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Beastie Boys licence Sabotage for Joe Biden advert

By | Published on Tuesday 20 October 2020

Beastie Boys

Yeah, it’s ‘politician uses music in their political campaign’ time again. But – plot twist! – this politician has permission. Even though the artist involved is one that generally doesn’t give permission for their music to be used in any kind of campaign, political or otherwise. Ever.

So, there’s a new Joe Biden advert doing the rounds. And that Joe Biden advert has Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ playing in it. And no one is getting sued. That’s surprising for a couple of reasons.

First, I think we’d all forgotten that politicians might know how to ask for permission before making use of someone else’s music, after four years of Trump. Secondly, Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch stated in his last will and testament that his music should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be licensed for use in advertising.

Specifically, he stated: “In no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes”.

And yet, here we are. The advert features the co-owner of Michigan music venue The Blind Pig, Joe Malcoun. In it, he attacks Donald Trump’s response to COVID-19, which has left the business unable to open its doors for months.

“Everywhere I go, people have a story about the Blind Pig”, he says. “The Blind Pig has been one of those clubs that attract artists from all genres. For 50 years, The Blind Pig has been open and crowded, but right now, it’s an empty room. This is the reality of Trump’s COVID response”.

“We don’t know how much longer we can survive without any revenue”, he goes on. “A lot of restaurants and bars that have been mainstays for years will not make it through this. This is Donald Trump’s economy: There is no plan and you don’t know how to go forward. It makes me so angry. My only hope for my family and for this business and my community is that Joe Biden wins this election”.

A number of tracks actually play in the advert, including ‘Cannonball’ by The Breeders and ‘Where Is My Mind?’ by Pixies. However, ‘Sabotage’ brings the video to its crescendo and is drawing the most attention because of the band’s usual stance on advertising.

A spokesperson for the Biden campaign tells Variety that the band had “never licensed music for an ad until now”, but had agreed “because of the importance of the election”.

That’s not strictly true. Yes, the election is important, but this is not actually the first time the band have licensed their music – or even this song – for an advert. Although that does depend slightly on your exact definition of advertising.

The band have, in the past, sued companies that made use of their songs without permission in advertising or other promotional videos, pointing out that – not only would they never sanction such use of their music – but it was also Yauch’s dying wish that they hold firm on that stance. So using their music to hawk a product is doubly disrespectful.

However, in recent years, ‘Sabotage’ has cropped up in trailers for the movies ‘Star Trek Beyond’ and ‘Minions: Rise Of The Gru’, as well as video game ‘Destiny 2’. So seemingly the band don’t consider trailers to be adverts. Even though they are.

And I guess this new video – which was aired on TV in the US, during what would definitely be considered ad breaks – could be seen as a preview trailer for the Joe Biden presidency.

But anyway, a politician used some music and no one complained or threatened to sue. How refreshing. Have a little watch of the Joe Biden trailer here: