Budweiser Keeps Musician In The Dark


Chances are that you’ve seen the tear-jerker, anti-drunk driving Budweiser commercial about the dude and his puppy.  You know, the dog eagerly waits for his scruffy twenty-something owner to come home after a night of drinking, but doesn’t… until the next morning where dude apologizes to dog and says “I decided I shouldn’t drive home last night. I stayed at Dave’s.”

It currently has over 19 million views on YouTube and is starting to air on television.  It played during last night’s Sunday Night Football.

The most frequent comment on YouTube is “What is the song? Who is it by?”

Good question Budweiser! The song is so prominent and featured, but there’s no mention of the artist in the YouTube description. And there are no annotations on the video linking people to iTunes.

Well, the song is by Minneapolis musician Dan Rodriguez.  And yes, it was a work for hire.  Meaning, Rodriguez will not see another dime from what he was paid up front (which I learned from sources close to this project, wasn’t much).

The difference between this “jingle” and most others is that this was written as a full song, performed and sung by a working singer/songwriter.  It’s not an instrumental track cranked out by a jingle house.

It’s like keeping the Friends theme “I’ll Be There For You” uncredited (with no royalties for the songwriters).  That song has single-handedly sustained those songwriters’ entire lives.

Budweiser technically owns the song and is not letting Rodriquez sell it on iTunes.  But why not?  People are asking for it.  Hell, split the royalties! Budweiser doesn’t need the money, but the indie singer/songwriter does.

The view count has since tapered off.  A month ago it was getting a million plays a day.  Now it’s in the thousands.  So, the sales window has pretty much closed.

But why didn’t Budweiser even credit him in the description?  That would at least get this performing singer/songwriter more fans.

It’s an odd oversight from a company pushing their Made In America documentary, festival and video series which is focused around music.  Budweiser has jumped head first into the music sphere.  But made a serious misstep with this.

Other Budweiser commercial spots like the “Puppy Love” #Bestbuds commercial (with the dog and the horses) and the “A Hero’s Welcome,” both from this past year’s Super Bowl, prominently feature music.  However, these songs are from big stars: Parachute and Skyler Grey respectively.  And Budweiser lists them in the description.  They even give the iTunes link for the Skyler Grey song.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.16.15 AM

But why didn’t this happen for Dan Rodriguez’ song? I know I know it’s a work for hire!  But come on Budweiser.  Don’t be dicks.

To Budweiser’s credit, they were responding to most of the early questions in the comments revealing the name of the musician.  So why not put his name in the description?  Why not allow him to put it on iTunes?

This could have been Dan Rodriguez’ breakout song.  19 million views, for all intents and purposes, a music video?  That’s good for anyone!  Let alone an independent singer/songwriter.  This could have made him tens of thousands in iTunes sales. T hat’s nothing for Budweiser, but that’s a lot for an independent musician.

Work For Hire isn’t what it used to be.  Music discovery isn’t what it used to be.  Fans use television shows, movies and commercials for music discovery now more than ever.  Just because a song is written specifically for a commercial spot shouldn’t make it any less of a song.  Especially one featured so prominently.  And especially coming from a independent, working singer/songwriter.

Dear companies around the world requesting music for your commercials.  Get outside what’s legally required of you and think about how you can support the independent musicians providing the meaningful soundtrack to help sell your products.  It will help your goodwill in the long run.

Find more from Dan Rodriguez: http://www.danrodriguezmusic.com


Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

43 Responses

  1. melorun

    You do a work for hire for a massive multinational ad and you don’t negotiate any kind of publicity for yourself? You don’t get a royalty deal?

    It sucks, and I sympathize with the guy. But who the hell signs their soul away like that? It just reeks of short-sightedness.

    On the other hand; it’s a big “no-shit” on Budweiser’s side. People like the song and have to watch their commercial to hear it?

    • Jeff Robinson

      And a Budweiser sponsored half-time show at the Superbowl demands the artist ‘pay-to-play’.

      So the Budweiser commercial makes total sense too.

      If, as our Supreme Court ruled, Corporations are People, I’d like to expand on that and say Corporations may be people, but they aren’t creative people and have to rely on someone else to be creative for them, then also charge them for their creativity.

      The lesson in this is that ‘creative people should stick to working with creative entities’. Simple yardstick question before getting involved could be ‘is this entity that I wish to involve myself with creative?’ If the answer is no, steer the other way.

