Posted in industry | music on November 17, 2008

This weekly post was really just meant to be an (arguably) interesting news roundup of where (mostly BV-covered) music and musicians are showing up besides in our stereos/computers/headphones/players/etc. Like all news, it might be positive, negative or neither depending on your point of view. Whether or not an artist is "selling out" by licensing their song to a particular product advertisement and/or TV show is always going to be a valid issue/argument/debate, but I removed "It's Not Selling Out Anymore" from the post title because, lighthearted or not, I think it was making this post into something it's not. Most importantly, I didn't want the title to be misconstrued as an official BrooklynVegan position on anything. There will always be (arguably) cringe-worthy examples of licensing (see Of Montreal + Outback Steakhouse) and licensing-related broken (fan's) hearts (see The Moldy Peaches + Atlantis resorts), but a lot of licensing news (as you can see below), is (arguably) pretty neutral. Are there any Modest Mouse fans offended that a Modest Mouse song appears in a snowboarding video game? I doubt it. Does it bother anyone that Stars of the Lid gave a song to the Environmental Defense Fund? Probably only people that are anti-polar bear... That's all I wanted to say.... I won't write intros to these posts after this week (please try to keep the conspiracy theories to a minimum!), so without further ado... it's "This Week in Music Licensing"...

by Ryan Barkan

Battles @ Irving Plaza (more by Bao Nguyen)
Battles @ irving Plaza

42 Below likes to do things because they can, like make Vodka and wear white suits. The New Zealand spirit maker just launched a campaign and website around the brand's mantra, "Because We Can" - living by your own rules and following your dreams. Pretty deep. The web-based campaign consists of five short films and a user-generated video contest.

Each of the five short films have a few things in common - men in all white suits, left-of-center creative, art installations, cool music, and no relation whatsoever to Vodka. Carpet Cupcake uses Battles' 2007 jam "Atlas". Two different Boards Of Canada songs are used in Beach Dolls and Car Wrap. Domino artist Four Tet provides the sonic background to Mountain Rainbow, a spot where the white suit men create a huge arch of colored plastic chairs on top of a snowy mountain. South African electronic artist Felix Laband is used in Crate UFO.

Do you have a "because I can attitude"? Do you also like to make your own videos? Do you want to win some money for doing those things ($4200)? If so, you can head to the campaign's website to find out more about the contest.

Other Notable Licensing News:

Tokyo Police ClubTokyo Police Club think it is "really cool and really awesome" that they made a cameo on Sunday night's (11/16) episode of Desperate Housewives. They entered a "battle of the bands" contest, performed "In A Cave", and had two of their song titles ("Shoulders And Arms" and "Cut Cut Paste") featured on the club walls as faux band posters. Even more, two band members have lines in the dialogue. Stereogum has the video. In semi-related news, TPC's Graham Wright just released a solo EP online as a free and/or pay download.

On the tube, Gossip Girl featured three tracks from the new Kings Of Leon album, Only By The Night; One Tree Hill for the second week in a row used a song by Margot & the Nuclear So-So's and also had a song by Earlimart; 90210 went with Kanye West, and Stereolab; CSI Miami used both Jenny Lewis and Bloc Party; NUMB3RS had Cold War Kids; Privileged used CSS; Grey's Anatomy had The Coral Sea. All this week Letterman is featuring cover bands.

Nissan'snew Canadian commercial "Morning Light" goes singer-songwriter with Alexi Murdoch's "Breathe". Nice song but I think they could have found a similar style track with a better lyrical match. Watch the video here.

Crystal CastlesToshiba's UK agency breaks the broadcast mold a bit with a commercial featuring Matrix-esque cinematography while using the Crystal Castles song "Air War". Watch the video below.

Stars Of The Lid hit NYC's (le) Poisson Rouge on Friday 11/21; I wonder if they will play the serenely spatial "A Meaningful Moment Through A Meaningless Process", a song used by the Environmental Defense Fund to help fight global warming. The web commercial was released at the end of August. The powerful Polar Bear spot can be seen below.

