The Pop History Dig

“Start Me Up”
1995

Bill Gates silhouetted against the “start” button during a video portion of the Windows 95 launch at Microsoft  in Redmond, Washington, August 1995. AP photo.
Bill Gates silhouetted against the “start” button during a video portion of the Windows 95 launch at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, August 1995. AP photo.
     In the annals of advertising history, one of the great coups in the use of rock ‘n roll music to help sell things came in the summer of 1995 when Bill Gates of the Microsoft Corporation used the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” song to help launch his company’s Windows 95 computer software.  As the story goes, it was Gates’ idea to use the song, as the tune dovetailed nicely with the prominent “start button” feature that appeared on the Windows computer screen.  Initially it was rumored that Gates paid something in the neigh- borhood of $10-to-$14 million to the Stones to use their song.  The actual figure may have been lower than that.  But as the story goes, Gates reportedly asked Jagger personally how much it would cost to use the song.   Jagger, being the naughty boy he is, threw out what he thought would be a very high number, something in the millions; a number that would surely dissuade Gates in his quest.  But Jagger’s ploy didn’t phase Gates – at least according to legend.  Whatever amount Jagger had suggested, Gates agreed to it on the spot.  Still, there came some longer negotiations regarding the details on rights and usage.  But the deal did get made.

     Once the song was wedded to the Microsoft campaign and its TV spot, most who heard and/or saw it agreed it was a most effective piece of commercial persua- sion.  “The power-guitar chords are unmistakably familiar, imprinted on us through decades of party time,” wrote Newsweek’s Stephen Levy describing the opening bars of “Start Me Up” in his September 1995 piece on the Windows launch.  He called the tune’s use by Microsoft an attempt to “anthemize” the Windows 95 operating system.  “The purchase of that classic hook,” he wrote, “symbolizes the brilliant way that Microsoft marketing wizards have managed to transmogrify a technological molehill into the Mount McKinley of software…”

     In the TV spot itself, as seen above, a series of quick-cut screen shots are shown with children and adults working with computers in various settings as descriptive word titles for those uses flash across the screen in sync with the Stones’ music and the ad’s “start” theme – Start Exploring, Start Discovering, Start Learning, Start Doing, Start Organizing, Start Connecting, Start Managing, Start Creating, Start Playing, Start Moving, and finally, Start Windows 95.  As the ad closes with the music still playing, the final screen shot has the Microsoft Windows 95 logo and then the last phrase, “Where do you want to go today?”  But the Stones’ music is definitely effective in carrying the message and setting an upbeat tone.


Song History

‘Start Me Up’ began as a reggae tune in earlier years, but was turned into a more hard-driving rock sound for use in this ‘Tatto You’ album by 1981.
‘Start Me Up’ began as a reggae tune in earlier years, but was turned into a more hard-driving rock sound for use in this ‘Tatto You’ album by 1981.
     “Start Me Up” actually began its musical journey with the Stones back in the 1970s.  It was one of the songs used in recording sessions in Munich, Germany during 1975 for the album Black and Blue.  Initially the song was recorded as a reggae-rock track, but after dozens of takes the band stopped recording it, as it reminded them of something on the radio.  The song also cropped up from time to time in other Stones recording sessions in the late 1970s, and at some point it had bee given working titles such as “Never Stop” and “Start It Up.”  But it had never been formally recorded or released.  By 1981, heading out to tour and surveying their old taped archive, a version of the song was found that had more of a rock sound to it they liked and soon began re-working it.  This version, with overdubbing, was tracked in early 1981, mixing in some unique reverb, with final touches added in a New York recording session, including Jagger’s switch in lyrics from “start it up” to “start me up.”  The lyrics in the final version allude partly to motorcycle metaphors and the rider’s love interest, with hidden and not-so-hidden meanings and sexually-loaded double-entendre throughout.  A few of the lines in the final tune are similar to some used by a Keith Richards- favored blues singer named Lucille Bogan.

