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How the Rolling Stones’ ‘She’s a Rainbow’ Got a Seven-Figure Synch Renaissance

As far as Rolling Stones chart hits go, “She’s a Rainbow” is more of a cult favorite in the band’s canon, just missing the Top 40 of Mick Jagger’s biggest Billboard Hot 100 hits of all time. But by 2018 standards, it’s suddenly become a smash — based on how many high-profile sync placements the song has received in the fourth quarter alone.

In June, Acura debuted a new TV campaign for its 2019 RDX featuring an immersive score (and in-car chyron) from the 1967 single, one of two simultaneous campaigns featuring a Stones classic (although Motorhead handles duties for the other spot.) Though the Stones have embraced commercial licensing in recent years, the campaign still marked a relatively rare U.S. usage from the band’s golden era.

Then in early September, something even more unusual happened. Not only did the Stones license one of their late ‘60s hits again, this time for Dior’s new Joy fragrance campaign starring Jennifer Lawrence, it was the same one they’d just licensed in June — “She’s a Rainbow.”

Later that same month, FX’s “American Horror Story,” one of cable’s most-watched shows, featured the song in a key scene that resurrected key characters from its third season, “Coven.” Come October, both the Acura and Dior campaigns were in such heavy rotation, it was not uncommon to see a commercial break in which both spots aired within the same ad break. Suddenly the song was becoming just as ubiquitous as the colors in its namesake.

How did “She’s a Rainbow” pull a “Parent Trap” of dueling ad campaigns with twin soundtracks? A combination of a major milestone, and the result of a year’s worth of strategic outreach from ABKCO Music & Records, which owns the masters and publishing from the Stones’ ‘60s output.

Alisa Coleman, ABKCO’s chief operating officer, spoke with Songs for Screens about the song’s rebirth, navigating parallel campaigns with Acura and Dior, and why the price tag for each campaign is still within range of the $4 million asking price that the Jagger-Richards catalog could command in the ‘90s.

“She’s a Rainbow” seems to be having quite a synch renaissance this year, after many years where we rarely heard Stones songs in commercials at all. Is this the result of years of incoming requests finally being returned, outgoing calls – or both?
Alisa Coleman: It all started as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Their Satanic Majesties Request” [the album on which the song originally appeared.] At the end of last year, we released a 50th anniversary edition of the album, and we did a very special lyric video around “She’s a Rainbow.” We made a very hard push [to the synch community], in fact we had a couple of commercials that were teetering around the time of release, but everybody couldn’t get the timing right. We went for the push around the 50th anniversary, and the way things went afterwards it helped push through to a longer term. The campaign with Acura, where they actually used the album cover, that was all part of the concept of that 50th anniversary re-push.

That same campaign also uses “Sympathy for The Devil,” which turned 50 this year with the anniversary of “Beggars Banquet.” Was that part of the same commemorative push, and why isn’t the original version featured?
For “Sympathy for the Devil,” they wanted something that was more raw than the Rolling Stones. They’re not really tandem campaigns in my mind, they’re two individual campaigns in my mind that both happen to use Jagger-Richards songs. But with Acura and the Dior campaign, those were the things we were looking for at the time of the 50th anniversary release. It takes time to put things together and get everything aligned.

“She’s a Rainbow” even had a TV-film push this year, featuring in a key scene from the most recent season of “American Horror Story.” How did that come about?
You can’t say enough about how great the Stones’ recording is. That instrumental, the beginning, the piano that helps drive so much. [Music supervisors] are always looking for those big, instrumental, recognizable parts. Also, in France there was another campaign that ran for a year with “She’s a Rainbow” for an insurance company group. So all those things helped bring awareness to the song, it charted on [Billboard] Digital Songs. Promoting it to music supervisors really paid off.

You’ve worked on the Stones catalog at ABKCO for 33 years. How has yours and the band’s approach to licensing changed in a music landscape that has shifted wildly from when you first started?  
We come from a place of “Yes.” We recognize how important it is to our songwriters and our artists and to the legacy of these catalogs, to reintroduce them time and time again to new audiences. They are touchpoints in people’s lives. So it’s my job to make sure that continues to happen, and it’s ABKCO’s responsibility to make sure that that continues on both the music publisher and master side, whether it’s reinterpretation or re-use of a master recording.

What is it about “She’s a Rainbow” specifically that you think is connecting so well right now, and how have Mick and Keith responded to these new opportunities?
When something is great, it’s great. You watch that Dior spot, can you say anything except that it takes your breath away? When you watch that Acura spot, can you not say that is a perfect use for that song? As long as we know what those things are, and we’re the gatekeepers, certainly we’re not going to show anybody anything that we’re not personally proud of. So that makes it all easier.

Jagger and Richards reportedly once made $4 million for one Snickers synch of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in the ‘90s, when synch volume was much lower and demand was much higher. Is the pricing for the latest “She’s a Rainbow” commercials on par with some of those rates?
The Stones catalog is still at the highest level possible. Our vision overall is to ensure the integrity of the use and to make sure that it fits and to make sure that the fee is representative of the caliber of the recording and the composition. That’s our job.

So are the latest commercial placements upwards of seven figures?
Yes.

Was there ever a concern from Acura or Dior that there would be two campaigns airing at the same time featuring the same song?
The partnership with advertising agencies and producers is very important to us. They were kind of both bubbling at the same time, so everybody was aware that there were possibilities of these two things happening at the same time, and we’re very respectful if somebody feels that it’s too controversial on either side, or if it overlaps too much in the product areas. It’s important to us in our relationships with people to make everybody understands and is happy. At the end of the day, if you don’t have the ad or the songwriter or the artist happy, what do you have? We’re building relationships that move forward, not backwards.

Have you experienced seeing both commercials in the same ad break as I have, probably more than once?
We must have been watching the same show. And, you know, I had a big smile on my face. I have to say in all the years I’ve been doing this, this is really the first time that’s ever happened to us, for ABKCO, in that way. And I know that this conversation is about the Rolling Stones and “She’s a Rainbow,” but our team as a whole has had an amazing year, with the Sam Cooke [catalog, which ABKCO also controls] and some of our younger artists, and really digging deep into the catalog for some other things.

We’ve had quite a few commercials, starting with Sam Cooke’s recording in a Walmart commercial at the beginning of [2017], and Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World” now in a Google spot, and “Bring It on Home” is in another Walmart spot in Canada that touches on your heartstrings. And it’s just been a terrific year in that area for all these legacy campaigns.

We are a relatively small independent company with a powerhouse catalog. The team has really made it work this year.

Songs For Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.

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