In September, the four surviving members of the Grateful Dead convened in San Francisco with Mark Pinkus, senior VP of Grateful Dead Properties and Worldwide Licensing for Rhino Entertainment. The purpose of the meeting was twofold: to discuss opening up the legendary group’s catalog to greater film and TV licensing and to focus on ways to introduce the band’s music to 18- to 25-year-old fans who never had a chance to see them live.
So far the plan is truckin’ along. The Dead have placements in four movies, including “The Music Never Stopped,” which came out March 29 through Essential Pictures; as well as the upcoming “Salvation Boulevard,” which IFC Films and Sony Pictures acquired at Sundance; “Peace, Love & Misunderstanding,” directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener; and the direct-to-video “Blue Crush 2.”
“Our desire to increase the sync business for the Grateful Dead isn’t financially driven, per se,” Pinkus says. “We want to keep the Dead’s music alive.” Rhino, which controls the master recordings, works with Ice Nine, which handles the Dead’s publishing.
“The Dead are prepared to approve songs quickly and within the budget if the project is right,” Pinkus says, for film and TV usage (the band reportedly isn’t interested in commercials).
That was good news to Jim Kohlberg, director of “The Music Never Stopped.” The movie, based on a true case study from neurologist Oliver Sacks, is about a brain-damaged young man who reconnects with his estranged father over the Grateful Dead and other rock music.
Kohlberg declined to disclose the licensing fees, other than to say they were “reasonable …we were able to do it in an independent framework. I think the musicians really reacted to the underlying material and script.”
That was definitely the case for the Dead’s Mickey Hart who testified before Congress with Sacks in 1991 about the healing power of music and had participated in music therapy sessions with the real patient the case study depicts.
“This movie was right on target,” he says, but adds that approving the group’s music for film and TV usage remains “a delicate thing. There are a lot of licensing offers that aren’t appropriate.”
And Hart carries around with him the memory of a film usage that he hopes never to replicate. “One time I was in Oklahoma in 1974 and this thing I’d done (as part of drum outfit) Diga, it was running under a porn film,” he recalls. “They didn’t get a license either. My friend was passing through the channels, I heard two bars and I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ I learned a lot about licensing. We kind of shied away from it for a lot of reasons, but this is our legacy and I do like to turn people on to it, but it has to be the right way.”