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Beastie Boys and Music Rights

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Todd TerryBeastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:57:11 pm

Interesting story I just read, and a reminder to us all to be mindful...

In short... in 2012 Monster Beverage Corp (the makers of Monster energy drinks) uploaded a YouTube video about a snowboarding event they sponsored. The video included a re-mix of three Beastie Boys songs.

The Beastie Boys sued for $2.5 million.

Monster admits fault, but says an employee mistakenly believed they had permission to use the music. They offered $125,000.

A federal jury has now awarded the Beastie Boys $1.7 million.

Be careful out there.....


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 6, 2014 at 6:45:44 pm

I'd like the Boys to donate some of that money to the girls build stuff organization that got in trouble over something similar this past year.

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Greg BallRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:42:54 pm

I love the line "an employee mistakenly believed they had permission to use the music." How many times have we all been asked by a boss or client to use music or video that obviously violates copyright laws?

I'm sure the company relied on the employee's knowledge...LOL!! I wonder how much they're blaming the employee.

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Bill DewaldRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 7, 2014 at 4:39:38 am

It wasn't a "girls build stuff" org, it was a commercial toy company.

They settled with the Beastie Boys in March, and part of the terms were that Goldieblox has to donate to the Beastie Boys causes:

I feel good about that ruling - no matter the message in the Goldieblox ad, it was still commercial speech.

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Simon RoughanRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 9, 2014 at 5:05:11 pm

Beastie Boys are the bomb! Ive been listening to them since the early punk days.
"Sabotage" is the coolest and most entertaining funny music video of all time!
Good on them for standing up for a good principal.

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling is for fools, but that's the way I like it, baby. I don't want to live forever!

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Tim WilsonRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:19:02 pm

The slight irony here is that The Beastie boys are pioneers of appropriating other people's music AND PAYING FOR IT.

The Beastie Boys were sampling pioneers. Not that they were the first. They weren't even part of the first GENERATION of samplers. But with the album Paul's Boutique, they completely changed the nature of the game.

More precisely, it was the Dust Brothers who created the dense collages, but this was very definitely a Beasties project.

And they PAID for the samples. This was by no means common, and indeed a lawsuit a few years later around people who were NOT paying for samples set the market rate high enough that there won't be another record anything like Paul's Boutique any time soon. Maybe ever.

Before then, you might have one piece of a track, maybe a drumbeat or a bassline. The scratching sound in hip-hop records was the sound of pulling the needle back to the beginning of that musical interlude. Two turntables came into play so that you could keep the sound looped. Eventually, you could record these snippets and string 'em together as needed.

On Paul's Boutique, there might be dozens of samples on one track -- over 100 on the whole album. "Hey Ladies" was the closest thing to a hit from the album, and that track alone samples 16 other tracks from artists as diverse as Frank Zappa, Deep Purple, Afrika Bambataa, the Commodores, Sweet...and of course James Brown and George Clinton. Other songs sample even more tracks than that -- and unlike the long loops in the first generation of turntablism, many of these are less than a second long, but still build to a cohesive whole.

The sheer audacity of the Beasties on this record was jaw dropping. The wit and proficiency made it almost heart-stopping. "Sounds of Science" in particular was built largely out of Sgt. Pepper samples -- a bit of crowd noise from the title track and the oboe from When I'm Sixty-Four -- but also pieces from The White Album and Abbey Road...and Shaft! An amazing album, completely different than the title track. More like lounge jazz, barely a beat on the whole thing -- verrrrry downtempo, but insane feel.

Paul's Boutique didn't sell a ton at the time, although it eventually got to 2 million. Miles Davis was one of the record's champions -- he said he never got tired of listening to it. Also paying attention: Public Enemy, who The Beastie Boys were early supporters of. PE's first tour was as The Beastie's opening act, and their own sampling game went way, way up. And indeed, they pushed the Beasties to catch up with them.

Blah blah blah. Paul's Boutique really is a game-changer though. It simultaneously redefined both hip-hop and rock and roll, and rewrote the relationship between them...and set the standard for PAYING for stuff, no matter how many checks you have to write. DO IT, because it's the right thing to do.

The Beastie Boys also remembered what it was like to come up from the streets -- they started doing all this in their parent's basements, and played at parties before they could get real jobs...including one party with LL Cool J in attendance, who brought one of the mixtapes to his record label and said "Sign these boys."

As a result, they were VERY lax about their work being appropriated by kids for their own purposes....

...but some of these sports drinks companies are multi-billion dollar companies. They had the dough, they had no excuses. The couple of million they paid was getting off easy...although I suspect that the "but I thought it was okay" kid perhaps didn't get off quite so easily in the office.

Todd reminds us of a crucial point, though, that small businesses don't have a couple of million dollars laying around, and rights holders are not at all sympathetic. They're also highly motivated, and are using bots to sniff out violators that human enforcers alone would never find.

It's worth noting that we quite regularly get takedown notices from record labels for reels in our library. We're not the ones who make the demo reels, so our part in the proceedings is simple. "Done. Please let us know if there's anything else we can do for you."

I have no idea what further action the labels are taking with the people who made those reels, but you'd be surprised at the range of artists whose management is stepping in.

They ARE watching, and they ARE taking action, and it's only a matter of time before they'll catch up with you.

This is aside from the ethical imperative for artists to have each other's back. :-)

Anyway, I'm crazy about sampling, a centuries old craft that has gone by many names, now elevated to an art and science of almost incomprehensible creativity.

A coupla links:

A nice Wikipedia entry on Paul's Boutique

The Dust Brothers talking about Paul's Boutique, as well as Beck's Odelay (another sampling masterpiece) and many others in illustrating their approach to incorporating old sounds into forward-sounding music

A sample breakdown from Sounds of Science

Since I mentioned Public Enemy, here are the sample credits for Fight The Power. I betcha didn't remember that this originally came out on MOTOWN Records, on the Do The Right Thing soundtrack (appropriately enough in our conversation about paying artists when you use their work)...or that the song sampled Uriah Heep, among a dozen+ others.

And of course, the link that REALLY matters, one of the four or five best music videos EVER:

AND, one of the best uses of pop music in a movie, EVER. Certainly one of the top couple of character introductions ever. And yes, people will be playing "Sabotage" in 300 years.

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Todd TerryRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:27:06 pm

Tim is such an enigma...

He'll keep quiet for a while... and then open his mouth and you'll realize he probably has to buy extra-large hats because his brain is so full of info.



Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Stephen SmithRe: Beastie Boys and Music Rights
by on Jun 17, 2014 at 6:13:16 pm

But I paid a dollar for that song, I should be able to do whatever I want with it. :-) And yes, I have heard that from a client.

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page

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