      As for the Friends Theme (as I was a recording engineer on that), Danny and Phil had done the show theme on the fly while making ‘L.P.’ They saw it as a quick, non-critical, money-maker. After the show debuted and was clearly a phenomena, Warner Television wanted a full-length version for the Soundtrack they were going to release. Danny and Phil had produced the TV show version themselves- it sounds much more like the Monkees doing a cover than the single version we eventually recorded. Warner Television recommended they work with a producer for the new version. We were overdubbing and mixing their 3rd full-length called ‘L.P.’ at the time and so Gavin MacKillop was hired to produce the single version. It happened over 4 days at Master Control Recording in Burbank. There were 8-lyric writers for that song by the time it became a full-length song as Kevin Bright, the TV show producer wanted the writers from the TV show on hand to help (proven hit song writers the Rembrandts) write the lyrics. Danny and Phil bit their tongues and delivered an excellent bridge for the song. The song was then tacked on to the end of L.P. by East/West records and usurped sales of the Friends TV show soundtrack because it was released first and reached platinum sales. What started out in a non-serious effort as just a TV show theme, became more ‘artful’ and ‘serious’ in the end as it was added to their current full-length album. As all episodes of the show will soon be available on Netflix, the Friends TV show defines the 1990’s as much as Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’.

  2. drewchowen

    Ari – chances are the two other cases you cite here had “protection” (i.e. legal teams that won’t let any party squeak by without mention or billable hours) from a publisher or label. Works for hire are a tricky dance when a third party “clearinghouse” originates the placement since the third party is in a bit of a conflict of interest. Yes, they’d love to have a joint share of potential publishing revenue as a publisher, but no they don’t want to scare off the client into a potential future-use-conflict if the work gets repurposed elsewhere. I don’t believe every third party placement house treats this scenario in the same manner. Anamanaguchi’s latest spot for Target has separate full length downloads available for sale and streaming, maybe their placement experience is savvy enough to keep pieces of the pie in negotiation.

    • Ari Herstand
      Ari Herstand

      Yeah, it could have been as easy as just asking for a credit or an iTunes release. They could have given Budweiser exclusive placement use, but allow the sale. Hell, stick a Budweiser logo on the damn single cover.

      Too bad his clearance house didn’t negotiate this. Major misstep by them as well.

      • hippydog

        Quote “Too bad his clearance house didn’t negotiate this. Major misstep by them as well.”

        meh.. I have to assume for budweiser that would have been a deal breaker..
        they would want full control..

        From a marketing standpoint NOT letting him sell the song makes a lot more sense..
        This way they can maximize the usefulness of the song..

        AFTER the ‘hits’ on the video have gone down (its useful life is gone)
        they can then either
        a.) allow Dan Rodriquez to sell/promote his song, and if it turns into a hit (radio play) its just more free advertisement for Bud..
        b.) give it the full treatment; Budweiser (via a label of their choosing) could help him re-record (high end studio treatment) the song, music video, etc etc.. and the same as A.) if it becomes a hit on its own its just pure gravy for them..

  3. Chris H

    Come on duuuuudee, like be cool. I know I signed a deal and knew what I was signing (or I’m even dumber than I thought), but like, be cool man, I need the royalties I agreed to give up.

      • Chris H

        LOL, no just a professional. I know what I sign and what I’m agreeing to and I don’t go back on my deals and try to get more out of it down the road. A work for hire is what it says it is. You don’t like it, don’t sign that deal.

        For Ari to suggest there should be a special circumstance here is intellectually dishonest.

        • Ari Herstand
          Ari Herstand

          No one is claiming he didn’t know what he’s signing or should get royalties. I’m talking about giving him a credit. Is it required? No. Is it a dick move to leave it off after they’ve been asked repeatedly by people in the comments? Yes. Do they have to allow him to sell the song? Of course not. Are they being dicks by NOT allowing him to sell it? Yes. Hell, put a Budweiser logo on the damn single cover. Whatever. How is it hurting their brand or bottom line? Every time people listen to the song they’ll think of Budweiser and the dog.

          Yes, not cool on his ‘clearance house’ or licensing company to not include a promotional stipulation or iTunes clause. Could have been as easy as just asking. Shame on them for not.

