'Mad Men' Beatles License Cost $250,000 (Report)
Series creator Matthew Weiner received sign-offs from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison to use the song "Tomorrow Never Knows."
AMC's Mad Men has a hard-earned reputation for historical accuracy, and it turns out that production studio Lionsgate is more than willing to finance that. In last night's episode, titled "Lady Lazarus," star ad man Don Draper takes to his chair to listen to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" from their album Revolver, a rare case where a television show has used a master recording of the Beatles within an episode.
Why so rare? It reportedly cost $250,000 to license the track, according to the Wall Street Journal. Lionsgate, though they refused to comment on the rumored cost, also claimed it was the first time a Beatles master track was licensed for a television show (though that assertion has been disputed by Beatles "expert" Bill Stainton).
The fee was split between Sony/ATV, which owns the publishing rights to the track, and EMI, which owns the master copy. The majority of the time that a Beatles track is incorporated into an ad campaign, it's as a cover by another band, as the publishing rights are much cheaper to acquire than EMI's master recording rights. The Journal also reported that the $250,000 figure was approximately five times more expensive than the normal music license.
The reasoning the show shelled out the high fee was apparently due to the diligence of show creator Matthew Weiner, who pushed for the track for more than a year. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison all signed off on the license, apparently because the surviving Beatles are huge fans of the show, according to the Canadian Press.