‘Start Me Up’ cover sleeve for Rolling Stones single released in August 1981.
‘Start Me Up’ cover sleeve for Rolling Stones single released in August 1981.
     One recent reviewer of the song at the James BioMagazine notes that while much of the music world was hurting following the death of John Lennon in 1980, and writing maudlin tributes, the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” came as “a reaffirmation of rock music’s vitality,” showing that the Stones at least “were still keeping the torch alive, as lascivious and as powerful as ever.”  This reviewer also added that much of the music genre the Stones had made their own – from blues to the urban music of the 70′s and 80′s – was built upon sexual longing.  “Maybe that’s why the Stones were better than any other rock band at assimilating those styles;” he wrote, “they understood this reality and, rather than running from it or prettifying it, they reveled in it, pure and unadulterated.  ‘Start Me Up’ is the epitome of that…”

     In any case, “Start Me Up” in 1981 became a Rolling Stones pop hit and also the lead track on their August 1981 album, Tattoo You.  The song was also released as a single.  In the U.K., it peaked at No. 7.  In the U.S., “Start Me Up” spent three weeks during October and November 1981 at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and in Australia, it went to No. 1.  “Start Me Up” thereafter became a popular song for opening the Stones’ live shows, and it has been featured on their live albums as well as most Stones’ compilation albums since its release, and other albums including Rewind (1971-1984), Jump Back, and Forty Licks.


Windows 95

     Nearly 15 year after the song’s initial popularity, Bill Gates hit upon the idea of using “Start Me Up” for the Windows 95 launch.  Gates happened to meet Mick Jagger at some point and asked him how much it would cost to use the song in advertising.  Reportedly, Jagger replied with some amount in the millions  — $10 million by one account  — a sum, in any case, that Jagger thought would be outrageously high.Microsoft’s “Start Me Up” campaign was aimed at key groups of Rolling Stones followers — from baby boomers to twenty- somethings…   But Gates, undeterred, didn’t flinch and agreed to the amount.  Still, there were some months of negotiating between Microsoft and the Stones to nail down the song’s use, including talks with the Stones’ agent and financial advisor, Prince Rupert, as well as some direct talks with the Stones in Amsterdam.  This was the first time that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the group’s songwriters, had sold a song’s use for advertising.  Jagger and Richards hold the rights to Rolling Stones’ songs they have written since 1972.  However, some of their earlier songs, which they did not hold the rights to, had been used in previous advertising, including one use of the song “Satisfaction” in a Snickers candy bar ad by Mars, Inc.  Jagger and Richards were not happy about that incident, but those rights were held by a former manager.  Jagger and Richards had generally not been keen on using their material in advertising, but with Gates and Microsoft, they made a deal.

The Microsoft 'Windows 95' logo.
The Microsoft 'Windows 95' logo.
     “Start Me Up” became a key part of the Microsoft product launch, as the consumers the company especially wanted were in that large, tech-savvy and mostly well-off demographic that ranged from baby boomers to twentysomethings  — also a key group of Rolling Stones devotees.  The commercials with the “Start Me Up” music first aired in August 1995 during NBC’s popular Seinfeld TV show, and continued broadcasting thereafter for a time on other shows as well.  The Stones’ music got the attention of Microsoft’s target demographic and beyond, leaving no doubt for some a lasting association between the song and Microsoft’s product.  (In fact, a few critics would later refer pejoratively to one of the song’s lines – not used in the ad, however – “you make a grown man cry,” referring to subsequent Windows 95 problems).  But the Stones’ song, as important as it was in the Windows 95 launch, was still only part of Microsoft’s much larger $300 million advertising and promotion campaign.


Jay Leno, Too

Microsoft’s Bill Gates on stage with Jay Leno at the Windows 95 launch event in Redmond, WA.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates on stage with Jay Leno at the Windows 95 launch event in Redmond, WA.
     In the U.S., the promotional kick-off for Windows 95 was centered in Redmond, Washington and included popular late-night talk show host Jay Leno, who served as a kind of MC for the ceremonies in a big pavilion event and unveiling on the Microsoft campus.  Over 12,500 people were invited to attend the launch, plus live satellite broadcasts were made available in 42 U.S. cities and world capitals.  The Rolling Stones tune accompanied Bill Gates on stage as he booted up the new program at the ceremony.  It was broadcast live via satellite to other launch events and retail outlets nationwide.  Gates’ best line during the show, digging at Jay Leno, was: “Windows 95 is so easy even a talk-show host can figure it out.”  The event in Redmond, however, was no casual affair.  It took more than 20 days and a crew of over 200 to set it up.  It was later described as a cross between a high-tech expo and a carnival, including its own “midway” with various pavilions where attendees could try out the new Windows 95 software and related products.  As for the product itself, there were more than 11 million lines of code involved and some 500 people at Microsoft who worked on it, all introduced en masse at one point during the ceremony.  But the media blitz for Windows 95 went well beyond the Redmond event, and in fact, all around the world.

