U2 Does TV Marketing; The Doors Don't

Rock bands now skillfully use marketing, especially on TV, for self-promotion. This seems quite a distance from an earlier generation, who would snub profit for creative artistry. Still, some vestiges of the earlier non-commercialism remain.

Though not for U2. On Thursday, the band will look to add to its marketing repertory by being the lone guest for an entire hour of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." The band will perform at least three songs, be interviewed by O'Brien and participate in comedy bits.

The show had been trying to get the band for over a decade. Its appearance is in conjunction with U2's sold-out, seven-show run at Madison Square Garden--which, of course, doesn't need much promotion anymore. Future albums and tour swill no doubt benefit.

U2 has been the model of a modern musical marketing band over the last seven years. Its use of TV includes performances during a Super Bowl half-time a couple of years back. Most recently its song "Vertigo" was incorporated into Apple's iTunes/iPod commercials--which includes a special black edition U2 iPod.



That same profit motive is not evident in the 1960s group The Doors. It seems the drummer, John Densmore, refuses to let any of The Doors' classic songs be sung for TV commercials or other advertising uses. He says celebrated long-dead member Jim Morrison would agree.

"People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music," Densmore told the Los Angeles Times. "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."

Wow. That's surely a switch from other older bands looking to continue the legacy by selling products on TV. Such musical icons as Led Zeppelin (for Cadillac), Bob Dylan (Kaiser Permanente), the Rolling Stones (Ameriquest Mortgage), and Paul McCartney (Fidelity Investments), have found corporate marketing nirvana by leasing their songs.

The Doors had offers from Apple Computer, as well as a $15 million deal dangled by Cadillac last year to lease the song "Break On Through (to the Other Side)" to hawk its luxury SUVs--a deal that went instead to Led Zeppelin.

But Densmore says he hears the voice of Jim Morrison in his head telling him otherwise.

How would the band be affected if Densmore were to relent? Look what happened after 1991, when Oliver Stone's movie "The Doors," was released, and 14 million Doors albums were sold in the United States alone.

What would Jim Morrison say about that? Maybe Densmore doesn't have the correct answer. He thinks Morrision would sing: "This is the end."

But perhaps he might warble: "Take it as it comes."

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