'Mad Men's' Beatles Sample Cost $250,000

This week’s episode of “Mad Men” ended with Don Draper sitting back and trying to get a little weird to the psychedelic rhythms of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the last track off the Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver. It was a moment that paid off a couple set-ups throughout the episode, most notably that time is starting to pass Don by. It also provided a cool bookend to an episode that started with a group of advertising men talking about how tough it is to get the rights to a Beatles song. Why is it so tough to get them you ask? Because it costs a royal butt-ton (industry term):

As with most transactions that involve the Beatles, that usage did not come cheap. According to two people briefed on the deal, who were not authorized to speak about it, Lionsgate, the studio that produces “Mad Men,” paid about $250,000 for the recording and publishing rights to the song. That is an appropriately high price, several music and advertising executives say, since many major pop songs can be licensed for less than $100,000. [New York Times]

The Times article has a lot more information about how “Mad Men” showrunner Matthew Weiner went about acquiring the rights, and I recommend reading it all because he is hilariously cranky about the whole thing. It’s very clear that he wants to talk about how the music relates to the story he’s trying to tell, but all anyone else wants to talk about is the Beatles and how much he paid and how it affects the budget going forward. I understand his point, that you really can’t have a show that deals with everything going on in the 1960s and try to dance around one of the most culturally important parts of the era, but when you plunk down a houseworth of money for like a minute of a 45-year-old song, it’s going to raise some eyebrows.

NOTE: My favorite part of this story, by a mile, is that Weiner had to pay $250k for the song and I can just embed it for free at the bottom of this post. The Internet is great.