What do 2008 Mercury Prize winning band Elbow and Electronic Arts have to do with each other? Elbow's song "Grounds For Divorce" is the soundtrack to the commercial announcing EA's new first person shooter, Left 4 Dead; the game hits shelves this upcoming week. Video is below.

Ubisoft Montreal just released Shaun White Snowboarding in North America. The game's soundtrack is a good mix of classic (Bob Dylan, Heart, Blue Öyster Cult, Living Colour, Run DMC, Harry Nilsson) and modern (Modest Mouse, MGMT, The Ting Tings, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) bands. Check out the full soundtrack at Wikipedia. Bob Dylan plays NYC this Friday night (11/21).

Interesting downloadable content (DLC) was made available this week via Xbox Live and Playstation Network for both Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2: GH got both a Jimi Hendrix and Smashing Pumpkins three song pack and RB2 fans can now play the entire Foo Fighters album The Colour and the Shape.

Videos below...

Toshiba Commercial with Crystal Castles:

EDF Commercial with Stars Of The Lid:

Left 4 Dead Commercial with Elbow:



Comments (41)

is there really any "punk rock ethic" to any of these bands anyway? i think not. if you were saying leftover crack was in the new cadillac commerical (while hilarious), i think there'd be some legitimate outrage on the part of punkers everywhere.

for example: anti-flag in an anti-smoking advertment. discuss.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 3:47 PM


hah! had to get it in one last time.

kudos for changing the title, you were just inviting the debate with that one.

I'm not down with the increased amount of licensing in independent music, at all, but I am glad that this weekly roundup exists. It documents and draws attention to the licensing boom, which I personally believe is a corrosive trend. I wholeheartedly believe that all this licensing smells worse the more you know about it, so I'm glad someone is out there keeping tabs.

I'd like to see this column expand to cover instances of bands playing shows as promotional appearances for products, and sponsored venues / promoters / events. That shit stinks even worse than the licensing.

Posted by Todd P | November 17, 2008 3:54 PM

what times does daft punk (arguably) go on?

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 3:59 PM

I think it is difficult to comment on whether a band is licensing their music to the right companies or if it they are "selling out" for licensing their music in the first place unless you make your living as a musician and only as a musician. For some bands this is the only money they will receive for tour support, marketing, recording an album etc. The moral issues with music licensing are not as black and white as some may think. I can't think of many bands that exhibit "punk rock ethic" even bands like leftover crack have appeared on corporate sponsored tours. I.E. Warped Tour

I would like to hear what the rest of you think about this.

Posted by Joe | November 17, 2008 3:59 PM

how about the rumor that The Roots are gonna be the backing band for goddam jimmy fallon when he replaces conan o'brien.


Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:03 PM


Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:08 PM

Selling out has its financial rewards. The downside is the label then being hurled at you from poor indie people in Brklyn.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:11 PM

selling out has a lot more downsides than just criticism

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:14 PM

Cool. Maybe Crystal Castles can use their sellout money to refund my Webster Hall tickets. Biggest letdown ever.

Posted by Billy | November 17, 2008 4:16 PM

"Belgian band Stars Of The Lid"

they may live in Belgium, but they are dudes from Texas. at least one of them was in Windsor for the Derby back in the day.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:16 PM

Is licensing your music all that's needed so that you can be refered to as selling out?

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:17 PM

"I wholeheartedly believe that all this licensing smells worse the more you know about it"

can you please elaborate on what you mean by this? thanks.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:18 PM

who cares about whether something can be labeled "selling out"?

what I care about is when bands take the cash in exchange for something that cheapens the music, and especially when it commodifies the community they came out of. Not all payed use of your song does that, but a lot of it does. Often when an advertiser includes a song in their spot, it's an attempt to tie their product to the credibility that only real grassroots scenes can have.

I'd rather see no licensing of independent music at all (which is the way things used to be) versus the obnoxious amount of licensing we see these days; but it's not as if all licensing is always offensive.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:24 PM

All you idiots on these boards,

Welcome to the real world where people actually try to make a living out of their creative musical talents. When you start writing good, original music, feel free not to license it.

