pretty sure that’s how much it was.  So I thought, “Whoa, that’s a lot of money.  Holy shit.”  So then I asked, ‘what song?’ They wanted “Low Fashion Lovers,’ just the intro, basically; that’s it. Well, that’s kinda cool, it doesn’t really have any singing or anything on it.  I’m just doing some ooooo’s.  So I was like, ‘Yeah, all right.  I think we’ll do that.  Let me talk to the band.’  I didn’t really even have to talk to the band.  Of course we’ll do it.”
And it came out good. Sometimes poverty has a funny way of subverting a stand that may not have much to back it up anyway. I heard the Fall’s “Blindness” in a Mitsu commercial.  Made me remember the already great song. 





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