          • doktor audio

            the credit within youtube – I give you that. they could have made him a little star or just given him a boost like that. It is common yet disgusting that ad productions leave the artistic credits out of the game. However, things change and we don’t know whether Dan wants to be next year’s “that guy from the dog commercial last year – oh it was a beer commercial”.

            But putting a song on itunes only because some 100 people wanted to know who it is by doesn’t make too much sense to me. Who says they would have bought the song if they had known where? And how much money does a musician make again for 10 bought downloads? One could argue they already “bought” the song by watching the branded video – in times where songs are traded for facebook-likes and e-mail handles.

            love this little think tank by the way, thanks to all involved

          • PTSoundHound

            What about the puppy? Did the puppy get a credit? And the grown up dog? And the guy in the ad who “stayed at Dave’s” – what about him? Actors gotta make a crust too, y’know. And the dude (or dudette) who cut the video, the camera operator, wardrobe, make-up etc. etc.

          • There is something...

            Did the puppy shit on the carpet ? If he was let alone till the morning, I bet the answer would be yes !

          • Chris H

            It’s not a “dick move” Ari. Adults enter into contracts represented well. Either he took this gig for the money, knowing what he was getting into and not (especially with a clearinghouse, if that was the case). If he asked and didn’t get, but still accepted, nothing to whine about. If he asked, they (clearinghouse or Bud) didn’t address it and he still signed the deal, nothing to whine about.

            Going back and asking for stuff retroactively is a dick, unprofessional move, end of story.

  4. Cmonbro

    This probably WAS a jingle house though.. like was the deal direct? doubt it.. did the Ad agency commission it? did they hire someone like Music Dealers to “find” a record.

    I mean all this is important if you are trying to blame Budweiser who probably don’t even know whats going on.

    • Ari Herstand

      I have been working with sources very close to this situation. To not blow their cover, I withheld some of that information. But Budweiser knows what’s going on.

      • Cmonbro

        Yea.. that is why I asked…

        Bud could definietly “allow” it… but.. this is business… “closed mouths dont get fed”.

        He should’ve pushed for some carve out if it hit a certain threshold or revenue share on the song. The problem of course is there is no mechanism put in place for the Brand and artist to share in revenue.

  5. Anonymous

    work for hire – buyout

    he submitted the song and signed the deal. most of these are not backend deals unless you’re an established composer or artist (with leverage to pre-negotiate royalties etc). Daniel could’ve asked for a chyron, but because he’s a virtual unknown – they probably felt like it wouldn’t fit creatively on-screen.

    bummer for this guy. but, he signed the deal

  6. SunnyDaze

    As someone who has done hundreds of spots, I am betting he got somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25K for the entire buy out. If that came to him through a music house then he probably got less than half.

    The PROs don’t really pay on commercials so that wouldn’t really matter anyways.

    The best way to handle this situation – and it’s rarely possible, and only if the song was pre-existing – is to hold on until the very end when you know that your song is the one, and then make it a license deal or walk away. It’s just so easy to get music for almost nothing now-a-days… meh. On the other hand, if this was an “assignment” then he got his fair wage.

    Years ago I was doing a series of spots for a major soft drink company. The media buy was going to be HUGE. I kept imploring the client to start a music publishing company and register the song(jingle) so they, and I, could get at least something…. I even offered to set it up for them. They couldn’t be bothered because if the revenue stream wasn’t in 7 figures, it “wasn’t worth it”.

    Oh, yeah – I was also on camera musician talent for these spots and I absolutely promise you they spent more on the catering and craft service than they did on the music.

      • SunnyDaze

        In theory and on paper this works… but the truth is the PROs often need to see the media buy – which most agencies won’t give up because it’s proprietary info. Without it they don’t track it and don’t pay on it.

        I’ve been paid on spots many times over the years but it took some doing.

  7. Big balls+on+cowtown

    He should put it on iTunes anyway. Budweiser gonna waste time filing a lawsuit for what amounts to peanuts for them? Storm the gates Dan! Damn the torpedoes!

  8. fastannie

    For a national broadcast TV and/or radio ad, Dan would have (or should have) filed sessions with the AFM. He’d get paid for that and also get residuals based onb how many times it’s broadcast, and that could be quite tasty. The one time fee was for the writing and production of the track. All of that is standard operating procedure. Don’t know about the restricted use stuff, though.

  9. hippydog

    until this moment I had never heard of “Dan Rodriguez”..
    I just did a quick sampling of his music..
    The guy is locked and loaded..
    If he doesn’t break out inspite of budweiser be jack offs.. I would be very surprised..

