The Story behind "Start Me Up" and Windows 95

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Michael Gartenberg | August 22, 2006, 10:04 PM

Joe Wilcox started the ball rolling with this post about recalling the days of the Windows 95 launch and the Start Me Up campaign. That prompted some emails from Brad Silverberg and Brad Chase (if you don't know who they are, let's just say these were Microsoft's war time consiglieri in those days). There's a great story to be told about this and rather than ruin it, I've asked Brad and Brad to tell the tale. So as the countdown to Vista goes on, here's part 1, courtesy Brad Silverberg.

"Joe's recent post on Microsoft Monitor about the Win 95 Start Me Up tv commercial brought back lots of fun history to remember, including negotiating with the Stones for the song. It took months of negotiating with their agent, Prince Rupert (yeah, I think he was a titled prince), including trips by Brad Chase to a private recording session with the Stones in Amsterdam.

At the time, the Stones hadn't licensed their songs for TV commercials so it was a big policy decision for them. We may think of them as a rock band but they are really like a corporation, with Mick the CEO and Keith the president, whose product happens to be rock music. Mick didn't want to do any licensing of songs as he felt it hurt their artistic purity. But it was at a time when their popularity has declined and so they were open to aligning themselves with new and exciting stuff in the world (like Win95 and the whole PC/Internet/Technology wave). Plus, Keith did want to license. Apparently his burn rate was higher than Mick's , and wanted the money. Keith pushed Mick hard and finally prevailed on Mick, who wanted to help Keith out. They agreed to license it to us and after long, painful negotiations, we reached terms.

By the way, the price was not the $10m or $12m or whatever that is common belief. I'm not at liberty to disclose the exact amount, but it was a small fraction of that. It was the Stones, who after doing the deal, leaked the big number figure so as to set the market price for their next deal. Also, when they delivered the song, it was NOT for the studio version we all know (and which we had agreed upon). Instead they delivered some later version that wasn't quite the same. Why? Because it was with some newer band members who got a lower royalty rate than the ones in the original version. We said no way, and got the original version.

For the next year, every time that song was played, people thought, "Win95." It was money well spent and still a great commercial."

Part 2 coming soon....

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