Remember the Beatles song — “Tomorrow Never Knows” — that played near the end of Sunday’s Mad Men and during the credits? Well, Lionsgate says it was the first time a master recording by the Beatles has ever been licensed for a TV show. Additionally, Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, Yoko Ono and George Harrison’s widow all had to sign off on it for Mad Men to use the song.
Oh, and it cost a quarter of a million dollars to use it.
You rarely hear Beatles songs in movies, and just about never on TV, for two very good reasons: It’s prohibitively expensive to license them (as FORBES contributor Roger Friedman noted), and even then they’re not always for sale. In the face of these obstacles, directors who want to put Beatles songs on their soundtracks often end up settling for cover versions, which require them to license only the publishing rights, not the rights to the master recording.
Weiner cleared the first hurdle by making a personal appeal, which succeeded only because the surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, are “huge fans of the show,” according to the Canadian Press.
That leaves the issue of money. Between licensing the publishing rights from Sony ATV Publishing and the rights to the master held by EMI, sources estimate Lionsgate spent somewhere in the six-figure range. One knowledgeable source puts the combined sum at around $250,000.
That’s a lot of Cool Whip, my friends!