    The guy is good.. So if he did just sell a potential hit song for dirt cheap.. but it breaks the door down for him.

    IE: I dont think this guy is one hit wonder.. I’m thinking hes gonna come out ahead 😉

  10. There is something...

    Ari, don’t you think it’s a simple NDA issue ?

    I mean, many big corporation want NDA clause when they buy music from an “unknown” artist, because they don’t want to take the risk to be linked to someone if this artist develops a “bad” image later. That would explain why Budweiser don’t want any official link to this artist. No need to search for a conspiracy theory here.

  11. Session player

    This is the stupidest thing ever on this site. You are so wrong and have no idea how the music business actually works. Budweiser has no need or desire to credit the songwriter. They are selling beer. Let’s please go back to the old expectations when we are doing an advertisement people. This indie mindset has turned the business into an amateur playground, which has fucked every pro out there.

  12. Anonymous

    hey bud, be wiser…

    A work for hire agreement, Budweiser now owns the Masters and i guess he probably signed his publishing away as well his moral rights so unfortunately anything after the fact is mostly a moot point.

    It’s one thing to slander corporations when there are legitimate unethical and immoral and mostly illegal actions at play, this however appears to be legitimate and negotiated, therefore an oversight and poor negotiation by the singer/songwriter in question and whoever may be representing him, not reason to take aim at the big bad wolf.

    If you haven’t noticed out there, the big companies and the Monopolistic conglomerate simply do not like and cannot stand supporting independent musicians, it’s essentially bad for business, UNLESS the stats and data show it’s a trendy thing or else the independent musician has a large fanbase to market and advertise to that fits the demographic of the product in question.

    This was poor negotiating on the part of the musician and whoever represents him.

    If anyone out there is hoping to avoid similar outcomes and needs any help negotiating or requires good unbiased consultation regarding their contracts or negotiations, i can certainly provide them with the service and quality unbiased answers they or you require.
    Feel free to contact me at Plum Minnow

    Have a wonderful day and thank you for your time and consideration.


  13. Publisher gal

    1) ASCAP and BMI will now pay on commercials with proof of use. The work for hire aspect has no bearing on a broadcast royalty payment. There are several companies that can provide that proof. 2) The actors in commercials get paid for their time and service and they get paid royalties every time a commercial airs. Why? Because they have a strong union that negotiates a fair deal for creative services with the ad agency. That union is SAG. Composers do not have a union. When will composers figure out that they are being exploited and screwed out of fair payments, and organize for fair deals? You tell me.

  14. Dan's #1Fan

    Everyone talks about Dan signing off on the deal. Most artists like Dan who have dedicated their life and talents in one of the most competitive industries, get an opportunity for a commercial or movie and jumps at it. No one knew the impact it will have. However, when the commercial goes viral and people are requesting to know the song and artist, why not give credit and recognition? Win-win for all. The more the song is played, the more people would be reminded of their responsibilities regarding drinking and not driving. Do not miss the opportunity, Budweiser, to see this message go out to the world by allowing it to be sold on iTunes. Optimize the opportunity while it’s hot.

    • Anonymous

      Leafing through the latest SOCAN magazine i saw an article with a band. When asked what their keys to success were, their first answer was…

      1. say yes to everything!

      Ironically this ultimately causes downward pressure for every single artist/musician/band in the business.

      This is happening to composers as well.

      A woman who constantly spreads her legs for everybody and anybody with even just half a heartbeat simply has no value, as does a group of people who always say yes to everything.

  15. Dan's number one Fan

    In a highly competitive industry, why would a musician not sign a deal with a big company like Budweiser? The commercial had all the elements to make it a winner: great promo theme, a wonderful lab, awesome music and vocals. However, hundreds of people were posting requests and wanted to know the songwriter, artist, and where to purchase the music. Budweiser has the ability to optimize their message and place it in the hands of millions of people globally as a means to keep the message ongoing.
    Budweiser, thank you for making this commercial. Let Dan have the song rights and sell the hell out of the song while promoting your message. Win-Win for everyone.