USA Today ran a front-page story on the big ‘Windows 95' show that Bill Gates put on in Redmond, WA.
USA Today ran a front-page story on the big ‘Windows 95' show that Bill Gates put on in Redmond, WA.
     A 30-minute promotional TV video, or “cyber sitcom” as it was called – featured then-popular Friends sitcom TV stars Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry using and highlighting the Windows 95 software.  Another Windows 95 “infomercial” with popular ER TV star, Anthony Edwards, also appeared.  Print ads and in-store events were also part of the campaign.  In London, Microsoft struck a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, owner of The Times of London newspaper, printing 1.5 million copies of a special edition and giving them all way – twice the paper’s normal run of 845,000.  Credit for the giveaway was given to Microsoft at the top of the front page in a box that read: “Windows 95 Launch — Today The Times is Free Courtesy of Microsoft.”  Also across the bottom of the front page was another Microsoft pitch for its new software: “Windows 95.  So Good Even The Times Is Complimentary.”  Inside the paper, a Microsoft supplement continued the pitch with articles about the new software, as well as advertising from Microsoft and other computer hardware and software companies and retailers.

     In New York, Microsoft’s logo colors – orange, yellow and green – were used for a special lighting of the Empire State Building.  In Toronto, a 300-foot Windows 95 banner hung from the CN Tower.  New York Times reporter Richard Stevenson wrote that the series of Microsoft promotions were “more reminiscent of the recording industry than the computer business, complete with parties and midnight store openings…”


Return on Investment

     Bill Gates and Microsoft, meanwhile, were pretty confident that their $300 million in hype would pay off and that the company would recoup its marketing and promotional outlays – and then some.Roughly 100 million com- puter users with earlier versions of Windows  would  sooner or later  upgrade to Windows 95. They knew at the time there were roughly 100 million computer users who had earlier versions of Windows who would sooner or later upgrade to Windows 95.  Then there was at least another $250 million of expected sales from add-on software that could be used with Windows 95.  And within days of the launch, millions of copies of Windows 95 were sold; more than 40 million in the first year.  Windows 95, in its day, soon became the most successful operating system ever produced.  And within three years of its introduction – as is the way of the world with computer software  — Windows 95 would be followed by new Microsoft software, Windows 98, and subsequent versions, continuing to present times.

Rolling Stones, circa 2005, from left, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Ronnie Wood.
Rolling Stones, circa 2005, from left, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Ronnie Wood.
     The Rolling Stones, meanwhile, were quite happy to have been of service for Windows 95, collecting some cool millions for renting out their music, and no doubt, reaping some increased sales of “Start Me Up” and the rest of their music.  Microsoft, of course, became one of the world’s most powerful corporations, and Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world.

     Other stories at this web site on the Rolling Stones include: “Paint It Black, 1966,” “Stones Gather Dollars, 1989-2008,” and “Shine a Light, 2008.”  Other stories on music and advertising include: “Big Chill Marketing, 1980s & 1990s,” “Nike & The Beatles,1987-1989,” “Madonna’s Pepsi Ad, 1989,” “Selling Janis Joplin, 1995,” “Sting & Jaguar, 1999-2001,” and “G.E.’s Hot Coal Ad, 2005.” Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:   23 November 2009
Last Update:   13 August 2014
Comments to:   jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Start Me Up, 1995,” PopHistoryDig.com
November 23, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Keith Richards & Mick Jagger portrayed on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 21Aug 1980 with story line: ‘Monuments of Rock. The Rolling Stones: The Band That Refuses to Die.’
Keith Richards & Mick Jagger portrayed on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 21Aug 1980 with story line: ‘Monuments of Rock. The Rolling Stones: The Band That Refuses to Die.’
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 7 Sept 1989.
Mick Jagger & Keith Richards on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine, 7 Sept 1989.

