The Rolling Stones earned more money from licensing their song “Start Me Up” for use in the Microsoft Windows 95 product launch campaign than they had earned from all their record releases before that date.

Putting that another way, the Stones earned more from Microsoft in 1995 than they had earned from all their record releases in the decade from 1964 to 1974.

Microsoft paid The Rolling Stones about US$3 million, according to Bob Herbold. The background is set out in the numbered list below.

But first, here is the original television commercial for the Windows 95 launch.

Googling around, here are six facts on money and IP licensing for the Stones:

    1. The sum Microsoft paid to The Rolling Stones was US$3 million. That is according to someone who should know, Bob Herbold. He was the Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft from 1995 to 2001. Before that he was at Procter & Gamble. In an audio interview of a few minutes you can listen to, Herbold ends the interview by saying that after negotiations Microsoft agreed to pay US$3 million for a six month licence to use the song –
    2. The Windows 95 launch involved an expenditure of US$200 million, much of it on a television ad campaign. The Microsoft boys loved it immediately Herbold demoed the launch concept backed by Start Me Up as its soundtrack. The boys kept on dancing on the launch stage.
    3. Before the deal with Microsoft the Stones had not licensed any of their music for use with a television advertisement. (Was it due to artistic integrity, maybe? Did it drive up the price Microsoft paid, probably.)
    4. The Stone’s Decca Records contract expired in 1970, under which they must have had a lousy deal.
    5. Briskly following fact 4 comes fact 5 – formation of Rolling Stones Records, their own label, started in 1973, with distribution provided by Atlantic Records.
    6. 1995 was a good year for The Rolling Stones.

Famously, on stage at the 1995 launch Microsoft executives danced to Start Me Up.


Since 2006 in the Lightbulb blog at I’ve written a great deal on intellectual property licensing. Here are three on music licensing. There’s a heap of lessons there generally for intellectual property licensing.