The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky once said that lesser artists borrow, and great artists steal. Stravinsky, who died in 1971, could not be reached for comment on Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s decision to put French railway company SNCF’s "audio logo" -- a fancy term for jingle -- at the heart of his new single, “Rattle That Lock.”
“Every time I heard [the melody] it would make me want to start dancing,” Gilmour said on a video posted on his website.
The four-note pattern, created more than a decade ago by the French agency Sixième Son, is widely known in France -- the agency says 90 percent of the country’s residents recognize it when they hear it, and 81 percent of them are strongly attached to it -- and Gilmour decided he wanted to do something with it during a recent trip to visit friends in Aix-en-Provence.
“I heard it, as you often do, so I then turned on my iPhone, held my iPhone up nearer the speaker, and waited for the next announcement. I took that sample, and that’s what I’ve used on this track,” Gilmour said in a video explaining the song.
As someone who’s spent a long time fighting companies like Pandora over fair compensation for music, Gilmour wasn’t going to simply use the recording without permission. Sixième Son is listed as a co-author of “Rattle That Lock,” and will receive a portion of any royalties the song generates.
Gilmour may be the first artist to get permission to use SNCF’s audio logo in a song, but he’s not the first to ask. According to Sixième Son’s founder, Michel Boumendil, more than a dozen artists have requested permission to use the song over the years, but Gilmour’s request was the first they’d said yes to; while SNCF does not own any of the copyrights associated with the composition, the company does have exclusive rights to determine how it is used.
“The song is a kind of tribute to our jingle,” Christophe Fanichet, SNCF’s head of communications and information, told the Wall Street Journal. “We are touched that it has inspired such a musician.”
Though Gilmour’s move seems to have grown out of a serendipitous moment, the release of “Rattle That Lock” comes during a period of unprecedented artist interest in working with brands. According to the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, revenue from so-called “sync” deals, in which artists’ music is used in film and TV, advertisements or other brand partnerships, rose more than 8 percent in 2014, and now accounts for more than 2 percent of the world’s music revenues. And while artists have been sampling corporate audio and advertisements for decades, this may be the first time a partnership of this kind has ever been forged.
“Rattle That Lock” is scheduled for a September release.