“The Media Business; Microsoft Throws Stones Into Its Windows 95 Ads,” New York Times, August 18, 1995.

Denise Gellene, “Microsoft Hopes Rolling Out Stones Will Gather Interest; Firm Wants its Windows 95 Campaign to Strike a Chord in Old and Young,”Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1995, p. D-1.

David Segal, “With Windows 95′s Debut, Microsoft Scales Heights of Hype,” Washington Post, Thursday, August 24, 1995, p. A-14.

Richard W. Stevenson, The Media Business: Advertising; Software Makes Strange Bed- fellows in Britain as Microsoft and Murdoch Team to Push Windows 95,” New York Times, Thursday, August 24, 1995, p. D-6.

Peter H. Lewis, “Snubbed at Windows Party? Log On the Internet,” New York Times, Friday, August 25, 1995 p. D-4.

Steven Levy, “Gimme Software,” Newsweek, September 4, 1995,

Mike Littwin (Baltimore Sun), “Even Mick Jagger, Stones Now Work For Bill Gates,”The Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon), Thursday, September 7, 1995, p. 6-B.

“Start Me Up,” Wikipedia.com, November 12, 2009.

Ken Polsson, “Chronology of Personal Com- puters,”@ IslandNet.com.

“Windows 95,” Business Week ( Int’l edition), Cover Story, July 17, 1995.

Bob Johnson, “The Launch of Windows 95,” Concentric.net.

JBev, “Hang Fire: Ranking the Stones ’80s Output (Songs 5-1),” JamesBioMagazine, September 1st, 2009.

Tony Long, “Aug. 24, 1995: Say Hello to Windows 95,” Wired, August 24, 2007.






“Stones Gather Dollars”
1989-2008

October 1989 edition of Forbes business magazine featuring Mick Jagger & Keith Richards among the world's 'highest paid entertainers'.
October 1989 edition of Forbes business magazine featuring Mick Jagger & Keith Richards among the world's 'highest paid entertainers'.
     In October 1989, Forbes magazine featured rock ‘n roll stars Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones on its cover.  The story’s headline asked “What’ll They Do With All That Money?”  Forbes writer Peter Newcomb pro- vided a detailed look at what the Stones were then up to, and his story was quite revealing of the rock ‘n roll business on its way to the 1990s.  The Stones, even then, were a “senior” rock ‘n roll group, having risen to fame a good 25 years earlier in the 1960s along with the Beatles.  Yet at this point in their lives and careers, they still had another 20 years of performing ahead.  But in the late 1980s when Forbes caught up with them, they were at the beginning of a series of live concerts called the “Steel Wheels Tour,” a tour launched to coincide with a new album, also titled Steel Wheels.  This tour, however, also presaged a new era in the business of rock ‘n roll, and specifically the big business of concert touring.

     In 1988, a Canadian promoter named Michael Cohl had guaranteed the Stones a take of $70 million for the tour.  The math went something like this: the tour would draw 3 million people in just under 60 locations.  At about $30 a ticket, a $90 million gate would be generated, with 40 percent paid to the stadium owners and local promoters, leaving 60 percent – or more than $50 million – to the Stones and the tour promoter.  Tour-related merchandise, including T-shirts, jackets, and other paraphernalia, would boost the take to the guaranteed $70 million.  In fact this tour, and its related business, would generate considerably more than $70 million.

 

Macy’s, Bud & Beyond

     The Stones had also made arrangements to sell tour-related material not only at the concert sites, but also at department stores such as Macy’s, J. C. Penney, and Marshall Field.  In some of these stores, “Rolling Stones boutiques” offered a full line of products stamped with the Steel Wheels logo: $5 bandanas, sweatshirts, skateboards, $450 bomber jackets, and two lines of Converse high-top sneakers.  There were also pay-per-view TV rights in the offing at $6-to-$7 million, not including foreign TV rights.  A tour-related movie and a two-hour TV special were being planned as well. “We never dreamed there was any money when we started this thing. It was idealism. It was not knowing what else to do with your life. But then, suddenly, the impossible happened.”
              - Keith Richards, 1989
 And finally, Anheuser-Busch paid close to $6 million for rights to make its Budweiser beer the tour sponsor.  All of this meant that the Stones would gross about $90 million for the year.