  16. Jay

    I am not completely clear on whether Dan has no rights whatsoever or if he simply cannot “sell” the single? – I work in the radio industry and what has happened to Dan is quite literally the exact turn of events that have happened to many break out artists over the past couple years (whether purposeful or not.) Namely Alex Clare and American Authors. These artists purposefully gave up certain rights to their songs for commercials and immediately after used this as leverage to to get radio play. I can’t tell you how many labels and artists call and give us reasoning for airplay based on what commercials they are on. While this holds NO weight in decision making (unless the song has an unimaginable following based on the commercial) the song also usually happens to be a great song. As is the case here. If Dan still has any rights to the song – I would be calling every AC or HOT AC music director across the country. Airplay will eventually convert to sales of other singles. If you can’t “use” that song – Pick the next best track (Dan has a ton of them) and push that track with the Budweiser validation on the other track.

    As we all know – Moving “FAST” is the name of the game in today’s industry – and keeping peoples interest is difficult. Dan hit the prime combination of positive association and his song was used as the backdrop for an incredibly executed advertisement. It almost NEVER happens this way. I really couldn’t blame Dan if he signed it away, but I can’t imagine he is the first indie artist that this has happened to.

    • Anonymous

      If it is a work for hire as documented, Essentially he has no rights to the Master and him publicly posting the song in any way, depending on the clauses in the contract, without Budweiser’s written consent would leave him liable to be sued.

      Perhaps he can cover the song and ship Budweiser the 9 cents.

  17. Anonymous

    Dan had no idea that it would blow up like it did, so he wrote the little jingle. Of course he would jump at the opportunity. Why wouldn’t he? It doesn’t make him a sellout. They didn’t write the song for him. They didn’t change his sound. He did it himself. However, when it did go viral and every other comment asked for the song and artist, Dan’s fans and eventually Budweiser individually replied, and the people came back around loving Dan’s music and begging for him to record and sell When You Come Home. And the frustrating part is that Budweiser was willing to let him, and simply needed to get some paperwork together. So he himself finished writing and recording the rest of the song. And they never got back to him. Some small little task for Budweiser could have meant a big break for a deserving, working artist.

  18. reymon

    feel for you, dan. but trying to assuage your case by distinguishing yourself as “indie” – whatever the hell that is – and then saying you aren’t busy “cranking out tracks” like a “jingle company” sort of bursts your self-righteous bubble. those composers and singer/songwriters, working at those same “jingle companies”, aren’t some sub-class of music professionals, destined to be entitled to less than their “legit”, working-artist brethren. all composers are out there, slogging it together. yeah, the friends theme supported its composers’ entire lives. scores and songs written for jingles by working composers – whether for a company or independently – support their composers’ entire lives as well!
    my advice to you is to do what most big “jingle companies” do… read CAREFULLY all ownership documents when presented to you, particularly the MRA, and make sure it’s all laid out how you want it. if it isn’t, don’t do the gig.

  19. Anonymous

    A couple of things

    1) We need to keep in mind that Dan himself did not write this article. We can’t be sure that Dan feels the same way about the situation as Mr. Herstand.

    2) While it would have been GREAT on Budweiser’s part to attribute credit to the artist, I’m not so sure they cared WHERE the song came from. There were most likely a few other “Jingle Writers” who submitted tunes as well who aren’t established as Solo Artists. I don’t think it was built into their marketing plan to feature a song from an “up and coming” artist, so naturally, there’s no incentive for them to go the extra mile. They most likely wanted a song that would work for the spot and that’s all they were looking for.

  20. Rex

    Here’s a scenario.

    Friend of a friend of friend who works at an ad agency asks a little known singer-songwriter if he wants to try writing a jingle for an online video. It’s a beauty contest where one of three tunes will be picked by the ad agency’s client.It’s clearly a work for hire situation, right up front. Get picked, get paid. Don’t get picked, don’t get paid.

    The writer is the typical starving artist. He thinks any $ will help his financial situation. Since he’s not an established, i.e., signed artist, he has no negotiation leverage whatsoever. He signs the deal and pitches his song.

    His tune gets picked, goes viral online, then leaps to TV. Nobody could have predicted the popularity beforehand.

    To fault the artist, saying he had bad representation, is incorrect. It’s how the biz works, and it gets down to leverage. He had none.

  21. S.

    If this really was a “work made for hire,” then Dan isn’t the legal “author”—Budweiser is! I like the idea of Dan covering the song under a standard compulsory license, and paying Budweiser a few cents for “borrowing” the composition. But he’d have to re-record it, obviously.


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