In a Rare Move, Beastie Boys License a Song for Joe Biden Campaign Ad

The spot featuring a famous live music venue slams Trump's Covid-19 response

The Beastie Boys granted a license for "Sabotage" to Joe Biden's campaign. Biden for President

Most people have become conditioned to not pay much attention to ads. But once in a while, one catches the eye—or, in the case of a new ad for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the ear. About 40 seconds into a 60-second spot that ran during the Browns/Steelers game on Sunday, music fans (especially those of a certain Gen X age) heard a Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage.”

What makes this notable is that it’s an exceedingly rare occurrence for the band, which is very advertising-averse. This marks only the third time the Beastie Boys have given their blessing after the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch in 2012. Yauch’s will prohibits the use of Beastie Boys music in ads, but the surviving members have given some projects the go-ahead. The first was for the Star Trek Beyond trailer in 2015, the second for Activision’s game Destiny 2 in 2017, and now, for the Democratic presidential candidate, a first for the band.

In 2014, the band was embroiled in a legal battle with toy company GoldieBlox over the unauthorized use of its song Girls in a commercial.

The ad that ran during the NFL Sunday game features Joe Malcoun, co-owner of the Ann Arbor, Mich. bar Blind Pig. The venue has been around for 50 years, hosting some of the biggest acts in music, including Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. 

Malcoun puts the tenuous fate of live music venues—especially his, which he says “has been open and crowded, but right now it’s an empty room”—squarely at the feet of Donald Trump.

“This is the reality of Trump’s [Covid-19] response,” he says. “My only hope for my family and for this business and my community is that Joe Biden wins this election.” 

The Biden campaign said the band sanctioned usage of the iconic song from the 1994 album Ill Communication “because of the importance of the election.” The ad is one of three targeting NFL fans as the campaign enter the final stretch. The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” is also featured.

Last week, John Fogerty sent Trump’s campaign a cease and desist order, demanding to stop the use of “Fortunate Son” at rallies. Fogerty joins an ever-growing list of musicians and bands demanding that the president and his campaign not use music, including the estates of George Harrison, Tom Petty, Prince and, perhaps most famously, Neil Young.


@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.
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