     By the time of their 1989 concert tour, however, the Stones were already a group with a significant cache of assets.  They also had a musical legacy – a “bank account” of sorts – to draw upon even in off years when there was no tour income or no new album.  Between 1964 and 1979, the Stones had turned out at least one album every year; sometimes 2 or 3 albums per year in that period.  Many of these albums charted in the U.S and the U.K., often in the Top 10 or Top 20.  So by 1989, this catalog of older Stones recording was still selling, and selling well, at about 1 million copies a year.  With a royalty rates then about $1.75 per record, they would have about $2 million a year coming in just from that catalog, making a kind of annuity possible even if they quit work.  But if they chose on top of that to do a single new album which sold at around 3 million copies, the annual take would rise to as much as $7 million a year.  There was also income from radio airplay as well.  And as songwriters the Stones had agreements for a royalty of about 5 cents per airplay, which can also add up to real money with popular hits – or as Keith Richards once put it, “making money while I sleep.”

Budweiser was a Steel Wheels sponsor.
Budweiser was a Steel Wheels sponsor.

 

Business Savvy

     At the time of the Steel Wheels Tour in 1989, the Rolling Stones were already pretty savvy business people.  Since 1971, they had secured the services of a former London merchant banker named Rupert Zu Loewenstein, who carries an old Bavarian title of “Prince” and became their financial advisor.  The Stones by then were also pretty capable when negotiating recording deals.  In 1985 they signed a distribution agreement with CBS Records that reportedly gave the band $25 million for four albums and the rights to all the old Rolling Stones catalog from Atlantic.  Walter Yetnikoff, the CBS record chief who negotiated with Jagger, said that “Mick was very astute,” lauding him as a guy who could think on his feet, capable of figuring royalty and tax rates in his head.  Jagger had studied macroeconomics at the London School of Economics, which he would later say was mostly economic history.

     But the Stones weren’t always on top of their game economically.  In fact, in the early years, they lost a good deal of money making bad deals.  During the mid-1960s, when the Stones first broke out, they had sold some ten million singles, including their monster 1965-66 hit “Satisfaction.”  They also sold some five million albums in the early years.  Still, they were not making money.“When we first started out, there wasn’t really any money in rock ‘n roll. There wasn’t a touring industry; it didn’t even exist….”
                          – Mick Jagger
  “When we first started out, there wasn’t really any money in rock ‘n roll,” Jagger explained to Fortune magazine in 2002.  “There wasn’t a touring industry; it didn’t even exist.  Obviously there was somebody maybe who made money, but it certainly wasn’t the act. …[E]ven if you were very successful, you got paid nothing.”  The Stones also suffered from lack of negotiating experience.  “I’ll never forget the deals I did in the ’60s, which were just terrible,” Jagger would later say.  In 1965, Allen Klein, a New York manager, helped the Stone’s negotiate a new contract with Decca records and also helped the group win their first million-dollar payday.  But Allen Klein also helped himself.  His company, ABKCO, still retains the rights to the Stones’ early songs from the 1960s through 1971 – a sore point with the Stones, who parted ways with Klein in the early 1970s.  Since then, the Stones have been very much a business-minded rock ‘n roll group, attentive to everything from royalty rates to tax policy.  But by the time of their 1989 Steel Wheels tour, their business savvy had reached a new level and demand for their music was as strong as ever.

 

