*Josh Sanborn, writing for Time magazine and citing data from branding firm Heartbeats International, estimated that total music licensing revenues for 2011 were $2.5 billion. Using copyrighted material for marketing campaigns or any other purpose beyond listening enjoyment can be a costly endeavor in more ways than one. These 10 songs were expensive in their own right.
Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson – Scream
One of the most famous brother and sister teams of all-time vented their anger with media and the way it portrayed them in their song “Scream.” The 1995 hit from Michael Jackson’s “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I” album debuted on ABC’s “Primetime Live” with 64 million viewers tuning in. The video is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive short film of all-time, costing over $7 million to make. Forbes reported the final costs actually being closer to $10.7 million.
Rolling Stone – Satisfaction
Conan O’Brien wanted the last laugh when NBC replaced him on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno after only seven months on the job in February of 2010. He decided to use the Rolling Stones 1965 hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” when Adam Sandler was introduced as a guest. The move reportedly cost NBC $500,000 even though the song was played for only a few seconds.
O’Brien also used the Beatles’ “Lovely Rita” earlier in the week to introduce Tom Hanks, costing NBC another $500,000. Talk about sticking it to the man.
AC/DC – Thunderstruck
The Aussie blues rock band has sold more than 200 million records worldwide in 30 years and are ranked 10th in the U.S. for all-time record sales. Despite brothers Malcolm and Angus Young, the founders of the band, initially not wanting their music used in advertising, the numbers involved ended up swaying them.
The band received $500,000 for “Thunderstruck” when the song was featured in the 1999 film “Varsity Blues.” When AC/DC realized how easy the money was, they licensed “Back in Black” to Walmart for a television ad and even gave the retailer exclusive rights to sell their “Black Ice” album.
MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This
Comedian Dave Chappelle rose to fame with his famous Rick James catch-phrase. MC Hammer simply used a sample from Rick James’ 1981 hit “Super Freak” (again without permission) and proceeded to hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “U Can’t Touch This” in 1990. James sued and ultimately was listed as a co-writer for the song. The financials were undisclosed, but Hammer ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1996.
Beatles – Revolution
Air Jordans were on the verge of becoming the signature brand for Nike in 1987. The Beatles 1968 hit “Revolution” was the perfect song for the shoe company’s ad campaign. Nike paid $500,000 to Michael Jackson, who had purchased a catalog of Beatles’ songs two years earlier.
Despite no longer having rights to the song, The Beatles and Apple Records successfully sued Nike and put a stop to its music being used in advertisements.
Black Box – Everybody, Everybody
Martha Wash first made a name for herself as half of the disco-pop group The Weather Girls, who are most famous for their 1982 hit “It’s Raining Men.” Wash had a golden voice, but her voluminous figure made her unattractive to music video producers.
Wash’s voice made groups like C+C Music Factory and Black Box famous in the early 1990s. But RCA failed to credit Wash for the vocals, instead giving it to lip-syncing French model Katrin Quinol and other “pretty” girls. Wash was ultimately awarded a recording contract from RCA, along with financial compensation. Clivilles and Cole, the producers of C+C Music Factory, settled litigation with Wash for $500,000 a few years later.
Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
Nowadays artists can pay a small fee for stock music and not worry about legal repercussion later on. Vanilla Ice decided to make “Ice Ice Baby” with a sampled beat from Queen and David Bowie’s 1980 hit “Under Pressure” without giving proper credit. The case was ultimately settled before a lawsuit was filed.
The terms were undisclosed, but the fact “Ice Ice Baby” was the first rap song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts makes it safe to say the number was in the millions.
Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
It’s reported that “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner had tried repeatedly to get permission to use Beatles tracks on the AMC drama. The closing scene of a 2012 episode featured Don Draper playing “Tomorrow Never Knows” in the closing scene on a record player. The Wall Street Journal reported that producers paid $250,000 for the few seconds the songs was played.
George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
The Beatles theme continues with George Harrison’s first solo hit “My Sweet Lord” in 1971. The problem was the melody sounded exactly like the Chiffons’ 1962 hit “He’s So Fine.” Harrison ultimately was forced to buy the publishing company that had rights to “He’s So Fine” and paid $587,000 in damages.
Isley Brothers – Love Is A Wonderful Thing
Michael Bolton has sold over 75 million records, but even the greatest artists aren’t immune to plagiarism. Bolton’s “Love is A Wonderful Thing” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991. The problem was that Isley Brothers made a song by the same title and with many of the same lyrics in 1964. Bolton ended up paying the soul singers $5.4 million in damages, but Sony Music covered $4.2 million of it.