Aerosmith’s star-studded tribute concert as the 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year honorees on Friday night (January 24) will cement another important milestone in the historic Boston-founded band’s contributions to the American rock canon.
But over the past decade, some of the band’s best-known music has remained part of the cultural conversation through some of the most strategic synch placements for classic rock songs this side of the pond from the Rolling Stones.
“I don’t know if this is a word, but they hit it out of the park on the synchability meter,” says Jonathan Palmer, senior VP at creative synch at BMG, which inherited the rights to many of Aerosmith’s best-known songs through its $150 million strategic alliance with Primary Wave in 2013. “Whether it’s big copyrights like ‘Dream On’ and ‘Back in the Saddle,’ or lesser known songs like ‘Draw The Line,’ they’re songs with a lyrical appeal that plugs into a lot of different uses and can resonate across a lot of different media lanes.”
And indeed, based on the past several years alone, Aerosmith’s catalog has been featured heavily across the full licensing spectrum. “Sweet Emotion,” one of several sync evergreens, is currently scoring a U.S. commercial for T-Mobile and network promos for Fox’s “The Orville,” while “Dream On” has appeared in a spot for video game “Clash Royale,” promos for Apple TV+’s “For All Mankind” and a recent episode of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” And “Walk This Way” has been synched most recently in both a French ad for Dior Homme and a cast sing-along on ABC’s sitcom “The Goldbergs,” and even appears as part of a mega-medley in the Broadway adaptation of “Moulin Rouge.”
Palmer credits the recent boom to the ongoing collaboration with both Tyler and founding guitarist Joe Perry, as well as the band’s manager Larry Rudolph and lawyer Dina LaPolt. “They have great taste, and they’re very astute observers of what’s going on in the pop culture zeitgeist,” says Palmer. “They have a pretty good sense of what’s going to match up for them project by project, and brand by brand. With a lot of bigger catalogs, you find there’s lots of resistance and they’ve been nothing but great partners for us in terms of their openness to opportunities that we bring to the table.”
Desmond Child, the Grammy-nominated songwriter who co-wrote several of Aerosmith’s late 80s comeback singles, also cites the band’s long-standing embrace from the movie community for its continued catalog resurgence. Most famously, “Dude Looks a Lady” was featured in an extended lip-sync sequence in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and has even been cited as a central inspiration to the film’s plot.
“Now every little kid could sing those lyrics by heart,” says Child, who will sit with the band at BMG’s table during the MusiCares tribute. “Talk about being ahead of their time, in terms of this whole amorphous binary identities and gender fluidity and acceptance and going with the flow. That song had it. It’s been a fantastic journey of love and fun, so I’m very proud of it and how it brought them all the way back to the top and they never looked back.”
Thomas Scherer, BMG’s exec VP of U.S. publishing, says the music company has expanded its support of Aerosmith’s efforts by pairing Tyler with several of its writers (including Hillary Lindsey and Poo Bear) for his 2016 solo album, as well as donating resources and time to Tyler’s Janie’s Got a Fund to provide shelters for victims of abuse. “We need to look out for each other, and what Steven does with the fund resonates with what the foundation of what BMG and Bertelsmann has been doing since the ‘50s. We’re proud to provide support where it’s needed and give back to the community.”
As for what the rest of 2020 has in store? Palmer says a few other synch projects are in the works, as are several field trips to Las Vegas to support the band’s ongoing residency, Deuces Are Wild, with MGM. “It’s always fun to create new ways for people to engage with the band,” says Palmer. “Whether it’s through re-works of songs, or new interpretations of them out there, that’s always an exciting angle to play with and show how much legs these songs have outside of the original master.”
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 highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.