Steel Wheels Success

Just as the Rolling Stones were beginning their North America 'Steel Wheels' tour in 1989, they appeared on the cover of Time magazine, September 4th, 1989.
Just as the Rolling Stones were beginning their North America 'Steel Wheels' tour in 1989, they appeared on the cover of Time magazine, September 4th, 1989.
     The 36-city Steel Wheels tour started on August 31, 1989 in Philadelphia.  From there it proceeded north to Toronto, Canada, then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and beyond.  Near the start of the tour, the Stones appeared on the cover of Time magazine’s September 4th edition.  Time’s cover story focused on the staying power of older rock groups.  On the tour, meanwhile, there were sell outs in some places months before the event.  When the New York City shows were announced, 300,000 tickets were sold in a record six hours.  And at the concerts, it wasn’t just middling baby boomers who were coming out to relive the 1960s.  Younger fans were also discovering the Stones – at least at New York’s October 1989 Shea Stadium show. Jennifer Ames, then a 19-year-old college sophomore, told a New York Times reporter she had liked the Stones since she was a young girl.  “My parents, my older brothers all played their records,” she explained.  “There are two or three generations of fans here,” added Raymond Finocchio, 42, who brought his 11-year-old son to the concert that night.  But other younger fans had discovered the Stones on their own:  “We’re fans, not children of fans,” said Paula Giglio, 29, of the Bronx, also attending the Shea Stadium show.  The Steel Wheels Tour in North America ended on December 20, 1989 at Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The tour had earned about $260 million, which was then a record for any rock concert tour.

 

Tour Model Honed

     Yet 1989′s Steel Wheels was just the beginning for the Rolling Stones.  More gate-busting tours would follow over the next two decades.  But Steel Wheels became the model.  Its promoter, Canadian Michael Cohl, was hired permanently by the Stones to become their full-time tour manager.  With each subsequent tour, the 1989 experience was honed, costs were pared, and even bigger paydays resulted. 

The Rolling Stones
Selected Tours
1989-2007

Steel Wheels
1989
Urban Jungle Tour
1990
Voodoo Lounge Tour
1994-1995
Bridges to Babylon Tour
1997-1998
No Security Tour
1999
Forty Licks Tour
2002-2003
A Bigger Bang Tour
2005-2007

     The Stones’ Voodoo Lounge tour of 1994-95 grossed nearly $370 million worldwide.  In 1997-1999, the Bridges to Babylon/No Security Tour grossed more than $390 million, attracting some 5.6 million people worldwide.  By 2002, Fortune magazine estimated that between 1989 and 2002, the Stones pulled in about $1.5 billion, including tours and other business, an amount that exceeded what other rock ‘n roll competitors did in that same period, whether U-2, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, or Bruce Springsteen.  Nor did the Rolling Stones’ touring end in 2002.  Their Forty Licks world tour of 2002-2003 played to an audience of 1 million, generating $200 million over 32 show dates in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Far East.  In 2005, they released a studio album, A Bigger Bang, followed by another tour – this one the highest-grossing tour in history, pulling in $558 million between the fall 2005 and late August 2007, according to Billboard.

     The Stone’s success with touring and their tour-related businesses no doubt had an impact on other “retired” rockers who in recent years decided to get back in the game and on the road again.  But other economic factors were also at work by the late 1990s.  The traditional music sales model was changing dramatically with the internet and MP3 players, as album and CD sales began to plummet.  The live-performance business became a much more important source of income for artists, old and new.  Still, the Stones appear to have made a special category all their own.

     Fortune magazine’s Andy Serwer, writing in September 2002 on why the Stone’s continued their appeal way beyond their prime hit-producing years, explained:

“…Subjectively, the Rolling Stones sound pretty damn good, even after all these years.  And objectively, if they’re such has-beens, then how do you explain the band’s phenomenal commercial success over the past decade? No, they aren’t writing groundbreaking songs anymore — in fact they haven’t really recorded any new material of note in 20 years — but we sure are listening to their old stuff.  A lot.  And buying concert tickets.  Millions and millions of them.  And that’s the wrinkle here. Even though the Stones have been in what you might call a creatively fallow period, we want to hear them more than ever.  Couple that with the fact that they have perfected their business model, and it’s easy to understand why they are such an astounding money-making machine.”

Although not turning out hits at the rate they did in the 1960s & ‘70s, the Rolling Stones in the 1990s & 2000s used concert filming & DVDs to package their music in a new way as in 1995's Voodoo Lounge DVD.
Although not turning out hits at the rate they did in the 1960s & ‘70s, the Rolling Stones in the 1990s & 2000s used concert filming & DVDs to package their music in a new way as in 1995's Voodoo Lounge DVD.
     Although by the late 1990s and 2000s the Stones’ hits weren’t coming as frequently as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, they were still putting new songs on the music charts.  The single “Don’t Stop” charted in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2003.  “Streets of Love,”released in August 2005, did the same.  Their concert films, and other videos, both older and more recent, have also done well as DVDs.  In 2003, they released Four Flicks, a four-disc DVD set that included several of their concert shows from their 2002-2003 World Tour.  This DVD debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s music video chart selling 53,000 copies during the first week.  As of April 2007, the DVD had sold 360,000 copies.  In February 2006, the Stones also demonstrated they could still draw a crowd, bringing out a record-setting 1.5 million fans at a free concert on the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro (see photos at end).