Posted by CN | November 17, 2008 4:44 PM

crystal castles and elbow are your idea of good, original music?

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 4:46 PM

Selling out is another way of saying has good business sense as an artist.

poor artists ( especially fat, bearded dishelved dudes in Brklyn) need to go write a song about coming to terms with jealousy and thoughts of inadequacy.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:05 PM

ninety percent of bands that are willing to whore out their music to sell cell phones or shoes or cars are irrelevant hacks anyway

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:11 PM

did the Beatles have bad business sense? because last time I checked they didn't allow their songs to be used in commercials until Michael Jackson (who owned the rights at the time) sold "Revolution" to Nike in 1987. Even then, McCartney and the surviving members were pissed.

why? because they respected their own artistic output, and their fans' love of it, and they had a little bit of fucking CLASS.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:16 PM

same stupid conversation every single week.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:23 PM

the Beatles didn't own the rights to their songs. Epstein basically gave away their American licensing rights to an operator named Nicky Byrne, who set up a company named Seltaeb ("Beatles" backwards). He licensed the Beatles' music and images to sell Beatle lunchboxes, wigs, dolls, pajamas, Beatles bubble gum, Beatles soda, the Beatles cartoon TV series, the Beatles movies, etc. Not only did the Beatles get used in commercials for practically everything, they didn't even get a proper cut of the proceeds.

but the music was great.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:26 PM

the craziest folks on here are the ones who think that there's no point at all in which selling your songs to advertising turns tacky or offensive.

Whether you think it's ok some of the time or none of th time, most would agree that licensing your songs CAN turn into a bad idea if you're not careful with your business decisions.

in contrast, I haven't seen anyone on the anti side with nearly the kind of rigid vitriol that the pro-licensing freaks are displaying. The worst anyone's said is that licensing CAN get tacky, and should be looked at with a critical eye. On the other side, the pro licensing people are insulting other posters wildly, calling people with differing opinions inadequate slobs, accusing bands that try to avoid licensing of being talentless and jealous, etc.

it's telling that their arguments shift almost immediately into the old antiBrooklyn, anti"Hipster" bullshit. Those are the old chestnuts of people who can't win flame wars with the strength of their ideas.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:30 PM

5:26. wrong.

yes, the Beatles were merchandised ruthlessly, but their songs weren't used in commercials until the late 80's. Band merchandising is different from licensing and endorsements.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:33 PM


of all the conversations in Brooklyn Vegan comments, you really think this one is the "stupid" one?

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 5:56 PM

why is there so much pre jump text on this post?

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:01 PM

oh no, this isn't the only stupid ongoing conversation. don't get me wrong. have you tried opening the girl talk thread?

that said, this one's certainly recurring.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:02 PM

the music industry has evolved for better or worse. not every artist can make a living off of their creative output on record sales/touring/merchandising alone.

there isn't much (if anything) that is sacred in the 21st century.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:09 PM

the Beatles owned their songs, in the sense that they controlled the publishing, which was through a company called Maclen. Seltaeb just sold tzotchke with their likenesses on it, it didn't handle licensing of the music itself. you have some incomplete information, 5:26.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:16 PM

this conversation is one of the few instances where anything intelligent is ever said in the comments of this website

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:18 PM

last week i said dan deacon was in a crayola commercial. turns out it was lightspeed champion. anyone notice how the first 5 seconds of "dry lips" & "pink batman" are the same? link to commercial:

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:24 PM


99.9% of all bands have always been unable to make a living off of record sales/touring/merchandising. It's only the exceedingly lucky who have ever managed to make a dime, and unfortunately those arbitrary few make bank while all others make zilch. It has always been this way, since the dawn of the music industry and mass media.

nothing has changed in that department except that people don't buy records anymore, but you can make a lot more money playing shows these days if you're one of the lucky few who blow up (because ticket prices have about quintupled past the rate of inflation in recent years, and because indie bands now have access to getting their songs onto big media outlets since the decline of major label hegemony, and so can benefit from greatly increased exposure.)

