It Takes Money To Walk Away From Money

The LA Times is running a story on John Densmore, the drummer for The Doors. Mr. Densmore won’t sell out and that is a story today, especially considering that you have Dylan, Sir Paul, Led Zep and The Stones all lending their creations to corporate interests.
“People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music,” Densmore told the paper. “I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music…On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.”
Yet, offers keep coming in, such as the $15 million dangled by Cadillac last year to lease the song “Break On Through” to hawk its luxury SUVs.
If Densmore is a dinosaur, he is not the last surviving one. Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles continue to say no to commercials. So do Neil Young and Carlos Santana. But all of them still pull in concert revenues that make that choice far easier. Densmore himself points out that if he were poor he might make a different choice.
But his stance against commercialization has won a chorus of support from the true believers of rock. In the Nation, Tom Waits wrote a letter in praise of Densmore: Corporations “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.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I understand the frustration that alot of really great songs have been overused in alot of really crappy commercials.
    But when wealthy, famous rock stars say pretentious things about how their pure, virginal music must never be sold to corporations, and say nasty things about those who do, it’s dreadfully hypocritical.
    i wonder why they don’t follow through on their convictions and give all their albums, t-shirts, and concert tickets away for free.

  2. It may be that Densmore fails to see that Doors music is a product, marketed to millions by a bunch of suits. But I hear him on the music’s purpose or intent. It was never intended to be a product, even if it is.
    Personally, I don’t belive in selling out, only in selling. Such fine distinctions tend to allude me altogether. But then I don’t have Morrison’s ghost to contend with.

  3. he has done the right thing.jim morrison wrote most of it and hes dead so no one and i mean no 1 should put it in commercials.he didnt want his music with buick done when he was alive so why would he now.for us i doubt it.peace all strangers who live among r disturbed nation we r not strangers of anger so take your time.well back to the topic i just feel that people shouldnt mess with a good thing.jim morrison has truly made a legend out of his self and for people to market that other than the true doors is plain wrong john densmore keep stopping them vultures you know in your own light that this is the right thing to do please dont sell out we already have enough of those let the legend live on