 

Songwriting, Ads & Film

     Beyond touring and DVDs, there have also been other business deals and income streams to help fill the Stones’ coffers.  Songwriting royalties continue to flow to Jagger and Richards for the 200 or so songs they have jointly written.  “Music publishing is more profitable to the artist than recording,” Jagger explained to Fortune magazine in 2002.  “It’s just tradition.  There’s no rhyme or reason.  The people who wrote songs were probably better businesspeople than the people who sang them were.  You go back to George Gershwin and his contemporaries – they probably negotiated better deals, and they became the norm of the business.  So if you wrote a song, you got half of it, and the other half went to your publisher.  That’s the model for writing.”  So anytime one of the Jagger/Richards songs is played on the radio or any other public venue, they get a piece of the action.

In 1995, Bill Gates made a multi-million-dollar deal to use the Rolling Stones’ 1981 song ‘Start Me Up’ as the theme song in an advertising campaign to launch & sell Microsoft’s new computer software.
In 1995, Bill Gates made a multi-million-dollar deal to use the Rolling Stones’ 1981 song ‘Start Me Up’ as the theme song in an advertising campaign to launch & sell Microsoft’s new computer software.
     In 1995, the Stones made their first major venture into using one of their songs in commercial adver- tising – a multi-million-dollar deal (some estimates say $13 million) with Bill Gates at Microsoft.  Gates wanted the Stones’ 1981 song “Start Me Up” as the theme song to launch and advertise his company’s new Windows 95 computer software.  The campaign, associated with the start button on the Microsoft program, was widely used and became quite successful.  Not to be out done, rival computer maker Apple used the Stones’ 1967 song “She’s a Rainbow”to launch its colored iMacs in 1999.  And then there’s the movies.  “We do a lot of film licensing,” Jagger said in his Fortune interview.  “We get lots of requests, and I usually say yes.  It’s a great business…”  The Stone’s music can be found in films dating to the early 1970s and many others since then, as well as numerous TV shows.  As of 2002, Stones’ songs used in films were averaging in the low six figures.  In fact, during the 1992-2002 decade, Fortune estimated that the Jagger/Richards songwriting team pulled in about $56 million from radio play, advertising, and movie deals.

     Ray Gmeiner, a vice president at Virgin Records has stated that “The Rolling Stones are a unique brand because they’ve taken the business side of rock and roll to the level that few if any other bands have.”  Add Roger Blackwell and Tina Stephan in their 2004 book, Brands That Rock:  “The Rolling Stones organization is a well-oiled, money making machine, and to say it resembles anything less than a Fortune 500 firm would be unjust…”

 

Still Rocking

The Rolling Stones, 2005.
The Rolling Stones, 2005.
     As of 2008, the Rolling Stones were still rocking and showed few signs of retreat.  Shine a Light, a 2008 documentary film featuring some of the Stones’ recent concerts and produced by famed Hollywood director Martin Scorsese, was released to theaters in April 2008.  The film cost about $1 million to make and grossed about $14 million.  A companion soundtrack album for the film from Universal was also released and charted in the U.S. and U.K.  During their career, the Rolling Stones have released 24 studio albums and nine concert albums in the U.S., plus numerous compilations, with similar numbers in the U.K.  Over the years they have had more than 40 songs that have charted in the Top 40; more than 30 in the Top 10.  In 1971, they began a run of eight consecutive No. 1 U.S. albums. Their business empire aside, love of the blues, love of rock music, and love of performing that music is still at the center of what the Rolling Stones are all about. They have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and their catalog continues to sell. 