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:28 PM

interestingly, the decline of major label hegemony and the rise of the "diy, democratic" music movement can make it even harder to get noticed. since everyone and their cousin has an EP these days and media is fragmented, it is harder to sift through the clutter. with the major labels, you sacrificed control of your music for access to marketing dollars.

just some thoughts. i really enjoy this discussion on both a practical and philosophical level.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:39 PM

6:39, I don't know. it used to be that if you were an actually talented, interesting musician you could pretty much write yourself off for ever getting onto the TV or the radio in America. If you weren't the Backstreet Boys, ie formulated in the lab from the one sheets of modeling agencies, you were going to remain obscure forever.

That's not totally true anymore, but then there is the downside that the possibility for popular success, even limited, means that talented, artistic musicians now have more incentive to compromise and tweak what they are doing to attract more ears.

Used to be that there was a big, bloated, vacuous, absurdly fucked up major label record industry... and then there was an underworld of serious artists and music collectors forming bands and tracking down records and going to shows in the underground, which was pretty much free of the lure of commercial compromise. If you had real artistic vision you weren't going to get on the radio in America, and that had the ironic effect of freeing artists to make more edgy, artistic music. That world just isn't what it used to be now.

It's no surprise that the same sort of serious music fans who used to obsessively collect interesting obscure contemporary independent rock records and fill out obscure rock dives across the country, these days the descendants of those folks only care to listen to hard to find out-of-print vinyl from decades past, or else ridiculously obscure contemporary noise cassettes. The scene for intelligent contemporary music is dead / dying.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 6:57 PM

Hey 6:57:

I appreciate your insights.

I agree that something is lacking from the contemporary music scene. Perhaps the sudden and catastrophic industry shift that began with Napster has something do with it.

The vast majority of new music I hear nowadays feels like pastiche. Say what you will about Girl Talk, but I think he owes a lot of his success to the hyper, internet-based consumer culture in which we are now a part.

The question is: where does the buck stop? Will bands of the future be nothing more than glorified product spokespeople? Is it even possible to separate art from commerce nowadays? Does it even matter?

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 7:28 PM

The Toshiba ad was/sounded rather cool, if not original in any way! The Polar Bear was great. But wtf at the Elbow thing? I mean, the song is rather fitting, if you ask me. They are just some of the nicest guys in music! I cant envision them shooting gansters in the streets.

Someone asked: "Is licensing your music all that's needed so that you can be refered to as selling out?"

NO, I don't think so. Every week we'll have the "sell out!" comments run aplenty.

Posted by dee | November 17, 2008 10:56 PM

Lennon/ McCartney never owned or controlled their songs, FWIW. Their music was owned and controlled by Northern Songs, a subsidiary of Dick James Music. ("Maclen Music" was just the U.S. cut-out for Northern Songs.) Northern Songs sold the Lennon/McCartney catalog to ATV in 1969; neither songwriter was consulted or informed. The history of Northern Songs is well documented and well known, best told in Philip Norman's 1980 book. "Shout," which is highly recommended to anyone interested in the Beatles or their business history.

Posted by Anonymous | November 17, 2008 11:39 PM

v. nice Beatles balloons here--

Posted by Anonymous | November 18, 2008 2:17 AM

if you think you've ever been able to separate the creative from the commerce, it's time to stop being so ignorant and pick up a book on art history.

Posted by Anonymous | November 18, 2008 2:41 AM

haha. Crystal Castles, original? Two guesses where the that dude rips the music from..

Posted by Anonymous | November 18, 2008 10:30 AM

If you kids don't start buying records again, all us artists are gonna keep getting so screwed that our only option is to whore ourselves out to commercials. The people who are the villains here are the damn thieves stealing records like it's nothing.
It costs a lot to make a good record.

Posted by Anonymous | November 18, 2008 7:19 PM

hey 7:19.

did you pay for your copy of protools?

Posted by Anonymous | November 18, 2008 7:56 PM

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