Tom Waits responds to John Densmore of The Doors re: music in commercials

 

 
 

Tom Waits responds to John Densmore of The Doors re: music in commercials

This article in the Nation, where John Densmore of The Doors tells why he doesn't agree with musicians and artists allowing their songs to be used in commercials. Tom Waits responded with this letter:

Woodland Hills, Calif.

Thank you for your eloquent “rant” by John Densmore of The Doors on the subject of artists allowing their songs to be used in commercials . I spoke out whenever possible on the topic even before the Frito Lay case (Waits v. Frito Lay), where they used a sound-alike version of my song “Step Right Up” so convincingly that I thought it was me. Ultimately, after much trial and tribulation, we prevailed and the court determined that my voice is my property.

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.

When I was a kid, if I saw an artist I admired doing a commercial, I’d think, “Too bad, he must really need the money.” But now it’s so pervasive. It’s a virus. Artists are lining up to do ads. The money and exposure are too tantalizing for most artists to decline. Corporations are hoping to hijack a culture’s memories for their product. They want an artist’s audience, credibility, good will and all the energy the songs have gathered as well as given over the years. They suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product.

Eventually, artists will be going onstage like race-car drivers covered in hundreds of logos. John, stay pure. Your credibility, your integrity and your honor are things no company should be able to buy.

TOM WAITS

Both men make a good case as to why artist shouldn't do it, and how it can water down the art form. It's not just from the artists standpoint, but also from the audience, who here wants the song they connect with a great event in their life to suddenly be tied to selling laxatives? I'll add one more danger too it - session musicians and music houses that employ talented people who aren't legendary stars already, they write jingles for hire. This is a nice little day job for musicians while they work on their band off hours. It's supports the arts in a way. If we remove this, who knows how many bands will dismantle, and how much we lose of what could have been.

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