     Their business empire aside, however, at the center of the Rolling Stones is their music.  Millions of fans young and old still enjoy that music, and will no doubt continue to enjoy it for many years into the future.  And for the Stones too, the music is key.  They don’t really need to be touring; they make money standing still.  In a 1995 interview with Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine, Jagger told Wenner that love of the blues, love of rock music, and love of performing that music was at the center of what he did.  And Keith Richards has said much the same.  “This whole thing runs on passion,” Richards told Fortune in 2002.  “Even though we don’t talk about it much ourselves, it’s almost a sort of quest or mission.”  New York Times reporter Stephen Holden recently wrote in an April 2008 review of Martin Scorcese’s documentary featuring Stone’s concerts, “…[T]he Rolling Stones appear supremely alive inside their giant, self-created rock ‘n roll machine. The sheer pleasure of making music that keens and growls like a pack of ravenous alley cats is obviously what keeps them going.  Why should they ever stop?”

Other stories on the Rolling Stones at this website include: “Paint It Black” (song history & subsequent uses); “Start Me Up” (use of song by Microsoft as Windows 95 theme song), “…No Satisfaction”(1966 song that marked a kind of cultural divide at the time); and, “Shine A Light” (Martin Scorsese / Rolling Stones film trailer). Additional story choices on music history and artists can be found at the Annals of Music category page. Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. - Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  3 December 2008
Last Update:  17 March 2014
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Stones Gather Dollars, 1989-2008,”
PopHistoryDig.com, December 3, 2008.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Poster for 2008 Martin Scorsese film of Rolling Stones’ concerts.
Poster for 2008 Martin Scorsese film of Rolling Stones’ concerts.
Jay Cocks, “Roll Them Bones,” Time, Monday, September 4, 1989.

Peter Newcomb, “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” Forbes, October 2, 1989.

Constance L. Hays, “2 Generations of Fans Enjoy Rolling Stones’ Live Legacy,” New York Times, October 11, 1989.

Tom Harrison – Music Critic, “Keith Richards Sets The Tone,” The Vancouver Province, November 1, 1989.

Michiko Kakutani, Pop View, “Troubadours Of Fickle Time And Its Passing,” New York Times, September 4, 1994.

Richard Harrington, “That Old Jagger Edge; At RFK, the Stones Rock and Roll On,” Washington Post, August 2, 1994, p. F-1.

“Microsoft Throws Stones Into Its Windows 95 Ads,” New York Times, August 18, 1995.

David Segal, “With Windows 95′s Debut, Microsoft Scales Heights of Hype,”Washington Post, Thursday, August 24, 1995, p. A-14.

Jann Wenner, “Jagger Remembers: The Rolling Stone Interview,” Rolling Stone, December 14, 1995.

Michiko Kakutani, “Heart of Stones,” New York Times Magazine, October 12, 1997.

Richard Harrington, “Smooth Stones Roll Out The Oldies,” Washington Post, October 24, 1997, p. D-1.

Kelefa Sanneh, “Rolling Stones Revel in the Act of Survival,” New York Times, September 27, 2002.

Andy Serwer and associates Julia Boorstin and Ann Harrington, “Inside the Rolling Stones Inc.,” Fortune, September 30, 2002.

“A Conversation With Mick Jagger,” The Charlie Rose Show, Thursday, November 14, 2002

Roger Blackwell and Tina Stephan, Brands That Rock, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Jon Pareles, “Swaggering Past 60, Unrepentant,” New York Times, August 23, 2005.

J. Freedom du Lac, “Time on Their Side; The Rolling Stones, Still Rocking Like It’s 1995, or 1965,” Washington Post, October 4, 2005, p. C-1.

The Rolling Stones, No. 4, “The Forbes Celebrity 100,” Forbes, June 14, 2007.

Stephen Holden, “Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, but They’re Still at It,” New York Times, April 4, 2008.

The Rolling Stones” and “Shine a Light,” Wikipedia.org, 2008.

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Seaside streets & Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 'filling up' with hundreds of thousands of onlookers & fans during the evening prior to Rolling Stones’ concert, February 2006.
Seaside streets & Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 'filling up' with hundreds of thousands of onlookers & fans during the evening prior to Rolling Stones’ concert, February 2006.
 
Later that night at the same venue on Copacabana Beach as Stones played to a ‘full house’ estimated at 1.5 million.
Later that night at the same venue on Copacabana Beach as Stones played to a ‘full house’ estimated at 1.5 million.



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