It’s the controversial issue of selling your music to soundtrack adverts on TV and in the cinema.
As revealed on nme.com last week, Alec Empire is accusing music giant Sony of using one of his tracks without permission for a television advert.
Alec claims the Taiwan branch of the global corporation used ‘No Remorse’ for a camcorder advert.
He reiterated: “We never ever give tracks to corporations to advertise their products (and) more and more companies (have) contacted us and offered us a lot of money.”
“We said no to Nike, Miller Beer, and a lot of others. The money didn’t matter for us in the first place so no payment can repair the damage.”
There’s no word yet on the outcome from either parties’ lawyers regarding the situation, but if Empire does sue, there are legal precedents.
In 1994, Tom Waits successfully sued his former publishing company Third Story Music for a ‘six figure sum’ after it licensed his material for commercial use without his consent.
The lawsuit arose after Levi’s used a version of Waits’ ‘Heartattack & Vine’ and a shaving company used ‘Ruby’s Arms’ for TV commercials.
Meanwhile, artists like Fatboy Slim, Blur, Leftfield, Lightning Seeds and Gomez have no problem with adverts and have all sold their music to soundtrack TV commercials for computer games, cars and alcohol over the past two years.
Recently, Shed Seven even re-recorded a track, ‘Speakeasy’ for mobile phone chain The Link, changing the lyrics to fit the TV ad.
Sheds frontman Rick Witter told NME: “I really regret it now. I don’t mind it being used on an advert but I really regret the fact that we changed it. It was a very brief blip in my head. We did it a long time ago for the radio and it’s only recently it’s been used on the TV.”
“I’m not one of those people who’s against songs being used on adverts and I’ll hold my hands up and say it was done for the brass because I’m a whore!”
The latest acts to sell their music are The Jesus And Mary Chain and Pixies. JAMC have sold ‘Just Like Honey’, a track from their 1985 debut album ‘Psychocandy’ for a new Guinness advert, while Pixies’ track ‘Tame’, from their 1989 album ‘Doolittle’, appears on the new ads for Smirnoff Vodka.
While William Reid and his press office were unavailable for comment about the advert, ex-Pixies frontman Frank Black admits he did have reservations about selling his song.
He told nme.com: “I do have mixed feelings about it but they paid me a lot of money and I really like vodka.”
But sometimes the decision to sell your music can backfire. The most recent example of this was when Hurricane #1 sold their song ‘Only The Strongest Will Survive’ in a TV campaign for traditionally right-wing tabloid newspaper The Sun. The decision brought the band widespread criticism and even Alan McGee, the band’s then record company boss at Creation, has admitted the move was a mistake.
But ex-Hurricane frontman Alex Lowe is unrepentant. He told nme.com: “It was Alan McGee’s decision to do it and I was just kind of told we were doing that.”
But, to be honest, I’ve never understood why everyone got so upset about it. It’s just a newspaper for God’s sake! At the end of the day, I’ve got to make a living and put food on the table and I got ten grand for that advert! It took two takes to record that song – that’s about six minutes work – and I got ten grand! I think Andy (Bell – new Oasis bassist)got something like eighty grand because he wrote it.”
“I’m sorry but I’m sure most of the people that criticised us for doing it would have done exactly the same thing as well and if The Sun turned round tomorrow and asked for another song, I’d give them it.”
But speaking to NME recently, Richard Ashcroft backed Empire’s anti-advertising stance.
“I don’t make music to sell cars,” said the former Verve frontman. “I just do not. So the first deal was, ‘Right, Nike wanna use it we’ll give our cash to the Homeless 2000 thing (this was when The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ was used on a Nike ad).
Then it was like ‘Vauxhall wanna use the track’, so we refused.”
“Giving away tracks to do advertising?” he continued. “I don’t think so! And yet so many people are doing it now, you can’t listen to the song without thinking of the product. I’d say to every single artist out these, don’t sell your songs to advertising. I think it’s part of the cause to keep multinationals and all corporate fucking advertisers away from music. Let them make their own fucking shit.”
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